We have reported on the various challenges being faced by bee keepers in Belize including the Small Hive Beetle and flooding. But these tiny insects have a lot more threats and over the last year, concerns have been mounting across the world surrounding their survival and ultimately, the survival of the human species. That is because bees are key pollinators of the food we consume on a daily basis, but they are fast disappearing leaving a trail of worry in all corners of the world. Given that situation, we spoke to key officials in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture to find out more about that situation in Belize.
Dalila Ical – Reporting
There are a total of 1, 800 colonies in all six districts with Belize, Orange Walk and Cayo having the largest concentrations. Bee keepers are facing difficulties, but there is no record of bees simply disappearing as reported in Southern France, England, India and china.
In the US alone, about six hundred thousand of 2.6 million colonies have vanished. But reports are being made in Italy, Poland Portugal, Central and South America and some reports indicate that these disappearances are happening in a matter of hours. Experts call it the colony collapse disorder.
Bee keepers are not the only ones worried. Farmers are too. And why are the honey bees so important? Experts say their disappearance can mean the end of life as humans know it. Margarito Leiva, Extension Officer in the Orange Walk Agriculture Department says they are aware of the issue.
“If I should recall several of the news medias, international news media’s saying that the disappearing of the honey bees, humanity will fall because 80 to 90% of the flora depends on bees as pollinators and through it they contribute to the bio diversity in the flora and so if they disappear we will disappear so bees is an alias to our survivor.”
In America honey bees pollinate almost one hundred of the most important crops – fruits vegetables, nuts, seeds, even fibers like cotton. These tiny creatures are perfectly engineered for a task that pedals the circle of life. Feathery hairs coat the body and build a static charge as the bee flies when she lands on the flower pollen literally jumps onto their body. When the bees transfer pollen from one flower to another the plant’s fertilized ovary swell into a fruit.
Scientists have found a potential cause, a virus called Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, IAPV that was found only in Israel. Today however, experts have traced it in the US, Australia and in royal jelly exported from China. Its origin however remains a mystery and scientists are now working to develop a defense against the virus. Principal Agriculture Officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture Ricardo Thompson says they are aware of the dangers and are supportive of the bee keeping industry here.
Ricardo Thompson – Principal Agriculture Officer
“Our fourth pillar has to do with sustainable management of our agro ecological systems and insects in particular these are very important pollinators of our fruit trees, or crops you name it, in fact I was just telling them that I read somewhere that if the human species were to disappear all the insects in the world would thrive and actually flourish but if the bees were to disappear, the insect we would last more than a month because our food system be compromised terribly so our aim in agriculture is to have a very responsible agriculture, sustainable where our interventions are environmentally friendly, that they are not actually compromising our environment and at the end of the day coming back to hurt us because anything that we do against mother nature, and so mother nature has a way to correct itself.”
It is a serious matter especially at a time where there is a growing demand for agricultural products. Large scale bee keepers around the world are facing bankruptcy. But the biggest worry is the loss of food and even foliage crops for cattle.
“Here in fact the ministry if taking another approach, I guess that in this meeting that we are discussing with the policies for the next ten years and one of the things that we are trying to do right now is to rescue all the swarms that are in the houses all right, instead of going there and eradicating the bees we would actually use them and try to hide them for honey production.”
In Belize, bee keepers produce about 235,000 pounds of honey which is below Belize’s local demand. According to Agriculture officials, Belizeans consume about three hundred thousand pounds of honey. The industry in Belize is small, but officials say there is an international market for the honey that Belize’s industry has yet to tap into.