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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

Teenager caught with €20,000 worth of cannabis

Enda Cunningham

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A teenager was stopped and searched by Gardaí in Eyre Square on Monday evening, and found in possession of an estimated €20,000 worth of cannabis.

Members of the Galway Divisional Drugs Unit stopped the man, aged in his late teens, at around 6pm and searched him under the Misuse of Drugs Act. During the search the man was found in possession of a €20,000 of suspected cannabis herb. The drugs seized will be sent for forensic analysis.

He was arrested and detained at Garda Headquarters in Renmore and was released from custody this morning. A file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Level 5 ‘lockdown’ restrictions from midnight Wednesday

Enda Cunningham

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The Government has decided that as of midnight on Wednesday, all of Ireland will be placed on Level ‘lockdown’ restrictions.

This action is based on current public health advice, the deteriorating situation with the disease across the country and the Government’s objectives to support families by keeping schools and childcare facilities open, maintaining non-Covid health services and protecting the vulnerable.

Level 5 restrictions will remain in place for a period of 6 weeks.

Given the difficulties that these restrictions place on individuals and families across the State, the risk of job losses and of poverty and homelessness, the Government has agreed that the moratorium on evictions be reinstated and that Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme be amended to reflect these challenges.

Placing the country at Level 5 Restrictions will have the following implications:

  • people are asked to stay at home. People should work from home unless providing an essential service for which their physical presence is required (see below for essential services)
  • people will be permitted to exercise within a radius of 5 km of their home
  • there will be a penalty for movement outside 5km of home, with exemptions to this for essential work and essential purposes
  • in line with current NPHET advice in respect of Level 5, schools, early learning and childcare services will continue to remain open and are deemed essential
  • in addition, in recognition of the impact on children and young people of restrictions, non-contact training can continue for school aged children, outdoors in pods of 15. All other training activities should be individual only, with some exemptions, see below
  • there should be no visits to other people’s homes or gardens
  • however, there will be the concept of an extended household (or support bubble) for defined categories of individuals to support those at risk of social isolation and/or mental ill-health (see notes to editors).
  • no social/family gatherings should take place, with the exemptions to this for weddings and funerals (see below).

It is possible to meet with one other household in an outdoor setting which is not a home or garden, such as a park, including for exercise

  • there should be no organised indoor or outdoor events.
  • essential retail and essential services will remain open (see below).
  • public transport will operate at 25% capacity for the purposes of allowing those providing essential services to get to work [School transport unaffected].
  • in line with current NPHET advice in respect of Level 5, professional, elite sports and inter-county Gaelic games, horse-racing and greyhound racing can continue behind closed doors.
  • bars, cafes, restaurants and wet pubs may provide take-away and delivery services only. Wet pubs in hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs may remain open, but only to support provision of essential services.
  • those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue to exercise personal judgement. It is recommended that they stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced. When taking exercise outdoors, it is important to maintain 2 metres distance from others and wash hands on returning home. It is recommended to shop during designated hours only, while wearing a face covering, and to avoid public transport.
  • religious services will be available online
  • museums, galleries and other cultural attractions will remain closed
  • libraries will be available for online services only.
  • outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks will remain open with protective measures.
  • visits to Long Term Residential Care facilities are suspended with the exception of visits required for critical and compassionate circumstances

Essential purposes for travel (permitted outside 5k limit):

  • travel to and from work, where work involves providing an essential service (see below)
  • to attend medical appointments and collect medicines and other health products
  • for vital family reasons, such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, and in particular for those who live alone, as part of an extended household but excluding social family visits
  • to attend a wedding or funeral
  • for farming purposes i.e. food production and/or care of animals
  • to visit a grave

Exemptions for weddings (irrespective of venue): Up to 25 guests for wedding ceremony and reception.

Exemption for funerals: Up to 10 mourners.

Sports/Training/Matches

No training or matches should take place, with the exception of professional, elite sports and inter-county Gaelic games, horse-racing and greyhound racing, which are being permitted to continue behind closed doors.

Extended Household Concept

In order to support those who risk isolation, such as single adult households and those who have shared parenting or shared custody arrangements; those living alone who have mental health challenges, or those living with partner with dementia for example, it will be possible for those in such circumstances to nominate one other household with whom they can mix. This will allow for social support beyond the caring exemptions already available.

Amendments to PUP and EWSS

We know the move to Level 5 will have a significant impact on businesses – we know many people will temporarily lose their jobs on Thursday

As a result of the fact that businesses have to close we are making changes to the PUP and the EWSS

The new payment structure for the PUP is as follows, with the rate of €350 restored to those who were earning in excess of €400 per week:

Prior Weekly Earnings (Gross)PUP Payment
less than €200€203
€200 – €299.99€250
€300 – €399.99€300
more than €400€350

This change to payment rates will apply for payments issued from Tuesday 27th October (PUP is paid weekly on a Tuesday) in respect of all existing and new applicants.

The EWSS is also being amended to align with the amendment to PUP. This means here will be 5 payment rates/bands as follows:

  • 0 – €151 = €0
  • >€151 < €203 = €203
  • >€203 < €300 = €250
  • >€300 < €400 = €300
  • >€400< €1,462 = €350

The main aim of this scheme is to ensure where possible employees retain their link with their employer rather than become unemployed. This revised scheme will run to end January 2021.

Essential retail outlets:

Retailers with mixed retail offering which have discrete spaces for essential and non-essential retail should make arrangements for the separation of relevant areas.

  • outlets selling food or beverages on a takeaway basis, or newspapers, whether on a retail or wholesale basis and whether in a non-specialised or specialised outlet.
  • markets that, wholly or principally, offer food for sale.
  • outlets selling products necessary for the essential upkeep and functioning of places of residence and businesses, whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • pharmacies, chemists and retailers or wholesalers providing pharmaceuticals or pharmaceutical or dispensing services, whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • outlets selling health, medical or orthopaedic goods in a specialised outlet, whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • fuel service stations and heating fuel providers
  • outlets selling essential items for the health and welfare of animals (including animal feed and veterinary medicinal products, pet food, animal bedding and animal supplies), whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • laundries and drycleaners
  • banks, post offices and credit unions
  • outlets selling safety supplies (including work-wear apparel, footwear and personal protective equipment), whether on a retail or wholesale basis.
  • hardware outlets, builders’ merchants and outlets that provide, whether on a retail or wholesale basis –

– hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance or construction and development,

– sanitation and farm equipment, or

– supplies and tools essential for farming or agriculture purposes.

-outlets providing for the repair and maintenance of mechanically propelled vehicles or bicycles and any related facilities (including tyre sales and repairs).

  • the following outlets, insofar as they offer services on an emergency basis only:

-optician and optometrist outlets

-outlets providing hearing test services or selling hearing aids and appliances

-outlets selling office products and services for businesses or for relevant persons working from their respective places of residence, whether on a retail or wholesale basis

-outlets providing electrical, information and communications technology and telephone sales, repair and maintenance services for places of residence and businesses.

  • any other retail outlet that operates an online or other remote system of ordering goods for purposes of collection at the retail outlet
  • outlets selling food or beverages whether on a retail or wholesale basis and whether in a non-specialised or specialised outlet:

-insofar as they sell food or beverages on a takeaway basis or for consumption off the premises,

-insofar as they are staff canteens operating for the exclusive use of persons working in, or at, a particular premises, or

– hotels or similar accommodation services insofar as they sell food or beverages for consumption on the premises by residents of the service.

See the list of Essential Services HERE

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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Crass stupidity’ to allow Leisureland close

Stephen Corrigan

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The looming threat of closure for Leisureland after Christmas amounts to “crass stupidity” and requires an urgent commitment for funding from Government, according to a local TD.

Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Galway City Tribune she had raised the issue in the Dáil with the Minister of State for Local Government and he had expressed an openness to meeting with a delegation from City Hall in relation to the City Council-owned facility’s dire financial situation.

“It’s simply not acceptable that a public swimming pool would close when we have the Minister for Finance announcing a budget of €18 billion this week – that’s Monopoly money.

“We have €18 billion to dispense and the challenge is to do that in a way that ensures a basic level of services below which we cannot go, and that requires funding the local authority. The local authority is fundamental in any civilised society, as are the services it provides,” said the Independent Deputy.

Raising the issue in Leinster House, Deputy Connolly said that Leisureland was an excellent public facility that had been open since 1973 and had broke even for the last number of years, but had run into major funding shortfalls as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

“It is a fantastic swimming pool. I must declare a conflict of interest as I use it every weekend, It helps to keep me semi-sane and semi-fit.

“No public swimming pool makes money and few of them break even. This pool needed money due to Covid-19 and the difficulties experienced by every public swimming pool in the country. The management in the City Council said it was not in a position to give it money and that the swimming pool would have to close,” said Deputy Connolly, adding that the decision had been made and staff were informed.

Due to public pressure and resistance from local councillors, the decision was reversed and €207,000 in funding had been provided by the Council Executive.

“However, it pointed out that the money was coming out of next year’s budget, so it could not continue, and it would not be in a position to fund it.

“I do not expect miracles, but I expect commitment from the Minister and the Government that, regardless of what happens, we are not going to close public swimming pools or public libraries. They are essential services,” said Deputy Connolly.

She said €2.5 million in funding had been made available for “swimming pools with public access” in the private sector as part of the Government’s July Stimulus package, but nothing for publicly-owned facilities.

“It is very ironic if we are going to keep private swimming pools open once they have some limited access to the public, while we close down the public swimming pools,” she added.

Responding, Minister Peter Burke said his Department was keeping spending and cash flow at local authorities under constant review and would continue to work with Galway City Council to address issues.

“My Department is engaging with representatives of the local government sector and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the financial challenges facing local authorities as a direct consequence of the pandemic, in terms of additional costs incurred as part of the local government response and decline in local authority income streams.

“I will do my very best with regard to the Deputy’s ask. I would be willing to meet a delegation from the City Council in connection with this issue. However, there are going to be significant asks emanating from this crisis. We are doing our very best to make what we have go as far as it can. It presents a major challenge,” said Minister Burke.

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