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World Bee Day: Beekeeping Enterprise and Pesticides

Hitul Awasthi
Hitul Awasthi

UN General Assembly declared 20th May as World Bee Day as Anton Jansa, a pioneer of modern apiculture was born on this day. The theme of 2020 World Bee Day is “Bee Engaged”, and focuses on good practices of bee keeping for supporting livelihoods of bee keepers and sustaining quality products supply. Pollination is a very essential process as majority of flowering plant species depends on it for seed production. World Bee Day provides us an opportunity to raise awareness on conservation of pollinators and their habitats. 

Promotion of Beekeeping Enterprises

Beekeeping can aid in livelihood diversification and overall development of the region. Availability of bee flora, farmers interest for adopting modern beekeeping methods and unmet market demand for honey, shows that there is a great scope for development of beekeeping enterprise. Ecosystem service like pollination, necessary for production of various crops, will help farmers to adapt to climate change. 

Steps taken by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) for developing beekeeping enterprises: 

  • Identification of enterprising youth and farmers and concerned partner staff from each area having keen interest in beekeeping in movable-frame hives; preference to be given to the ones already having bee colonies and has a desire to train other people 

  • Capacity building through trainings in improved methods of beekeeping management, exposure visits to successful beekeeping enterprises 

  • Support to trained youth/ farmers in establishing apiaries of 5-10 bee colonies each 

  • Technical follow up support to the bee entrepreneurs in apiary management and support in enterprise development and management  

  • Monitor field activities and progress 

Turkish Pine Honey  

Pine honey is a resinous honey with distinctive spicy flavour. Around 90% of pine honey comes from Turkey. The nation is now moving to register it as a geographical indication (GI), so as to promote its market and inspire the next generation to keep up the tradition of beekeeping. Pine honey comes from the bees transported to the country’s Aegean coast. Here, these bees collect honeydew from the residue left by a scale insect (Marchalina hellenica), that survive only on sap of certain pine trees. This GI registration will strengthen the honey sector of Turkey and promote livelihood of Turkish beekeepers.  

India: National Bee Board  

Realising the importance of pollinators in Indian agriculture systems, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, GOI launched a scheme titled ‘Development of Beekeeping for Improving Crop Productivity’ during 1994-95. With reconstitution of National Bee Board in 2006, it became a central coordinating agency for promotion of activities relating to income generation through scientific bee keeping and productivity enhancement through pollination. 

Major constraints in Indian Beekeeping  

In India, Apis mellifera and Apis cerana, are the two major species of honeybee kept by beekeepers. Lack of knowledge on scientific beekeeping is the major constraint faced by Indian beekeepers. There is an urgent need to organize effective trainings and demonstrations for Indian beekeepers, so that they can improve their colonies health and increase profits. Major areas that needs attention are: 

  • Selection of good apiary site 

  • Selection of good quality bees 

  • Proper management 

Apiary on Wheels   

Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) launched Honey Mission in 2017, with an aim of training  beekeepers, bee boxes distribution and skill upgradation of rural youth in beekeeping activities. 

Apiary on Wheels is an initiative of KVIC, that aims to ease the migration of live bee colonies. Beekeeping involves challenges like providing nectar to honeybees and migration during dearth period, etc. To ease this, the KVIC launched Apiary on Wheels. It is a platform which can carry 20 bee boxes from one place to another. Automatic arrangements within the compartment triggers fan inside as soon as the temperature reaches 35oC or above. This scheme aims at easing the problem of migration to honey bees, so as to promote beekeeping enterprise in the country. 

Pesticides and Honeybees  

Use of pesticides has become inevitable in modern agriculture, but they have side effects. Honey bees are susceptible to many pesticides. Three types of harmful effects evident in agriculture are 

  • Loss in production of honey,  

  • Contamination of bee products,  

  • Reduction in the yield of cross pollinated crops. 

The harmful effects may be due to the direct exposure or through indirect contact with residues. Direct exposure occurs from treatment of bee hives for disinfestation purpose or bees visiting the field at the time of spray, while the indirect exposure occurs from the spray drift or bee foraging in sprayed crops. 

Symptoms of poisoning  

  • Presence of large number of dead or dying bees at hive entrance 

  • Presence of moist and sticky mass of dead bees at hive entrance, some may regurgitate a thick and dark fluid 

  • Stronger colonies suffer greater damage than weaker colonies 

  • Behaviour of bees in beehive changes abruptly and they become agitated 

  • Can show stupefaction, paralysis, jerky, spinning movement. 

  • Break in the brood cycle 

Protecting colonies from pesticides (Source: NBB)   

  • Persuade the farmers not to use pesticides or use selective pesticides that are less harmful to bees at recommended concentrations  

  • Avoid the use of dust formulations as they are more harmful to bees than spray formulations  

  • Prior information about spraying would help in reducing poisoning of bees   

  • Avoiding spraying of pesticides during flowering of the crop and peak foraging time of the bees would help in reduction in the mortality of foraging bees  

  • Spraying may be done in the evening after sun set when bees do not forage   

  • Colonies may be temporarily shifted if heavy spraying schedule is fixed  

  • If shifting of the colonies is not possible, feed with 200 ml sugar syrup and close the gate by using wire screen for the day of spraying

Agrochemicals and their relative toxicities (Source: Hardstone and Scott) 

It is always better to avoid direct or indirect contact of honeybees with pesticides. Always use chemicals that are less toxic to honeybees at recommended doses. 

  • Acetyl Cholinesterase Inhibitors 

Insecticide (organophosphate) 

LD50 (μg/bee) 

Risk ranking 

Mean 

Range 

Chlorpyrifos 

0.01 

— 

High 

Coumaphos 

31.2 

— 

Low 

Diazinon 

0.2 

— 

High 

Dicrotophos 

1.62 

0.410–3.05 

High 

Dicholorvos 

2.73 

0.290–5.01 

High 

Fenitrothion 

1.66 

0.180–3.83 

High 

Malathion 

0.2 

— 

High 

Methidathion 

0.236 

— 

High 

Methyl parathion 

1.66 

0.610–3.24 

High 

Paraoxon 

0.600 

— 

High 

Parathion 

1.36 

0.100–3.50 

High 

Phorate 

2.45 

0.910–3.20 

High 

Phosmet 

1.06 

— 

High 

Phosphamidon 

4.89 

0.020–14.5 

High 

TEPP 

0.410 

0.010–1.20 

High 

  • Carbamates 

Insecticide (carbamates) 

LD50 (μg/bee) 

Risk ranking 

Mean 

Range 

Oxamyl 

0.094 

— 

High 

Methomyl 

0.16 

— 

High 

Carbaryl 

1.1 

— 

High 

Carbofuran 

1.55 

1.49–1.60 

High 

Aldicarb 

2.36 

1.52–2.85 

High 

Bendiocarb 

2.64 

1.00–4.28 

High 

Aminocarb 

4.40 

0.85–11.2 

High 

  • Neonicotinoids 

Insecticide (neonicotinoids) 

LD50 (μg/bee) 

Risk ranking 

Mean 

Range 

Acetamiprid 

8.1 

— 

Moderate 

Imidacloprid 

0.0039 

— 

High 

Thiacloprid 

17.32 

 

Low 

Thiamethoxam 

0.0005 

— 

High 

Clothianidin 

0.00368 

— 

High 

Dinotefuran 

0.0023 

— 

High 

  • Pyrethroids 

Insecticide (Pyrethroids) 

LD50 (μg/bee) 

Risk ranking 

Mean 

Range 

Bifenthrin 

0.0146 

— 

High 

Cyfluthrin 

0.037 

— 

High 

Esfenvalerate 

0.017 

— 

High 

Fenpropathrin 

0.05 

— 

High 

Gamma-Cyhalothrin 

0.0061 

— 

High 

Lambda-cyhalothrin 

0.038 

— 

High 

Permethrin 

0.024 

— 

High 

Pyrethrin + PBO 

0.002 

— 

High 

Pyrethrum 

0.022 

— 

High 

Zeta-cypermethrin 

0.181 

— 

High 

 

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