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  • Writer's pictureLuis A Mazariegos

June 2022 - The “Green Gold” Craze: Saving Honeybees @ MPNR

Avocados are becoming increasingly profitable and are fast becoming one of southwest Antioquia’s — and Colombia’s — main crop to replace coffee-growing lands and pasturelands. The overcultivation of the fruit poses an environmental threat in one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world, especially as climate conditions grow more extreme.

Honeybees account for 100-percent of all pollination of avocado trees. Incredibly 300-million flowers can be pollinated by a single bee colony each day. That said, 70-percent of human food crops are pollinated by bees which represents about 90-percent of the world’s nutrition.

Unfortunately, bees are in decline around the world, which will have catastrophic consequences. Scientists have demonstrated that bees are dying from several factors which includes pesticides, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming, among others. Amazingly, in many areas where avocado crops are being planted, beehives are being destroyed and burned by farmers. Not only are they ignorant of the important role played by honeybees in pollinating the flowers but also how they will significantly affect the productivity of their crop in a negative way.

Fortunately for honeybees in Jardin and Andes, Ferney Agudelo, a local peasant living in the La Floresta village, is on call 24/7 to collect the beehives to be burnt. He collects the hives and carefully places them in a provisional wooden box providing a new home for the honeybees. I met Ferney by chance as he was heading to collect a beehive. One of our neighbors had called him to dig a hive or else they would destroy it. Apparently, bees had stung a worker while spraying a crop and they needed to get rid of this nuisance. Below a video of this recovery.

Once the bees are placed in a small wooden box, making sure the queen bee has been recovered, they are kept for several days providing them with food. Finally, they are transferred to their new home (as seen in this next video) from which they will start flying out to pollinate flowers and produce honey.

I asked Ferney if he would be willing to set beehives at a location within the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve’s boundary providing a safe haven for them. He happily agreed and within a 2-week period he had collected eleven colonies that would otherwise been destroyed. We now hope to set up space for some 30 beehives that will continue to pollinate the many flowers in the surrounding forests.

To keep the colonies healthy and under little stress, Ferney will only collect honey produced in excess. Also, by using Flow cells he will avoid destroying honeycombs when harvesting the honey. The honey will have a certificate of origin and all the proceeds obtained will provide additional income for Ferney and his family. This is a win-win deal where, by protecting the balance of nature, a sustainable income to local stakeholders is provided.

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