Chemicals killed 10 million bees in Yucatan last year — report

Collective calls for protections on World Bee Day plea to save pollinators from extinction

The brood cells of the Stingless Mayan Bees in Yucatán are constantly filled with new eggs. Photo: Getty
The Stingless Mayan Bees in Yucatán are in decline. Photo: Getty

More than 10 million bees have been lost to chemical spraying in 2018, said a group of beekeepers in Yucatan.

“Kaab Na ‘clone,” the Maya Alliance for the Bees of the Yucatan Peninsula, called for immediate action to protect the important pollinators.

The announcement was made today, on World Bee Day, an international celebration that also marks the 285th birthday of Anton Janša, the beekeeping pioneer from Slovenia.

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The collective represents thousands of beekeepers in southeastern Mexico who warn that deforestation in the Yucatan Peninsula further endangers native bees. An estimated 60,000 hectares / 148,000 acres of forest are lost annually, partly due to the 42,000 hectares / 104,000 acres of transgenic soybeans planted in 2018. Clearing trees reduces the area for beekeeping and nesting spaces for bees.

Around 75 percent of the world’s food crops depend in part on pollination, largely from bees and butterflies, and no solid action has taken place to save those populations, according to a press release from the collective.

Bees risk extinction from a variety of factors, including land use, unsustainable agricultural practices, invasive species, parasites, diseases and climate change.

They called on the authorities to intervene, recognize and strengthen Maya beekeeping as an activity that brings revenue for rural families. Moreover, protecting bees upholds Yucatan’s sociocultural and natural heritage, they said, because without “bees there is no life.”

“Comprehensive action plans must be put in place to save bees and other pollinators. The final solution is the adoption of organic agriculture as the only way for a respectful production of food with all the inhabitants of the planet,” reads the World Bee Day announcement.

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Organic farming, the text continues, guarantees healthy and sustainable production, since it protects soil, water and climate, promotes biodiversity, does not pollute the environment with agrochemicals or transgenics and respects the health of people.

“The native bees are a fundamental part of the cosmovision of many indigenous communities, as it is for the Mayan people, whose stingless Melipona are dubbed Xunán Kab (“the lady bee”).

In Mexico, 1.9 million Apis mellifera bee hives maintained by 42,000 beekeepers produce an average of 55,900 tons of honey valued at 1.9 billion pesos annually, the collective reports. Yucatan is Mexico’s largest honey producer, followed by Campeche and Jalisco.

On the Yucatan Peninsula, 22,845 tons of honey were produced in 2017, representing 36 percent of national production. Of that, 750 tons were produced under organic production systems.

The production of honey generates 800 million pesos annually to the communities of the Yucatan Peninsula, in support of the family economy of 20,000 apiculturists and beekeepers, they said.

Mexico is the world’s third-largest honey exporter. Around 91 percent of honey produced in the region is exported to the European Union, especially Germany and the United Kingdom.

World Bee Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2017 as an annual reminder of the benefits that bees have brought to people, plants and the planet.

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