MEP Welcomes Research Into Honey Bee Decline

Julie Girling, one of Scilly's MEPs

One of our Islands’ MEPs has welcomed new research into the mysterious collapse of honeybee numbers across Europe.

And Julie Girling says the rest of the UK and Europe could benefit from ‘clean’ bee stocks, like those in Scilly, by importing queens. She added that she will be investigating with the commission the possibility of support, both financial and technical, to help beekeepers respond.

In March this year, the Isles of Scilly AONB launched a campaign to highlight the plight of bees and to provide information on keeping our own colonies healthy, such as cleaning out used honey jars.

The distance from the mainland means the islands are one of the few places in Europe that are free of the varroa mite, which has devastated many mainland hives.

The lack of industrialised agriculture also means that insecticides, which are another factor in mainland bees’ decline, haven’t built up in the population.

Julie Girling said yesterday that, “The Isles of Scilly have a unique position in England as the only place not affected by the deadly varroa mite and I urge residents and visitors to be vigilant and play their part in maintaining bio security.”

She spoke on the day the European Commission announced it had earmarked almost €3.2 million to support surveillance studies on honeybee colony losses.

Two years ago Julie launched a ‘Save the Bee’ campaign and last year took a report through the European Parliament regarding their plight.

She said funding announced by the European Commission would allow detailed study of honeybee mortality and could start to provide explanations for colony losses.

The UK is losing its bee population at around 30% a year, up from just 6% in 2003, says Julie.

But the islands’ AONB are keen to show how our disease-free bees can become an asset. Clare Lewis from the organisation says there is a shortage of so-called ‘clean queens’ on the mainland and Scilly is in a prime position to export these.

She says bee ‘livestock’ are actually more valuable than honey these days and could become a lucrative industry for the islands.


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