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NUIG wants to bring the native Irish honey bee back

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The bee is a most underrated species; without it our food sources would disappear and we would starve – and yet no native Irish honey bees survive in the wild, due to foreign viruses being brought in on imported bees.

NUIG has joined forces with NIHBS (The Native Irish Honey Bee Society) to breed a strain that will be tolerant to the devastating Varroa Destructor parasite.

“I have no doubt came it in on the back of an imported honey bee,” says Cleggan-based Gerard Coyne, chairperson of NIHBS.

“Connemara, due to its isolation, was one of the last areas in the country to get this Varroa mite.”

The parasite attaches to the body of the bee, and weakens it by sucking ‘bee blood’ or hemolymph. A severe infestation can cause the death of an entire colony.

When it was first discovered in Ireland in 1998, it played havoc with the native Irish Honey Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), which has been devastated in its native wild environment.

“There are no honey bees living in the wild anymore – they can only live where they are protected,” Gerard adds.

“All the feral colonies have died out – one of last colonies was Connemara, as we didn’t get the mite until 2009. Two years after its arrival, all the wild nests were gone.”

Beekeepers treat their honey bees with organic products but, as in humans, the parasite builds up a resistance and the battle seems impossible to overcome.

While the importation of foreign bees continues, it will never be resolved.

“They do not suit our wet conditions, especially here on the west coast – when they cross-breed with our breeds, you have total confusion, and they get aggressive and unmanageable – people have drifted away from beekeeping due to the aggression in bees.

“The bee likes to go about in private, so they like a nice secluded spot that animals or people can’t interrupt. Bees do things by instinct – they’ve been doing it for millions of years, and they don’t like interference. Too much manipulation disturbs them, stops them working, and makes them aggressive.

“Honey Bees are not naturally aggressive, they will only protect when they feel their home is under threat, or when they’ve got lots of brood, honey, or stores to protect. When they are out foraging, they are totally docile, and are not interested in humans or animals.”

NIHBS, which represents beekeepers from the 32-counties – is lobbying the Department of Agriculture to stop importing bees – that is one of its main aims and objectives.

“The bee we have here is superior to any imported one, and why we can’t protect and conserve it is beyond belief.

“All the bigger beekeepers in Ireland, that produce honey, are using the native honey bee, because it fares out better. Importing bees is a useless exercise – you can’t keep them from going to the wild, and breeding with other bees.

“You must breed from your locally-adapted bees – our bee evolved after the Ice Age, and they have stood the test of time.

“But man always thinks that faraway hills are greener – there’s nothing wrong with bees from other areas, but they have a longer foraging climate; our bees only have a window of 4-5 weeks. When we cross-breed, we get mixed genes, the bee doesn’t know what to do, should I be in Connemara or the Mediterranean? That bee is confused, it gets aggressive, and is more prone to disease because its stressed.”

Evolution has made the Irish bee dark, to attract the sun, whereas the imported bees are yellower.

Our ancestors certainly recognised the importance of the bee for survival, which has sadly been largely forgotten by later generations.

“The honey the bee produces is minute compared to its other values – bees are important for pollinating, they are underrated for their value to farming and crops.

“Without bees, we would starve, our food would start to disappear slowly, and if the bees disappeared – and they are getting scarce – a lot of our food would disappear, and other animals would get weaker, and over time there would be less food, so it is vital for survival.

“Once something leaves the food chain, others will weaken, and after a while our immune system will break down as we won’t have a balanced diet.

“They are wild creatures, but we have domesticated them, and put them under pressure asking them to produce more honey – that’s their winter stores, they will always produce a surplus of honey, and that’s what we steal – we call it harvesting.”

A major aim of NIHBS is to eventually breed a strain of honey bee that will survive in the wild, which is their natural habitat.

With this in mind, scientists at NUI Galway, headed by professor Grace McCormack and PhD student, Keith Browne, have asked beekeepers to send samples of their bees – before any Varroa treatment takes place – to them by May 22.

Beekeepers use the sugar shaker method (the mites fall off) to count the percentage of Varroa mites in their hives. Then, they send a sample of 10 bees to NUIG for analysis.

As part of the breeding programme, beneficial traits such as grooming, temperament, honey production, and disease resistance, are selected.

A second count will take place at the end of August.

“If we can determine Varroa-tolerant bees, and breed from there, hopefully we will keep out other diseases – there is a pest in Italy (Small Hive Beetle) – if we continue to import bees it will arrive on our shores. Then that’s another problem on top of what we have.”

NIHBS and the Connemara Bee Keepers Association run courses and events to promote the survival of the native honey bee.

A ‘Queen-Rearing’ workshop will take place in Oughterard on Sunday, June 12, at Sean Osborne’s apiary (it will be signposted). There will also be demonstrations for beginners, who may be interested in taking up this hobby.

CITY TRIBUNE

Former hotel won’t be ring-fenced for college

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No designation....Corrib Great Southern during demolition.

The site of the former Corrib Great Southern will no longer be ring-fenced for educational purposes if a clause removed in a draft of the next development plan is eventually adopted.

A motion by Mayor Colette Connolly proposed earmarking one-third of the six-acre Dublin Road site for educational use as well as research or collaborative ventures between third level colleges and industry.

Mayor Connolly said her proposal reinstates the text of the current plan reserving a portion of any planned development for education.

Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) was supportive of the motion, the Independent councillor she told a planning meeting convened to collate a draft of the plan.

Councillor Declan McDonell (Ind) said GMIT had recently purchased the home of the Galwegians Rugby Club at Glenina for €9 million and were progressing developments at the Cluain Mhuire site and a proposed Centre of Excellence for Health, Sport, and Marine Science at Murrough.

The former hotel had been offered to GMIT for €3.75m by NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) but they had to pass because they could not come up with the money.

“So I fail to see how they could come up with the money to buy two acres for educational purposes – therefore we could be left with a derelict site for years,” he warned.

Cllr Noel Larkin (Ind) told the meeting he was in favour of an expanding GMIT but agreed the site which only recently saw the demolition of a major eyesore could be left derelict for another decade if developers were hamstrung by what could be built.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Multi-storey car park proposal still on the table

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No multi-storey...the existing Dyke Road car park.

A proposal to remove from the Draft City Development Plan an objective to replace the existing car park at Dyke Road with a multi-storey alternative has been voted down by councillors.

Those opposing the motion argued that regardless of improved public transport and cycle networks, there would always be a requirement for parking in the city centre.

The motion, proposed by Cllr Niall Murphy (Green) and seconded by Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind), sought to take out a line in the plan which stated the replacement of the 550-space car park with a multi-storey “would enable more efficient use of the land”.

This forms part of the planned redevelopment of the area which is to be led by the Land Development Agency (LDA) and is mooted to include residential units, retail space and potentially a hotel.

Cllr Murphy said as improved public transport came on stream, the requirement for parking in the centre of the city should reduce, with the long-awaited Park and Ride rollout the ‘preferred option’.

“It is prejudicial to state [in the development plan] that some of that area will be used by multi-storey parking – that should be decided as part of our negotiations with the LDA,” said Cllr Murphy.

Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind) opposed the motion and said long-term parking, such as that currently provided for on the Dyke Road, should be maintained as there would be a continued demand for it.

“We need a certain amount of parking for people working in town. Park and Ride will not be available for all, like those who come in on the Headford Road and the Tuam Road,” he said.

Cllr Terry O’Flaherty agreed and said workers from areas such as Annaghdown and Corrandulla had no access to public transport and required their car to get to work.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said the population of the city was set to double in the coming years and even by maintaining the existing number of spaces in Dyke Road, the Council would be in effect halving the overall availability.

“People need to get to town and not everybody can hop on a bike – not everybody has that luxury,” he said.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway’s vacant homes and shops

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Councillor Níall McNelis (Lab)

There were in excess of 1,100 vacant commercial and residential properties in Galway City in 2020, a new report has found – a ‘staggering figure’ which one local representative described as ‘frightening’.

The Northern and Western Regional Assembly’s (NWRA) report on Regional Vacancy and Dereliction has revealed a worsening problem in the city – highlighting a 15% increase in the level of commercial vacancy since 2015 and a 5% increase in the number of empty homes.

Some 690 commercial properties were lying idle in the city in September 2020 – many of which could be used to increase the housing stock according to the report.

The West has more than double the national average of vacant commercial space, something that is “undermining the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of the region while exasperating attempts to deliver sustainable settlement patterns”.

“Many of our towns and villages continue to experience high vacancy and dereliction rates along their main streets, with these empty residential and commercial properties providing extensive opportunities to improve housing supply, ensure our residents live closer to key public services and workplaces,” states the report.

A further 444 residential units were also vacant, despite the city experiencing a homelessness crisis and a severe shortage of housing.

Local Councillor Níall McNelis (Lab) said these figures were ‘staggering’ – particularly as the situation is likely to have worsened due to the impact of Covid-19 on businesses.

“A lot of these commercial units would probably be better used as residential units and I believe that is something local government could sort out – if it was given the power to do so.

“Instead, national government has far too much of a hold on it. It would require national legislation but I think we need to look at taxing vacant units if no effort is being made to fill them,” said Cllr McNelis.

There were several cases where ‘very large investors’ had bought up these properties for ‘half nothing’ and left them to rot while there were people in the city crying out for living space, he continued.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from

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