Bee and other pollinators and other beneficial predatory insects in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are suffering from increased urbanisation, as well as the use of pesticides in agriculture, landscaping and vector control.
In light of this, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund (SVGEF) said it is grateful that there has been a ban on aerial spraying of bananas, as this move has been critical in saving the bees and the butterflies.
“It is only anecdotal evidence but I do believe we have all noticed an increase in the presence of both bees and butterflies since the ban on aerial spraying,” Louise Mitchell, executive director of the SVGEF, told the three-day 11th Caribbean Beekeeping Congress.
Mitchell said the frequent use of the chemical malathion to combat mosquito borne diseases “may well serve to counteract/nullify some of the benefits that the ban on aerial spraying of bananas might have achieved.
“This is a matter of concern to the SVGEF and leads us to raise a series of questions that have relevance in this forum,” Mitchell said.
“We ask the questions, is fogging using this chemical the best that we can do to address the issue of mosquitos? Have there been any studies on the possible harmful impacts of this chemical to beneficial predatory insects and indeed to humans? Is there awareness of the fact that the use of malathion has been banned in the European Union because it is deemed harmful to pollinators?”
She said that reducing beneficial insects, such as dragonflies, Jack Spaniards (paper wasps), lady bugs and butterflies and bees, which were “arguably all more prevalent in our childhoods” has a ripple effect through the entire ecosystem.
“A dragonfly can eat hundreds of mosquitos in one day.
It is the hope of SVGEF that one of the outcomes of this congress is an examination into the effects of fogging and possible better biological solutions, which would provide better longer term solutions that are less harmful to human health,” Mitchell said.
SVGEF, which is part of the Conservation Collective network of environment funds worldwide established by Ben Goldsmith, was a sponsor of the Bee Keeping Congress 2022, which was hosted by the SVG Beekeepers Association.
“Our commitment to the ongoing efforts of the SVG Beekeepers Association and the local bee keeping community extends beyond this congress as we have committed to support the association in a tree propagation and planting project, where there will be a focus on mangrove and mango trees, both of these tree species having been established as great habitats for bees,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who is originally from Bequia, said that both in the Grenadines and on the mainland (St. Vincent Island), there has been a significant loss of mangroves due, in part, to tourism development.
“It is hoped that the tree planting project will help to restore some of the mangroves lost, and reduce the tendency to turn to concrete for sea defences rather than the arguably more effective and more attractive mangroves,” Michell said.
“The work of the Beekeeping Association of SVG is critical. We hope that the hosting of this congress will bring to light some of the challenges facing bees, and other pollinators in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Meanwhile, speaking at the same congress, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Saboto Caesar said that the fogging by the Vector Control Unit is also a challenge to the beekeepers.
He said his ministry has written to the pesticides board and also engaged the Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer on the matter.
“We all know how critical it is to ensure that the mosquitos don’t have their way but we have to balance this not only the protection of the bees but there are many persons in the scientific field who are also noting that there are far better opportunities that we have available today that we can utilise to protect both bees and human beings,” the agriculture minister said.
He said that food security continues to play a very vital role not only in production and productivity but also with the significant inflation in the cost of food, food ecosystems must be protected.
The minister further said that some Caribbean countries are blocking the trade in honey and as a result, some stakeholders in some member states are not investing further in honey production and apiculture in general because they do not have access to very large markets.
“So, when we speak about our honey import bill as a region going forward, I am asking for consensus as it pertains to the removal of trade barriers,” he said.
The congress was held under the theme “Building the Resilience of a Bee-Keeping Industry After a Natural Disaster”.
Beverly Reddock, president of the Vincentian beekeepers group, said the theme was appropriate as the conference showed the association how to be resilient amidst threats of pests, pesticides, global warming and diseases.
She said the local association has chosen to promote, educate and develop a viable beekeeping industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the efforts to host the conference in SVG augurs well for the success of the local beekeepers.
Over the last two years, the Caribbean Beekeepers Organisations (ACBO) has seen the development and implementation of initiatives across the Caribbean to support apiculture and improve livelihoods.
ACBO President Richard Mathias however said that the Caribbean beekeeping sector is still under increasing threats from continued escalation of climate change, the indiscriminate use of pesticides and, “most critically”, a renewed thrust to open domestic honey markets to international honey imports.
He said the growing family of beekeepers across the Caribbean has begun to come together to address these issues and cited as an example that in 2021/2022, they were able to plant over 2000 trees across the region in support of reducing and providing forage for their pollinators.
Mathias said ACBO has started campaigning amongst farmers in member countries to reduce their pesticide use and encourage integrated agricultural practices and biopesticide techniques.
He said ACBO has also begun a regional conversation on the benefits and disadvantages of the importation of honey.
The conversation is with a view to properly supporting the regional beekeepers who are coming closer and closer to the threat of fake honey into their countries.
“ACBO can, as a regional beekeeper sector producer, provide honey to each other’s countries only if they come together to fight against the ever -growing pressure of fake honey, which is currently threatening European and North American producers,” Mathias said.
“We can’t allow foreign fake honey to take away our livelihoods, our trade, our tradition and destroy our biodiversity.”
This article contains some reporting from the Agency For Public Information