Bee Culture (July 2006), Vol. 134 (7): 17-19
Malcolm T. Sanford
No honey report in any beekeeping publication omits
The humid pampa is a perfect
environment for the European honey bee, temperate enough for the insects to do
well in putting up stores of honey and planted with crops the bees do well on
in other temperate lands in the
Beekeeping began in earnest and continues today in the
central part of Argentina in the province called “La Pampa,” according to a report by Marcelo Real published in
2004.1 It started in the
1930s when Raimundo Urmente
Gil began to manage a small apiary near the town of Victoria. Honey was eventually put in barrels and sent
by rail to
The 1980s saw a dramatic increase in beekeepers. It was a golden era where colonies made
between 80 and 90 kilograms (176 to 198 lbs) of honey during the long growing
season (December to
March) and there were few pests to worry about. Unfortunately, Varroa destructor was introduced in the late 1980s and production
declined. The problems brought on by the
Varroa mite resulted in a series of regulations (the
first apiary law was promulgated in 1985).
Nevertheless, interest in beekeeping continued to grow and various
courses were taught in universities and the private sector. The first “Apiculture in the
The 1990s brought more growth as
Agentina’s honey production
continues to increase over time. The
country produced 45.6 thousand tons in 1990.
This more than doubled to 93 thousand tons by the year 2000. Over 90% of the crop is exported to the
There have been some huge challenges to Argentinian beekeeping in recent years. In the 1990s, it was reported that American foulbrood had become resistant to Terramycin®, the first report of this phenomenon anywhere in the world after almost 40 years of use of this material as a prophylactic.2 The U.S. beekeeping industry was also successful in reducing honey importation through legal means, when Argentina and China were both declared by the World Trade Commission to be dumping product at lower than costs of production.3 Finally, Argentine honey contaminated with a class of antibiotics called nitrofurans was detected in Canada4 and Australia.5 During the same period, the Argentinian economic crises deepened after a precipitous 70 % devaluation in the currency.
It has just been reported that this year’s Argentine honey
crop appears to be 30% below average.6 Because it is in the southern
hemisphere the production season is our fall and winter. This is good for the world market as prices
will probably move up, but of course will affect many of
Unlike in the
At the top of the list is the porta
apícola (apiculture portal): http://www.apicultura.entupc.com/. This Web Site sports a periodic newsletter
that is sent to subscribers and a list of recent and archived articles on many
topics. For example, it is reported
that this year’s
The Api-Guia electronic portal, dubbed “The First Commercial Directory of the Argentinian Beekeeping,” has an electronic newsletter that one can subscribe to and the Web site is also available in English and French: This is the English version on the site itself:
Unfortunately, you need to read Spanish to take full
advantage of the Api-Guia electronic portal. Perusing the exhibitions and fairs link
reveals there are several expositions in June and July and at least one for
every month through mid-October. Perhaps
the largest and most traditional is the Expomiel Azul 9-11 June, 2006, which features a movable extraction
facility in a trailer, election of the national honey queen and a large array
of exhibits. The Web site for thise event: http://www.expomielazul.com.ar/2006/index.php
also has a virtual tour of the
exhibits. In other words, you don’t have
to attend to get an idea of what is being promoted. They are available right from your office or
home via your personal computer. The
event takes place in the town of
Argentine beekeepers also have at their disposal a
government program called the Proyecto Integrado de Desarrollo Apícola (PROAPI) under the auspices of INTA The project
began in 1995 and in its first decade of operation provided beekeeping
instruction to numerous groups, sponsored tours to the
Some extremely ambitious goals were discussed and if implemented could put Argentinian honey bee research at the forefront in some critical areas. This information would then be transferred to beekeepers to help them increase productivity. Various subprojects were discussed in four general areas:
Honey quality: This
is a significant area given the country’s flirt with honey contamination by nitrofurans.
Potential for contamination and traceability of the product from hive to
the packer is considered of utmost importance and will be given priority. Because honey is shipped to Europe,
Germ Plasm: The Africanized honey bee exists in the
northern part of the country, but does not seem to have invaded much of the
traditional European honey bee areas in the humid pampa,
perhaps because of lower temperatures.
In addition, there has been a significant effort to introduce European
stock into the more tropical northeast and northwest to blunt the effects of
the Africanized bee. This effort will
incorporate knowledge from other studies around the world to identify heritable
characteristics (hygienic behavior and Varroa
tolerance) that can be introduced into the current stock to improve
productivity. One of the areas to be
looked at is the difference that appears to exist in the Argentinian
Africanized honey bee population with reference to mite tolerance when compared
to that of
Nutrition: Little is
known about honey bee nutrition in the country.
Projects in this area will seek to characterize the relative protein
content of various pollens in
Pollination: A commercial pollination enterprise is beginning to be established in the country. Plants requiring honey bee pollination are mostly those that we see in the U.S., including fruits and nuts (almonds, apples and kiwis), vegetables (cucumber, squash, watermelon), forages and seeds (red clover, alfalfa), and oil-producers (sunflower, soybean and rape, the source of canola). Systems need to be developed to help both beekeepers and growers get the most out of honey bee pollination.
Several of these projects have been written up in INTA’s October 2003 edition of IDIAxxi, Revista de Informacion Sobre Investigacion y Desarrollo Agropecuario. This publication can be viewed directly on the World Wide Web.8
In summary, Argentinian beekeeping
has a lot going for it, including a maturing history as one of the world
market’s significant honey sources. It
also has in its favor a rather young labor force that is comfortable using
electronic information, and an ongoing research and education initiative
through the government to help beekeepers improve productivity. There’s much to
1. Real. O, Marcelo. 2004. La Apicultura en La Pampa, Publicación Técnica No. 85, Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria INTA, Noviembre.
2. Sanford, Malcolm T. 1996. Fifth Ibero-Latin American Apicultural Congress meets in
3. Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Web site: <http://www.rmfu.org/News/Stories/ShowFeature.cfm?ID=89>, accessed May 19, 2006.
4. Canadian Honey Council Web site: <http://www.honeycouncil.ca/users/Folder.asp?FolderID=4753&NewsID=339>, accessed May 19, 2006.
5. Sydney Morning Herald, November 7,2003 <http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/11/16/1068917675774.html?from=storyrhs>.
6. American Honey Producers Association Web site, <http://www.americanhoneyproducers.org/>, accessed May 19, 2006.
7. <http://www.api-guia.com.ar/>, accessed May 19, 2006.
8. <http://www.inta.gov.ar/ediciones/idia/alt/api.htm>, accessed May 19, 2006.