One of the reasons for so much disenchantment with the European Union is its tendency to overreach into the minutia of everyday life. Take for example the Directive on the Commercial Exploitation of Invertebrates and Ornamental Fish. This Directive ranges over the minimum length of Stick Insects for retail sale, to criteria for determining whether goldfish can be described as ‘gold’. Section 38 deals with the marking of queen honey-bees.
In principle, it’s sensible legislation. Finding the queen in a colony of 50,000 bees can be difficult, so every spring, when the colonies are still small, beekeepers mark their queens with bright coloured paint.
For the cack-handed it is a tricky exercise; the queen has to be found, immobilised and marked, then released back into the hive once the paint has dried.
Mess it up and you’ll have a damaged or dead queen and a colony that’s doomed. For this reason novice beekeepers practice their queen-marking skills on drone bees, like the one in the cartoon above.
Section 38 mandates what colour queens should be marked each year. This year’s colour is yellow so beekeepers all across the EU will be marking their queens yellow. This facilitates the internal market for trading queen bees and also allows the free movement of swarms across international frontiers. The Directive means well, but it was hijacked by the politicians and lobbyists.
Green MEPs were outraged that queens were being marked with the party colours of the Socialists, Conservatives and Liberals (red, blue, yellow) so insisted that ‘green’ was added to the list. Minority parties argued their case too, and eventually settled on ‘white’.
The paint industry was delighted. At almost £5 each, marker pens are four-times the price of regular pens and are guaranteed to dry-up from one five-year period to the next.
With the UK now leaving the EU there are plans to rationalise the range of colours to just red, white and blue, consistent with the Union flag. But French beekeepers are already objecting, fearing that lower standards and cost cutting by the Brits will result in an unfair competitive advantage.
“Beekeeping is ‘appy-culture, but this is a race to the bottom,” claimed industry spokes-person, Anna-Lise D’urin.
Analyse whatever you like, dear! Regardless of outcome we still need to get marking our queens. After all …
It’s April the First!