New threat to Portugal’s beleaguered beekeepers: ‘marauding’ Spanish bees

On top of all the environmental threats – from Asian killer hornets to chemical fertilizers and mobile phone masts – Portuguese beekeepers have a new headache to try and cope with: marauding Spanish bees, sited in hives “placed in the dead of night” ‘taking advantage’ of Portugal’s rich supply of flora.

Just as Spanish fishermen are blamed with fishing in Portuguese waters, so too are Spanish beekeepers for hijacking Portuguese pollen.

Says Público, the situation is driving Portuguese beekeepers to despair.

The problem isn’t only that they have to share space with bees that should be in another country, but that while they have endless bureaucratic demands to satisfy, Spanish beekeepers are free to do as they please.

They bring in their hives between autumn and spring in covered HGV’s – very often leaving them on land that doesn’t even belong to them, Paulo Ventura of the association of northeast transmontano beekeepers told Público.

And because Spanish beekeepers are not registered here, they don’t receive statutory checks from the authorities. This means they can cram as many hives as they like into a given space, allowing for diseases to flourish.

As furious beekeepers have explained, when authorities here do become aware of Spanish hives, they can’t contact the owners “because they are all in Spain”.

Paperwork may be filed, but it is rarely followed through as Spanish beekeepers give false details/ addresses, and no-one can ever find them.

João Tomé, president of the country’s association of professional beekeepers is now challenging the authorities to publish the number of complaints taken out against Spanish beekeepers, alongside the tally of results.

He claims the country is losing out on “millions of euros worth” of taxes that could be earnt from the production and sale of honey and pollen that instead pass every year to Spain.

As he stressed, the largest pollen producers in the world are based in Spain. “Around 70% is taken from Portugal to pay taxes in Salamanca”, he told Público.

But a source for DGAV veterinary authorities seemed unfazed by Público’s ‘exposé’, suggesting Spanish beekeepers feel Portuguese counterparts are often better off than they are.

The bottom line is that the trucks of hives look like they will be crossing the border every year for a while to come, installing their swarms for Portuguese ‘buzzman’s holidays’ among the heather, medronheiros, rosemary, lavender and thyme.

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