St Mary’s Beekeepers Criticised For Failing To Share Knowledge

bee alertA local man has called the St Mary’s beekeeping community a ‘closed shop’ after no one would offer him advice on how to produce honey.

Gaz O’Neil, who is chair of the Council’s planning committee, told members of Wednesday’s AONB Joint Advisory Meeting, that he wants to start a beekeeping business on land around his property at Watermill.

But he says his pleas for help from St Mary’s apiarists have gone unanswered.

Gaz is instead receiving help from St Agnes-based honey producer, Mike Hicks.

The AONB has been running a project that aims to support bee keeping in Scilly through local skills training and developing commercial opportunities.

Last year, they provided funding for a mainland expert Colin Rees to train local keepers in apiary hygiene and queen rearing.

But AONB manager, Trevor Kirk, said that was on the understanding that the knowledge would be shared with other islanders.

He said he was disappointed this hadn’t happened and they couldn’t continue to fund a closed-shop arrangement.

Gaz says he only realised after resorting to the internet for information that he shouldn’t import bees from the mainland, as they could carry the dangerous varroa mite, which has wiped out many colonies on the mainland but has not reached Scilly yet.

He says he could easily have done that and made a bad situation worse.

The AONB has heavily promoted the importance of bees to the islands’ environment and last year published a leaflet highlighting how people could help keep the islands disease free by purchasing local honey.

But Gaz, who owns a local delicatessen business, says he was inspired to start producing his own honey after failing to find a local supplier for his shop. Gaz says he’s already purchased a website ready for his new venture.

Trevor agreed to write to the St Mary’s beekeepers to remind them of their agreement with the AONB to share information and to encourage a more open, inclusive approach.


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