“Mexican Beekeeping Seminar Convenes in Tabasco, Parts I-III”
Bee Culture (December 2004 to February 2005), Vols 132-133




Malcolm T. Sanford



The 18th Mexican Beekeeping Seminar (Seminario Americano de Apicultura) and associated 8th Apiexpo (Expo Apícola) convened in Villahermosa, capital of the Mexican state of Tabasco September 8 through 10, 2004.  Besides beekeeping, this area is known for, among other things, its petroleum and aboriginal Mayan ruins (Palenque).1  In addition, the region is famous for huge stone heads carved by the Olmec society, which had as one of its centers a town near Villahermosa, the site of famous ruins at La Venta.2


Hard by the Gulf of Campeche, Tabasco is the namesake of the famous hot sauce, which is manufactured and trademarked in Louisiana, but derived from the hot peppers native to this tropical land.3  Tabasco state in Mexico is populated almost exclusively by the tropically-adapted infamous Africanized honey bee.  It is part of the gulf coastal plain, which also encompasses the states of Campeche, Yucatán and the territory of Quintana Roo.  Taken together, these political entities make up Mexico’s most important beekeeping region.  Mexico (specifically the Yucatán region) lost its number-one world ranking in honey exportation to Argentina and China over the last three decades, but continues to export some of the most sought-after honey in the world.  Given historically high prices for honey and the exclusion of China from the trade due to contamination issues, it was no surprise to see that a main theme of this year’s seminar in Villahermosa was the international honey trade.


The Global Honey Market:


Dr. Francisco Ricalde at the University of Quintana Roo described the historical and current global honey market.  The recent high prices due to Chinese and Argentine honey being all but eliminated from world trade because of contamination and other factors (anti dumping) are also reflected in world honey statistics, according to Dr. Ricalde.  FAO figures, he said, show 2002 world honey production was 1,270,000 tons, a growth of 9.9 percent since 1997.  Some 35 percent of that honey was exported from producing countries, an 11 percent increase in exported honey over the year 2000.  Dr. Francisco’s predictions indicated a slight increase in production to 2006 followed by a decline thereafter, as both China and Argentina become players again.  Many things will affect the world honey market in the future, he concluded, some predictable others not so.  Nevertheless, he said that in the future there should be stabilization in the world market that will reduce large cyclical variations often seen in the past.


Chinese Efforts to Clean up Their Act:


A presentation by an official of one of China’s bee products industries (Henan Changge Jixiang Bee Products Ltd. Co.) revealed the depth to which the Chinese are attempting to change their production and marketing practices due to recent contamination incidents.  They have implemented the following five (5) steps in order to assure the world that they are cleaning up their act:


1.  Strengthening large-scale macro regulation with mandatory inspections and increased supervision.  Delegations from other countries, including Mexico and the European Union (EU) have been invited to tour beekeeping establishments and encouraged to tell Chinese beekeepers what effects the use of medications such as chloramphenicol are causing in the world market place.


2.  Increasing educational efforts by bringing in experts who instruct beekeepers on best management practices in disease and pest control.  This includes the efforts of Mexican officials who recently visited the country.


3.  Implementing a system of guarantees and trace ability through the use of small groups.  Beekeepers have been divided into cadres of 10 with an appointed head.  If the honey of any particular beekeeper in a group is found to be contaminated, the whole group is censored.  In addition, a series of registration steps has been developed such that there is a paper trail from colony to container.


4.  Establishing modern standards to ensure sustainability in Chinese beekeeping through standardized procedures.  Beekeepers adhering to the standard are rewarded by higher prices.  .


5.  Modernizing laboratories that analyze honey and further regulating production and marketing techniques through a bureaucracy, the National Inspection and Quality Control Agency.


In summary, the Chinese paper published in the proceedings concluded, “in the last 900 days, China has taken corrective action to gain control of its honey quality and today the situation is vastly improved.  Whereas in 2002, of 636 samples analyzed, some 90 percent did not comply with EU regulations, in the current year, 97 percent of samples (354 in total) were in compliance.  Mexico, therefore, should no longer be preoccupied with the quality of imported Chinese honey.” 


Chemical Residues in the Global Marketplace:


Dr. Klaus Wallner, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart provided detailed information on the state of miticides and their effects on honey quality worldwide.  Two general groups exist, water soluble (formic acid, oxalic acid, cymiazole) and fat soluble (brompropylate, fluvalinate, coumaphos).  The former can be found in honey, but generally decrease over time and present little risk to wax.  The latter, however, accumulate in wax over time, such that comb exposed to them must finally be eliminated from the nest and cannot be recycled into foundation. 


In general, Dr. Waller concluded the use of fat-soluble miticides should be reduced and water-soluble products increased.  This is based on his data published in the proceedings with respect to residues found in honey from Holland, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland, U.S., and Germany.  A disquieting observation is that U.S. levels of the organophosphate coumaphos are vastly greater than those in Germany.  This is in spite of the fact that dribbling Perezin® into the bee nest has been going on for much longer than the supposed more controlled release through CheckMite+® plastic strips registered in the U.S.  Finally, he concluded that a great deal more work needs to be done to standardize treatments and residue levels in the nations of the world, ensuring a more unified, harmonious global honey market.


Dr. Wallner recommended the complete replacement of combs by virgin (uncontaminated) foundation annually as a way to ensure export honey quality.  Two other statements by Dr. Waller deserve attention.  One is that “silent robbery” exists among apiaries; in other words untreated colonies can be contaminated by bees from those that have been chemically treated.  Another is that it is possible to produce honey without residues in “green” or “eco” apiaries by treating with either formic or oxalic acid along with biotechnical means such as drone trapping.


The Codex Alimentarius and HIPA:


Peter Martin, Chairman of the Honey International Packers Association or HIPA, provided information on world standards in accordance with what is known as the Codex Alimentarius, revised in 2001.4  He listed the current procedures in the European Union to monitor honey and said that so far neither Mexico nor China followed the Codex as revised.  The former country permits antibiotic residues and use of high levels of pesticides, something that does not coincide with norms in most other countries.  In China, two standards are available that are not implemented elsewhere: “superior product” and “acceptable product.”  The latter allows up to 24% moisture.  He summarized the current activities in the European Union with respect to honey legislation and marketing, and concluded that labeling requirements will be heavily affected by the fact that the Union has been expanded to 25 countries and the number of official languages has increased from nine to 17.


Codex Alimentarius standards dictate certain levels of enzymes and other substances found in imported honey that has been stored for some time, often in larger containers (barrels).  The storage potential of Mexican honey in the coastal plain was reported by Dr. Beatriz Méndez and associates in the Congresses proceedings.  Storage for periods can be a problem, especially in the tropics where heat can cause two changes in honey that result in a loss of value in the export market.  These are a decrease in enzymes (diastase) and increase in the level of hydroxymethlfurfural (HMF).  The investigators looked at three honeys in the region, a blend from various trees and shrubs (blooming in December 2000) , and the principal sources known as tajonal, Viguiera dentate, (blooming in February 2001), and tzitzilche, Gymnopodium floribundum, (blooming in June 2001).  Their conclusion was that the three can only be stored under ambient temperatures for four, seven and three months respectively without losing their export quality.


Dwight Stoller of Golden Heritage Foods, LLC discussed global opportunities in honey marketing through a brand new association known as the Honey International Packers Association, or HIPA.  He set the stage by listing some of the changes that have occurred in society in general as well as in the technological realm affecting world honey trade.  Examples of the former include that only 3 percent of people in the U.S. now work in agriculture, 90 percent of all scientists that have lived in the world are alive today, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and World Trade Organization (WTO) have reduced trade tariffs by 40 percent.  In the technological arena, he described how faxes, computers and other paraphernalia of the “information age” have changed business practices in ways difficult to imagine just a few years ago.


Mr. Stoller, corroborated presentations by others at the Congress stating that world honey production is approximately 1.2 million tons, with 40,000 being sold internationally by China, Argentina and Mexico, generally to Japan, the United States and the EU.  In addition, production and marketing has been materially affected by the appearance of new diseases and pests and increased chemical use by beekeepers, which has resulted in contaminated honey worldwide.  He estimated that 280,000 tons (20 percent of world production) may in fact be tainted with antibiotic residues.  The situation, he concluded, requires an unprecedented level of collaboration by those interested in maintaining a viable world honey trade.


This situation over the last few years, according to Mr. Stoller, has resulted in discussions suggesting that a world organization committed to honey quality was needed.  Thus, at the World Apicultural Congress in Ljubljana, 2003 the Honey International Packers Association (HIPA) was formed.  Its objective is to assure the quality of honey entering the global marketplace through improved beekeeping and processing practices.  It is currently searching for funds to assist and educate producers and processors through web sites, courses, research and laboratory services. 


At a symposium in Celle, Germany (April 2004) on preventing residues in honey, sponsored by Apimondia, Mr. Stoller reported that members of HIPA were involved in a working group concentrating on nine themes or topics: governmental activities, acceptable disease control methods, beekeeper training and attitude change, analysis of Codex Alimentarius standards, crop pollination and biodiversity, improving public awareness, analytical methodology, promoting industry cooperation, and use of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point).5  Mr. Stoller closed his remarks by inviting interested persons in the Mexican honey industry to join himself and others in making HIPA a success.


Successes in Mexican Honey Production and Marketing:


Several “success stories” in Mexican apiculture were published in the Congress’ proceedings.  Rodrigo Armendariz Hernández of DEMIEL related his efforts to find other firms to join with in the complex task of marketing Mexican honey to the world.  Thus, “DEMIEL is a member of the Mexican Association for Beekeeping Industry Development, AMDIA (Asociación Mexicana para el Desarrollo de la Industria Apícola) that promotes a fair-trading by gathering all of the parties involved in producing and marketing beekeeping byproducts.” 6  A fundamental strategy is to develop a line of products that could easily be seen as distinct and 100 percent Mexican in origin.  The importance of promotion cannot be denied, according to Mr. Armendariz Hernández.  DEMIEL, therefore, has participated in numerous international food shows.  He concluded that it is important to integrate Mexican beekeeping, incorporating both producers and packers in order not to lose competitiveness either in the international or national markets.


Professor Héctor Arcos Hernández and colleagues reported on how the efforts of 20 beekeepers in Tlaxcala state resulted in the development of an “integrated enterprise” in beekeeping.  This appears to be a legal term that has some of the same characteristics as a traditional cooperative might.  The goal is to demonstrate to the Mexican beekeeping industry the value of integrating (cooperating) to create economies of scale for purchasing in bulk, acquiring and training in new technologies and installing modern extraction and bottling plants.  This also brought about the interest of a local school (Colegio de Postgraduados), which now has a demonstration center in apiculture training.  In the fall of 2003, the enterprise sold 63 drums (one drum = 600 lbs), returning to each beekeeper a return of one-half Mexican peso ($US 0.045) per kilogram (one kilogram = 2.2 lbs).


Agricultural Producers of the Lacandona Forest (Productores Agropecuarios de la Selva Lacandona) is an organization of indigenous people from Chiapas state that consists of 360 rural producers in 49 local communities producing coffee and honey.  The objectives of this organization are to provide direct access to markets for the growers involved and to have an organic certification for both products.  At the Congress, the Association reported an annual production of 250 tons of honey from 7,000 hives and some 2,623 quintales (one quintal = 45 lbs) of coffee.  Other results of this effort include a new building complex with extractors and bottling apparatus, as well as a two 3-ton trucks used to distribute the products.


Mexican Domestic Honey Consumption:


Although much of the effort in Mexico is to produce and market honey for export, there was significant discussion at the Congress about the role of the domestic market.  Professor Victor Pineda introduced a nation-wide campaign to increase domestic honey consumption.  This is a cooperative effort between the Mexican government (Consejo Regulador de la Miel de Abeja Mexicana, A.C.) and the national beekeepers union (Unión Nacional de Apicultores).7 


In each registration packet at the Congress was a form beekeepers could fill out to help the beekeeping industry raise 500,000 Mexican pesos (US $45,450), matching what the national government promises to provide through the Consejo Regulador de la Miel de Abeja Mexicana, A.C.  This appears to be a similar campaign to that of the National Honey Board.  It will design point of sale kiosks in service stations, publish recipes and other tips on using honey, and launch an international marketing effort through events such as SIAL, which convenes in Paris, France and elsewhere.8 


There are 100,000,000 Mexicans, according to Professor Pineda, and per capita consumption is extremely low.  If each person only increased their consumption by only a teaspoon or two a day, he concluded, this would materially eat into domestic production.  .


Other themes at the Congress included the culture of stingless bees (meliponiculture), honey bee pathology (diseases and pests), genetics (breeding), and pollination.  These will be covered in subsequent articles.




  1. Palenque Project World Wide Web Site, accessed October 23, 2004<http://www.mesoweb.com/palenque/current_dig.html>. 
  2. La Venta Ruins World Wide Web Site, accessed October 23, 2004<http://www.delange.org/LaVenta3/LaVenta3.htm>.
  3. What’sCooking in America Web Site accessed October 23, 2004<http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Tabasco.htm>.
  4. Apiservices Web Site accessed October 23, 2004 <http://www.apiservices.com/articles/us/honey_quality.htm>.
  5. FDA Haccp Web Site accessed October 23, 2004 <http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/haccp.html>.
  6. DEMIEL Web Site accessed October 23, 2004 <http://www.demiel.com.mx>.
  7. Unión Nacional de Apicultores Web Site accessed October 23, 2004 <http://www.unapicultores.org.mx/index.htm>.
  8. SIAL Web Site accessed October 23, 2004< http://www.sial.fr/>.


Part II

Mexican Beekeeping Seminar Convenes in Tabasco, Part II




Malcolm T. Sanford



In my last column discussing the events of the 18th Mexican Beekeeping Seminar (Seminario Americano de Apicultura), I wrote about the relationship between Mexican honey production and the world market place.  One of the major worldwide issues is the use of chemicals to treat a variety of pests and diseases and their potential to contaminate the global honey crop.  A paradox in Mexico is that there exist Africanized honey bees, which appear to be tolerant to and require less treatment for many situations, especially infestation by Varroa destructor.  Despite this fact, many beekeepers in that country either prefer to use strains of European bees, which require treatment, or don’t know the level of tolerance to mites by the bees they keep (their level of Africanization), and so use treatments as a preventative “just in case.”


Resistance to Chemical Treatments in Mexico:


With this as a background, Dr. Stephen Martin, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom presented two papers.  The first asked whether Varroa resistance to pesticides was in fact a problem in Mexico, and the second described some pests and conditions that might affect Mexican beekeeping in the near future.


Many species of organisms are found associated with honey bees, according to Dr. Martin, including insects, fung, bacteria, viruses and mites.  Upwards of 70 species of the latter may be found in bees in certain areas, but are often not problematic (benign).  However, the global movement of honey bees has created conditions where benign organisms suddenly become virulent and cause problems.  The prime example of this is Varroa destructor, not a significant problem on its natural host Apis cerana in Asia, but extremely damaging to Apis mellifera in many other regions where this mite has been introduced, usually through purposeful importation. 


In areas where Varroa has become extremely invasive, Dr. Martin says the practice of treating with pyrethroids (Apistan® and Bayvarol®) has now created resistance in the mite populations to fluvalinate in both the United States and Europe.  In addition, in a few short years, resistance has also developed to alternative materials like Perizin® in Europe and CheckMite+® in the United States, both formulated using coumaphos.  Finally, resistance to another class of pesticides, which includes the material amitraz, is also on the rise.


Dr. Martin says resistance by Varroa to most treatments is probably inevitable given the movement of bee stocks around the world.  Especially dangerous for Mexico is importation of resistance through honey bees from the United States, where it is already epidemic. It is crucial, therefore, for Mexican beekeepers to detect resistance as early as possible to avoid colony loss and reduce further spread of the phenomenon.  Finally, Dr. Martin concludes that many Mexican beekeepers have the option to use Africanized honey bees should mites become resistant to treatments in European honey bees.  Where this is not possible, they could also explore other non-chemical control methods such as drone trapping and screened bottom boards.


Other Threats to Mexican Beekeeping:


In his second paper, he describes the four largest threats to the future of Mexican beekeeping, Varroa destructor, Tropilaelaps clareae, the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida), and finally the “capensis” problem.  The first organism has already been discussed above.  Many Mexican beekeepers are indeed fortunate that they can choose to manage Africanized honey bees, which have some innate tolerance to Varroa.


They might not be so fortunate, according to Dr. Martin, if the other mite, T. clareae, should be introduced.  This mite is found originally on Apis dorsata (the giant Asian honey bee).  This tropically-adapted mite is considered less of a potential problem in temperate areas such as the United States and Europe, but in the Mexican tropics, it could wreck havoc.  It is a huge problem in tropical areas of Asia when associated with Apis mellifera, and the Africanized bee may well not be as tolerant to this mite as it is to Varroa in the American tropics.  The mite has a similar life cyle and appearance to Varroa, Dr. Martin concludes, who strongly urges any beekeeper finding a mite that appears different than Varroa to report it immediately to the veterinary authorities.


The small hive beetle (SHB) has yet to appear in Mexico, Dr. Martin says, but if it does, the environment would seem excellent for population buildup.  In addition, it is known that Africanized honey bees can round up the beetles and keep them incarcerated for periods, but this does not remove the threat that any imbalance in a colony could provoke a beetle takeover.  Again, as with T. clareae, Dr. Martin suggests any beekeeper finding a suspicious beetle, turn it in to the authorities.


Finally, Dr. Martin mentions the “capensis” problem.  The introduction of an Apis mellifera capensis worker bee, which could easily become a pseudo queen, is ever present wherever bees are kept.  The takeover by capensis pseudo queens in South Africa has resulted in severe dislocations of the bee industry in certain areas.  The Africanized honey bee is as susceptible to the problem as are other subspecies, Dr. Martin said, meaning that Mexican beekeepers would not be able to shift to that race in case there are problems as they now can with Varroa.


Two papers discussed honey bee tolerance or resistance to Varroa.  One by this author has already been published in Bee Culture (October 2004).  Another by Dr. Gard Otis, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada examined resistance in honey bees in France and Canada.  Both populations had light Varroa mite loads, but the Canadian bees did not survive as well.  This may have been due to the fact that the bees were challenged not only by Varroa, but also by tracheal mites.  Dr. Otis concludes that the phenomenon of “resistance” found in French bees is localized, “French bees are not resistant in Canada, but Canadian bees are resistant in France.”


The Canadian – Mexican Link Strengthens:


There appears to be stronger links being forged between Canada and Mexico if one can read between the lines based on presentations at the Congress.  Beyond the paper described in the above paragraph, Dr. Otis also presented information on his nutritional studies in Canada using both natural pollen and substitutes.  He indicated that the same results were possible in the Mexican tropics (both humid and arid) using nutritional supplements as in eastern Canada.  Dr. Ernesto Guzmán Novoa from Mexico, known for his genetic work (described elsewhere in this article) is also expected to join the Guelph faculty soon.


Finally, Tim Wendell, a Manitoba beekeeper, described his management procedures in some detail.  The information about wintering in an extreme temperate zone could not have contrasted more with the conditions most Mexican beekeepers face.  Mr. Wendell also provided information on Canadian experience with mite- and disease-resistant stock.  The story is quite involved, especially since the border with United States has remained closed for two decades.  Russian bees imported into the U.S. were introduced into Canada through a project at the University of Guelph.  This stock was translocated to Saskatchewan and the F1 hybrids were mated in isolated areas with selected drones. 


The result of all this, according to Mr. Wendell, is not yet known since the project is very new and the conditions in Canada are much different than in Louisiana where this stock has been shown to be tolerant.  Canadians are also looking at other stock in the United States, now that the border will be open again on a limited basis to queens.  These stocks include that by Dr. Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota for increased hygienic behavior, and Sue Cobey’s New World Carniolans® at The Ohio State University, as described in my column in the January 2003 Bee Culture.


Africanized Bees in Mexico:


Dr. Ernesto Guzmán Novoa, who as I said before will be joining the University of Guelph research and extension team was the author of two papers at the Tabasco Congress.  The first in conjunction with several colleagues involved a large study full of statistical measures to see if it was possible in Africanized bees to both increase production and at the same time decrease defensive (stinging) behavior through genetic selection.  The results were mixed, but the authors were encouraged that diminished honey production did not seem to directly correlate with an increase in defensive behavior.  This means that it would be possible to genetically select for each characteristic independently of the other.  This kind of program has in fact been instituted in Mexico, as noted elsewhere in this column.


Finally, Dr. Guzmán presented a paper entitled “Africanized Versus European Honey Bees, Which Are Better?”  Africanized honey bees entered Mexico in 1986 from Guatemala, which radically changed Mexican beekeeping.  They have replaced European honey bees in almost 90 percent of the beekeeping regions in the country.  Their expansion was favored by (1) increased reproductive activity, (2) more swarming, (3) a superior abundance of drones, (4) European colonies being taken over through queen replacement, and (5) genetic dominance in several other areas. 


A major controversy continues to be the impact of Africanized honey bees on honey production in Mexico, according to Dr. Guzmán.  In spite of reports from Brazil that honey crops have increased, there is little evidence of this in Mexico.  However, the figures may not be reflective of all the variables involved.  Nevertheless, a major reason for decreased production is the Africanized honey bee’s propensity to put more resources into brood and swarms, rather than honey.  Other effects are increased defensive behavior, resistance or tolerance to diseases and production of both pollen and propolis.  From a biological perspective, therefore, Dr. Guzmán concludes,Africanized honey bees have been a great success.


The management of these insects, however, is another story.  In most of Mexico, Dr. Guzmán says, beekeepers have had to relocate their apiaries (at least 50 percent in populated areas, 25 percent in less populated) and reduce the number of colonies in each yard to combat an increase in robbing, especially when colonies are fed.  They have also negatively impacted queen rearing operations.  Mating nuclei are much more at risk of being taken over by Africanized swarms and/or robbed of their food.  Finally, these bees have caused dislocations in commercial pollination.  They are much more difficult to transport, resulting in more colony deaths and takeovers due to the stress involved in large-scale movement than happens with European honey bees.


The bottom line, according to Dr. Guzmán, is that biologically the Africanized honey bee has been a very successful, but from a management point of view it has been a disaster for Mexican beekeeping.  Although the objectionable behaviors of Africanized honey bees are technically “manageable,” the costs are simply too much given current honey prices.  If honey prices could be maintained at current higher-than-usual prices and other products such as propolis and pollen be marketed, Dr. Guzmán concludes, there would be some chance of overcoming the obstacles noted above.


Dr. Guzmán says that because Africanized honey bees have biological advantages, the idea that these bees can be eradicated cannot be considered.  However, the biological advantages can and should be taken into consideration by beekeepers.  For example, studies have shown that colonies that are 25 percent Africanized or less are as manageable as European bees.  Mexican beekeepers, therefore, should begin to identify desirable characteristics in their bees and retain them through breeding.  Unfortunately, there are less than fifty queen producers in the country, producing only 30,000 queens.  Some 1.8 million are needed, and the vast majority of providers have no genetic improvement program (i.e. they are not “breeders,” but only “producers”).  The Mexican government, however, has instituted a program whereby most producers can increase honey production by 25 percent and reduce defensive behavior by 50 percent without recourse to instrumental insemination (see description of previous presentation by Dr. Guzmán).  In addition, there was considerable evidence at the Congress that more and more beekeepers are considering queen rearing, either for their own operations or for sale.


Argentina’s Disease and Pest Control Challenges:


The largest non-Mexican group of participants from elsewhere in Latin America at the Tabasco affair was that from Argentina.  Dr. Marcelo del Hoyo, Veterinary Sciences Faculty, University of Tandil, discussed the situation surrounding the world’s number two honey producer and exporter, until last year when Argentine honey was excluded from the world market place due to contamination with nitrofurans, used to control American foulbrood (Paenibacillus larvae).


For many years, there has been a tradition in Argentina and elsewhere, according to Dr. Del Hoyo, for beekeepers to concoct their own treatments for diseases and mites.  These “home remedies” have many problems, including:


  1. No control over dose given to colonies
  2. Use of prohibited materials (nitrofuran, chloramphenicol)
  3. No control over period of treatment
  4. Appearance of resistance
  5. Limited effectiveness
  6. Bee deaths
  7. Contamination of combs and honey
  8. Recalled honey
  9. Lower prices for honey


Because of this, Argentina has, rather like China, taken steps to increase enforcement of chemical control through regulatory authorities and develop a system of traceability in honey.  Dr. Del Hoyo says that producers have began to replace comb in huge quantities such that all traces of contamination (especially nitrofurans) are expected to disappear within a couple of years.  Concurrently producers are now looking on organic honey possibilities, and analyzing soft chemical use to alternate with or perhaps replace traditional treatments.


As an example, Dr. Del Hoyo describes recommendations for Varroa control now instituted by the Comisión Nacional de Sanidad Apícola (CONASA) on a regional basis.  These include rotating acaricides, using more organic or soft chemicals, monitoring mite levels before and after applying treatments (treating only when necessary), and coordinating treatment by regions or zones, typical characteristics of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs.


Recommended treatment plans generally consist of two or three mandatory treatments the first year followed by a evaluation of control achieved, which then leads to planning for treating the second year.  The schedule set out is quite detailed, according to Dr. Del Hoyo.  For example, in areas of severe winters, two treatments are recommended:  (1) late spring when most of the brood is present and (2) early autumn when the harvest is over and the brood nest begins to shrink in size.  Three treatments are needed in areas where winter is less rigorous: (1) early spring as the nest expands before phoretic mites become protected in cells, (2) Summer at the end of the harvest as phoretic mites leave the cells, and (3) autumn when the brood nest is minimal when most mites are found outside the brood cells).  A suggested list of materials in Dr. Del Hoyo’s paper include the following for spring (oxalic acid, formic acid, rotenone, tymol), summer (formic acid, amitraz, coumaphos, pyrethroides), and autumn (tymol, oxalic acid, amitraz, rotenone, coumaphos, pyrethroides). 


Dr. Del Hoyo has recently taken a sabbatical from his faculty position to help market materials developed by Apilab Laboratorios Apícola.1  He reported on several of these at the Congress.  They include Amivar®, Cumavar®, Oxavar®, and Naturalvar®, formulated on amitraz, coumaphos, oxalic acid, and tymol respectively.  All are effective and the first two and last show no bee or brood mortality.  The oxalic acid product killed some bees, but not enough to be significant, Dr. Del Hoyo contends.  These materials used within the Integrated Pest Management procedures described above appear to have a larger future.  Besides Arentina, they are now available in Uruguay and Chile.




1.  Apilab Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://www.apilab.com>


Part III

Mexican Beekeeping Seminar Convenes in Tabasco, Part III




Malcolm T. Sanford



In my last two columns discussing the events of the 18th Mexican Beekeeping Seminar (Seminario Americano de Apicultura), I described the situation with respect to the global honey market, chemical treatments for pests and diseases in both Mexico and Argentina, a strengthening Mexico-Canada connection and current status of the Africanized honey bee.  Besides these topics, others included collection of propolis, the genetics of hygienic behavior and pollination of chile peppers in greenhouses using stingless bees.  Finally, there was a most interesting discussion of importing honey bee queens from California into Mexico.  The authors of the latter paper lament the fact that it is virtually impossible to import queens using extant legal procedures, although it is extremely easy to do so (and many are) by circumventing the regulations altogether.


Much of what I have reported was also published in the proceedings (“memorias”) of the congress, a 223-page book, containing the papers presented in the main session and given to all participants.  Those submitted in English were “freely translated” by the organizing committee into Spanish.  The organizing committee consists of a long list of organizations that contributed to this event, both private and public.  These include the government of Tabasco state, the secretaries of both Mexican (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA) and Tabascan Agriculture, the national beekeepers association (Unión Nacional de Apicultores), the national Africanized Honey Bee program (Programa Nacional Para El Control De La Abeja Africana), and Tabasco College and Juaréz University.  .


Each time I travel to Latin America, it is apparent that more and more information on beekeeping is available in Spanish.  Not only were these memorias published, but an increasing number of materials in print, video and CD ROM was evident in the exposition area.  This is increasingly important not only in Latin America of course, but also now in North America given that many beekeepers are routinely employing labor from south of the border. 


A continuing presence at these meetings is the magazine Apitec, a journal of Mexican beekeeping, published by José Pedrón a veterinarian turned journalist.  This 32-page tome is distributed every two months to a growing subscription list and has a large, prestigious editorial board.  The May/June 2004 issue contains articles on apitherapy, the workings of the honey bee brain, chemical treatments, and how the U.S.D.A. ARS is improving honey bee breeding through genetics, translated from a press release related to the honey bee genome project.1   The July/August edition contains information on the first Cuban beekeeping congress (several presentors in Villahermosa had just attended that meeting in Havana), effects of temperature on honey in storage, and a translated piece from Bee World (Vol. 84, No. 4) by Dr. Mark Winston on bees and biotechnology (Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs). 


Apitec also publishes a directory (Directorio Apícola Mexicano), which has been updated for the years 2003-2005.  This is a magnificent work listing over 160 pages of beekeepers cataloged by states from Aguascalientes to Zacatecas.  In addition there are queen breeder, exporter, equipment sections.  Finally, there is a comprehensive listing of governmental organizations as well as associations and cooperatives.  Anyone interested in finding out more about Mexican beekeeping should acquire this from the publisher.   Details on Apitec and the directory are provided on its web site where one can see past editions and also read some information on diseases and pests.2  It’s unfortunate the one issue it devoted strictly to those topics has been sold out.


Electronic information in Spanish originating from Mexican apiculture is scarce.  The National Beekeeping Association (Unión Nacional de Apicultores) web page needs a lot of work.3  La Colmena (the hive) billed at the first Mexican Internet resource, information appears to have been last entered several years ago and many of its links are out of date.4


Perhaps the most electronic information in Spanish exists in Argentina, which makes sense given the place that country has been recently elevated to in world honey production and exportation.  The premier Argentine bee journal is Espacio Apícola, this year publishing its 64th edition.5  Another site worth visiting is that of the Argentina Beekeepers Society (Sociedad Argentina de Apicultores or S.A.D.A.).6  This association was established in 1938 and has developed courses to train beekeepers both as beginners and advanced apiculturists.  It lobbies for apicultural issues, being a true non-governmental organization or NGO.  It publishes both the hive bulletin (Boletín del Colmenar), and electronic publication and hive gazette (Gaceta del Colmenar).  The organization also makes monthly broadcasts on satellite radio that contain both news and educational programming.  The web site features news, techniques and a list of links, perhaps most significant are those to two of Argentina’s apicultural portals.  One features breaking news, shortcourses and expert opinion forums.7  The other boasts an electronic book on beekeeping and also has a link to a bee stamp photo album.8 


I am disappointed to see that Apinet, Argentina's Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria’s innovative program on beekeeping, appears to no longer be available.9  I published a review of this extensive site in my Bee Culture Digital Column in May of 2000.


A smattering of Spanish information exists in other countries as well.  Two international web sites have links and references of international interest.  These also feature information from Spain as well Latin America.  The first is the Virtual Beekeeping Gallery at Apiservices.com managed by my good friend Gilles Ratia from his 100-year-old farmhouse in southwest France.  I published a review of it in my Bee Culture Digital Column in January 1999.  The site features an excellent review of the beekeeping industries in both Mexico10  and Argentina.11  Another is an extremely interesting site known simply as beekeeping links (Enlaces de Apicultura) guided by José Salinas, a Spaniard. 12  It has a huge number of references on the main page, providing a nice global overview of available information resources..


Finally, Spanish speakers can find information for sale in their native language at the Apis Information Resource Center, managed by this author.  The information comes packaged in several “modules” and in two formats.  One is pure html (web pages) and the other is in a newer format with a search feature known as html help (for Windows computers only).  It is possible to see samples of what’s available before purchasing on the web site.  The information is also available in English.


As I attend beekeeping events in Latin America, I am always impressed with an inherent energy and enthusiasm that I do not often see in similar events in North America.  It could be nothing more that age structure.  There are many more younger folks in the developing world who are getting involved in beekeeping.  In addition, those beginning have not been faced with transitioning from an activity that was mainly “let alone” to one where that is no longer the case, continually being challenged by mites and now in the U.S. (soon in Latin America?) the small hive beetle, Aethina tumida.


One thing is certain.  I anticipate my next journey south of the border with some eagerness.  It is an excellent way to understand better the kind of dynamics that run the global honey industry, and also how the world activity affects beekeeping in our “colossus of the north.”  I hope others will become more international in their orientation.  Too few it seems to me miss a great deal when they don’t attend these interesting congresses that are literally right on their doorstep.




  1. USDA ARS Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://genome.gov/Pages/Research/Sequencing/SeqProposals/HoneyBee_Genome.pdf>
  2. Apitec Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://www.apitec.net>.
  3. Unión Nacional de Apicultores Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://www.unapicultores.org.mx/>.
  4. La Colmena Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://www.laneta.apc.org/lacolmena/>.
  5. Espacio Apícola Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://www.apicultura.com.ar/>.
  6. (Sociedad Argentina de Apicultores  Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://sada.org.ar/>.
  7. Porta Apícola Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://www.apicultura.entupc.com/>.
  8. Todo Miel Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 .<http://todomiel.com/ar>. 
  9. <http://www.inta.gov.ar/apinet/>
  10. Apiservices Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://beekeeping.com/countries/mexico.htm>.
  11. Apiservices Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://beekeeping.com/countries/argentina.htm>.
  12. Enlaces de Apicultura Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://articles.apicultura.deeuropa.net/>.
  13. Apis Information Resource Center Web Site, accessed December 22, 2004 <http://apis.shorturl.com>.