The Apiculture Unit at Bodles in St. Catherine has undertaken a hurricane restoration programme valued at some $3.5 million, to partially restock the colonies of those bee farmers, who suffered losses during Hurricane Ivan last September. Reginald Peddy, Chief Apiculture Officer, informs JIS News that the Ministry of Agriculture has decided to purchase bees for the breeding of nucleus colonies and the stock will then be distributed to selected farmers. While there has not yet been any report of losses following the recent passage of Hurricane Dennis, Mr. Peddy says that in the event of any such reports, these will be factored into the current restoration effort.
He notes that a number of bee colonies were lost as a result of Hurricane Ivan, due to the defoliation of vast acreages and the decapitation of many of the trees. “It has devastated the bee keeping industry to a great extent,” he says, adding that based on feedback, it is believed that some 2,400 hives were lost.
As a result of the severe damage to the industry, Mr. Peddy says the Ministry is assisting the bee farmers to recover.
Explaining how the rehabilitation effort will work, Mr. Peddy says that the apiaries will be established at the four extension regions across the island from which the farmers will receive supplies.
Farmers in the western parishes of St. James, Hanover, Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth, will be served from the apiary to be established in Balaclava, St. Elizabeth; the apiary for the central region will be established in Mile Gully to cover the parishes of Manchester, Clarendon and Trelawny, while farmers in St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Thomas, will be served from a St. Catherine facility. An apiary will be put in place at Nonsuch, St. Mary to cover that parish in addition to Portland and St. Ann.
Each apiary will consist of 75 hives initially with an expected increase to about 300 over time.From these apiaries, Mr. Peddy says, some 2,400 nucleus hives will be supplied to the beekeepers.
Each farmer is expected to receive about five frames of bees to complement those hives from which bees were lost during the hurricane and “the beekeeper is expected to nurture these nucleus hives until they reach a stage where the colonies can be considered as well established”.
“We have actually started implementation of the project. We have identified all of these hives, we have identified the bees and we are in the process of acquiring them as well as the sites have been cleared to establish the apiaries,” the Chief Apiculture Officer says.
Mr. Peddy says the distribution of bees will begin by September of this year. “We should be able to, by then, distribute our first 600 nucleus hives so those bee keepers, who had registered their losses we will be there for them,” he assures.
For those who would question the decision to restock beehives at the start of what is expected to be an active hurricane season, Mr. Peddy points out, “we cannot wait and predict really what will happen.” He says that what needs to be done, is for measures to be put in place to prevent drastic devastation of colonies from the hurricane.
“We will be able to secure those colonies because there are things that beekeepers can do to prevent heavy losses during a hurricane so if there is the threat of a hurricane, then we will put measures in place to prevent losses,” he says.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Peddy informs, is on a drive to increase honey production locally and the hurricane restoration programme is one such project aimed at reviving the industry.
“We are looking to substantially increase the production of honey in the next three years because there is adequate market to absorb all that we can produce. There is a market in Europe, which we now have access to as far as honey is concerned and I can tell you the Jamaican consumer is never satisfied; there is never enough honey for everyone,” he tells JIS News.
For the next honey season, which begins in February through to April, Mr. Peddy says the industry should see an increase in honey production as a result of a number of new beekeepers coming into the industry.
“There are many young individuals who are just coming into the industry. They might not have substantial amount of money to invest but I know that over time, with the interest that is being shown, the honey and beekeeping industry in Jamaica will be a force to reckon with,” he says.
He adds further that, “with the new investments taking place in the industry, the beekeepers who are increasing without assistance and those that will be assisted, we will see great increase in the production of honey by the next crop if we do not have another disaster like we had last year.”
And for those who have an interest in bee rearing, but do not have enough start-up capital, Mr. Peddy is encouraging them to start small. “Your start-up capital in beekeeping is dependent on what things are put in place in the initial stages.”
“You can start small and we normally encourage beekeepers with no previous experience to start small with no more than 10 hives and gradually move up because they need the learning experience,” he said, adding that, “there is no sense in someone investing large amount of capital and then eventually have to abandon the project because they discover, at a later time, that they are not so inclined”.