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  • Deidra Ressler

Beekeeping in Latin America


Beekeeping is an important component of agriculture here in the United States, but it also has importance in other regions of the world, including Latin America. Bee products, such as honey and wax, have various uses and are in demand worldwide. Consequently, several countries in Latin America have become major honey-producing countries. According to the Emerging Market Investors Association, Brazil and Argentina are both major honey-producers and exporters (“Beekeeping,” 2013). In light of serious threats to honeybee colonies in the United States, such as varroa mites and American Foul Brood, I wanted to briefly research beekeeping in Latin America and how honeybee health is affected in the alternative environment.


One major difference between the United States and Latin America is the major species of honeybee utilized. In the United States, we tend to have the European Honeybee in our hives, but in Latin America, a hybrid between the African Honeybee and European Honeybee is prevalent. Central America and portions of South America have a tropical climate, and this type of bee is more productive in the warm, humid environment (“Beekeeping,” 2013). Although not much data has been reported on beekeeping in these countries, there have not been signs of large-scale colony collapses, which are prevalent in the United States. Several hypothetical reasons for this exist, but one study in Apidologie suggests overall “that the health of honey bees in Latin America may be ultimately due to the practices of low-income agriculture and beekeeping in the region, leading to more sustainable conditions for the bees” (Vandame, 2010). There are relatively small farms present throughout the landscape, and this could affect the amount of pesticide exposure and available pollen sources. Ultimately, several factors may be responsible for the relative success of beekeeping in Latin America, but due to the limited amount of data within a large, diverse region, examining the whole situation is complicated. More individual studies and data will help determine the health trends throughout Latin America; however, spread-out farms and natural foliage could play a role in overall bee health in the region.



Although bees in Latin America have appeared to escape massive losses, there are similar concerns involving pesticide usage. For example, in Costa Rica, two interviewed beekeepers recognize the business potential for their products, but they are worried about the implications of unregulated pesticide use. They state that a nearby tomato farmer uses pesticides on his crops, and the government has not banned neonicotinoids. They are worried about their bees and food crops being eliminated (Stark, 2018). Additionally, in southeastern Guatemala, beekeepers experience losses during flowering season, which is when an insecticide against Ceratitis capitata is applied to plants (Vandame, 2010). Agricultural practices in Latin America differ from the United States, but there are similar concerns over pollinator health in both places. Pesticide use is a major concern, and it has been implicated in observed increases of varroa mites and Nosema in areas where more agriculture occurs. However, Latin America contains large geographic regions where the original forests remain, and these are a rich source of pollen for their bees (Vandame, 2010). Although pesticides, mites, and other diseases are a major concern, especially in agriculture-rich areas, geographic regions are diverse in Latin America, and the forests’ plants provide additional sources of pollen apart from plants regularly treated with pesticides.


Honeybees provide a multitude of products and pollination, but they face several serious threats to their populations. The United States faces large amounts of colony losses every year, but overall, Latin America has managed to avoid this dilemma so far. Their relative success shows the implications of pesticides and land usage on honeybee health through comparison, even if more studies need to be completed. Everyone wants their colonies to succeed, and recognizing potential problems across regions can be beneficial in this regard.



References:


“Beekeeping in Latin America.” (2013, August 30). Emerging Market Investors Association. Retrieved from: http://www.emia.org/news/story/1982#:~:text=Bees%20are%20essential%20for%20honey,purposes%20at%20the%20same%20time.&text=Latin%20America%20is%20home%20to,is%20a%20much%20smaller%20exporter.


Stark, Mitzi (2018, July 18). Can Costa Rica Save Its Bees? The Tico Times. Retrieved from: https://ticotimes.net/2018/07/18/can-costa-rica-save-its-bees#:~:text=Apicultores%20de%20Costa%20Rica%20estimates,royal%20jelly%20used%20in%20cosmetics.


Vandame, R. and Palacio, M. A. (2010, May). Preserved Honey Bee Health in Latin America: A Fragile Equilibrium Due to Low-Intensity Agriculture and Beekeeping? Apidologie. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/46421114_Preserved_honey_bee_health_in_Latin_America_A_fragile_equilibrium_due_to_low-intensity_agriculture_and_beekeeping

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