By Catherine Cook
A DERRYBEG beekeeper whose hives were wiped out by a chemical weedkiller last week has called for more awareness among the general public of the devastation that can be caused by their use.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Nadine McGee explained how her hives had been in robust health, full of honey stores and had weathered the winter well. However, the use of ‘Roundup’ weed killer locally, wiped out two of the three natural hives she cared for.
“The hives are tucked into gorse bushes in a field behind my home. They were in top health last week and bees were coming and going in their thousands. During the middle of last week, however, we noticed that activity had slowed down and when we opened up two of the hives on Friday morning we discovered the remaining bees were dead and more than half hadn’t returned. We were then informed that Roundup weed killer had been sprayed along the roadside locally and we figure the bees must have come into contact with it.
“A third hive has been greatly weakened and I estimate that there are only maybe 300 bees left. There would have been anything up to 100,000 bees in each of the hives which have died.”
Ms McGee said that she was in no way pointing blame at anyone who has been using chemical weed killer locally, but called for more awareness of alternatives that can be used.
“Hot water and steam “gennys” (generators) are quite effective, as is vinegar. There are alternatives and I would ask people to stop and think before using chemicals. We need to look at bees as the canary in the mines, and look to them as our warning sign. If the bees die out then we will die out too.”
Ms McGee concluded: “Generations ago there was a beekeeper in every townland and there was a greater understanding of their importance, but that has died away in recent years.”
Nadine works together with Aoife Valley as The Honeybee Helpers, promoting Natural Beekeeping in Donegal. Aoife explained: “There are new laws coming into place in relation to the spraying of chemicals and my concern it is while it sounds like a good thing, there will be less awareness among the general public about where and when it is happening.”
Ms Valley is involved with the Change Makers Development Education project in Donegal, educating people about the global implications of local decisions. She is delivering workshops on bees as part of Change Makers Community Change Makers Programme which explores the areas of seeds, bees and water in both a local and global context.
“It is my hope that with more awareness people will start to view the world and the wildlife around us in a different way. For example, we can look at a roadside verge full of dandelions and think it’s a mess of weeds or realise that dandelions are one of the first food sources for pollinators after the winter and therefore be delighted to see them.
“Years ago nature might have been hardy enough to support itself against chemicals and clearing but we are in a dire situation world-wide. More and more people are realising that in supporting nature we are actually supporting ourselves.”
For full report, see today’s Donegal News or subscribe to our digital edition.