Efforts are under way to increase awareness about bees, since they are essential to the earth’s ecosystem, and to promote beekeeping or apiculture as a financially lucrative industry in Barbados.
To this end, the National Conservation Commission (NCC) recently offered beekeeping classes to both young persons and adults at their headquarters, Codrington House, St. Michael.
The course attracted over 50 persons from the age of 17 to over 60 years old.
What do we know about these creatures? Bees are insects responsible for pollinating plants and thus ensuring that food is available for mankind. According to research, there are 16,000 species of these insects, and they can be found in every continent, except Antarctica.
NCC Course Instructor, David Small, explained that honey bees first came to Barbados in 1645 with the settlers. However, he pointed out that the industry faced some challenges over the years, noting that the most severe setback occurred in 2003/2004, when the Varroa mite almost devastated the population.
He explained that the mite attaches itself to the abdomen of bees, and sucks the fat, causing a disease called varroosis. Nevertheless, Mr. Small said that a 2012 survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture revealed that bees were once again resurging in Barbados.
The apiculture expert emphasised that bees were very important for the survival of mankind, noting that there were three types of honey bees; the queen – whose key role was to produce eggs; worker bees (females who cannot reproduce), and drones (bees that fertilise the queen).
“People say bees are aggressive but they are not aggressive. They’re defensive. They defend the queen and their hive.
“Every morning the worker bees leave to collect water to air condition the hive, while during the day they collect pollen for food and nectar, which later becomes honey.
“Bees are fed Royal Jelly for the first few days of their lives and then there is a mixture of honey. When you look in the hive you see pollen and you see a glass looking thing. That is honey,” he explained.
Mr. Small pointed out that local honey was renowned worldwide for its high quality and was being sold here at $40 a pound. Consequently, he encouraged persons to get involved in the sector, adding that a number of by products such as bees wax and bee venom could also be produced and sold commercially.
Sixty-year-old course participant and farmer, Anderson Bolden, said that he decided to take part in the course because he realised that beekeeping could be a potential revenue earner.
“I have retired and for me it is an investment. The course will give me the added drive and exposure I need to move into beekeeping, which I intend to do as a serious career. And, they say, a sting from the bee is good for arthritis,” he quipped.
Persons interested in cultivating bees will need to acquire a suit, a smoker, gloves, material for constructing a hive and an extractor.
So, as Government, through the NCC moves to encourage apiculture in Barbados, interested individuals are advised to contact the Commission’s PR/Marketing Department for more information at telephone numbers 536-0662 and 536-0663, or email email@example.com.