Thu | Jun 30, 2022

Ministry calls on J’cans to protect honeybees

Published:Saturday | May 21, 2022 | 12:08 AM

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is calling on Jamaicans to safeguard the island’s food security by protecting honeybees.

On May 20, the world will recognise World Bee Day under the theme ‘Bee Engaged: Celebrating the diversity of bees and bee-keeping systems’. Chief plant protection officer in the Apiculture Unit of the ministry, Hugh Smith, said “the more pollinators we have, the better it is for our environment”.

“Honeybees are our friends. They provide up to 20 times the value of what the farmer gets [based on what] they put back into the environment. Think about the fruit and vegetables you eat and how much work they put in to get them on your table. Honeybees should always be protected, promoted, and kept in good condition,” he said.

Bees are among nature’s master pollinators, carrying pollen between plants to fertilise them, which is critical for food production. They are being threatened by different factors,including invasive pests like the Cuban frog. The destruction of bee pastures is also of concern.

Smith said, currently, the biggest threat for bees in Jamaica and across the globe is climate change. “Climate change has impacted the bee-keeping industry this year. A lot of beekeepers’ production was down, mainly because of the changes in the weather patterns that trees have faced. This influences when the plants blossom, how long they keep these blossoms on, and that now determines how many days bees can access flowers,” he explained.

That is why the Government is encouraging persons to do what they can to assist in protecting honeybees, such as planting more fruit trees and flowering plants in backyards and communities.

“Jamaicans can also avoid using pesticides outside of the regime that they were approved for. Use them based on the manufacturers’ directions. Also, the next time you see a honeybee, treat it with some amount of respect,” Smith said.

Across the country, local bee farmers can also contact any of the 13 bee farmers’ associations to learn of activities being held. Locally, beekeeping touches the lives of roughly 4,000 Jamaicans who are apiarists, traders, middlemen, input suppliers and operators of farm stores.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations designated May 20 as World Bee Day to raise awareness on the importance of the wide variety of bees, sustainable bee-keeping systems, the threats and challenges they face, and their contribution to livelihoods and food systems.