Excerpted in Bee Biz Nos. 4-5-6, 1997.
Fifth Ibero-Latin American Apicultural Congress meets in Mercedes, Uruguay, June 1996
Malcolm T. Sanfordhttp://apis.shorturl.com
Africanized Honey Bees in Brazil
Africanized Honey Bees in México
Varroa in South America
American Foulbrood in Argentina:
Tracheal MItes and Chalkbrood:
Nectariferous Plants in Uruguay:
World Honey Trade:
Colony Mangement--Feeding Syrups:
Focus on Apiculture in Cuba and Mexico:
Fall approaches winter in the
southern hemisphere country of Uruguay at the end of May. We stood
around a crackling blaze telling honey bee stories, just as might
happen in Florida in late November. Though not cold by temperate terms,
the fire took the chill off the air in the unheated Club Remero (rowing
club), a stone edifice steeped in history on the bank of the Río Negro,
tributary to the mighty Río de la Plata. Within a radius of 60 miles, half the country's yearly honey
production, or some 7 million pounds, is produced, according to the
local regional magazine, Perfil
(Vol. 1. No.1), May 1996, p. 13 A beekeeping meeting of this importance
could easily have been held in Uruguay's most prestigous venue, Punta
Del Este, the magazine concluded, but it was most fitting that it occur
in the country's honey capital and near its southern neighbor, one of
the world's largest exporting countries. Thus, Mercedes, in Soriano
Province, some 20 miles from the Argentine border, was the obvious
place to hold the Fifth Ibero-Latin American Apicultural Congress.
The beekeeping industry in this part of the world appears to
be vibrant and full of vigor, attested to by the quality and quantity
of activity during the three-day affair. High honey prices were on
everyone's mind as elsewhere in the world. And in spite of the "good
news" concerning Africanized bees being resistant to Varroa, many
people continue using European and hybrid honey bees that are found to
be more productive. Thus, most of the same issues addressed at other
beekeepers’ meetings around the globe were also discussed and debated
Uruguay is not as well known as it larger neighbors, Argentina
and Brazil, but it has all the characteristics of the eastern coastal
region of southern South America. This is cattle and guacho country,
legendary for yerba maté and tango. Cowboys and beekeepers alike carry
around leather cases containing a maté, or cup, and a thermos full of
hot water, used to replenish the green infusion as it is sucked through
a silver straw. Known also as Paraguay or Brazilian tea, the drink is
brewed from the dried leaves of the perennial tree, Ilex paraguarensis. Partaking of maté is also a social tradition. as the cup is routinely passed around during gatherings
Sad and sultry tango strains, born in the barrios of Buenos
Aires, filled the air at breakfast time in the small, but extremely
clean Hotel Colón in Mercedes where most of the speakers were housed.
Perhaps the finest interpreter of this music was Carlos Gardel, who
many believe was Uruguayan.
This part of South America orients east, not north as do other
areas of the continent. Uruguay has no indigenous population left and
the population is now made up mostly of persons of European descent.
Montevideo, the capital, has a continental flavor and architecture.
Thus, the congress featured visitors from Spain, Germany and France, as
well as the rest of Latin America. Significantly, only three persons
from the United States were present. Myself from Florida and Dr. David
DeJong, now on the faculty of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto campus, were
physically on site.
The third U.S. citizen was “virtually” there. For the first
time in the history of Uruguay, a live teleconference enabled
participants at a major conference to ask questions at a distance. In
this case, the featured speaker was Dr. Roger Morse of Cornell
University at Ithaca, New York.
About 600 persons attended the congress, which included a
sizeable display area and three days of papers, symposia and posters.
It was billed by the coordinator and indefatigable organizer, Juan C.
Martinez D'Amato, as "54 hours of knowledge." The printed proceedings
contain 234 pages, including the text of 28 invited papers and
abstracts of presentations in five special commissions: bee pathology,
bee breeding, equipment and management, nectariferous plants and
pollination, and apitherapy. In addition, there were two roundtable
discussions at the congress, one on Varroa and another on the current
state of beekeeping associations and organizations.
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The inaugural address was by Dr. Lionel Gonçalves, Faculty of Letters
and Arts and Sciences, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Brazil.
It was entitled "Africanized Honey Bees--A Plague or Benefit for
Brazilian Apiculture?" Dr. Gonçalves described his talk as a polemical
look at a most controversial insect.
Beekeeping was very much a languishing industry in the 1950s
in Brazil, Dr Gonçalves said. He described it as based on non
productive European bees and a minimum amount of producer investment in
either funds or training. This set the stage for the introduction of
“more productive” bees from tropical Africa. Unfortunately, arrival of
the African bee, Apis mellifera adansonii, later called Apis mellifera scutellata,
in 1956 had an initial negative impact. The insects escaped into the
wild, producing the race now known as the Africanized honey bee, known
for its defensive behavior. Most beekeepers went out of business and
abandoned their bees. This was the period when the insects were called
"assassins" by the press, and this honey bee was declared a plague on
the landscape, giving a bad image to the country by being featured in
horror films. Brazilian honey production then amounted to only five
thousand tons per year. Most producers did not use modern equipment,
had little training and the bees themselves were not productive.
Recent information, however, according to Dr. Gonçalves, shows
Brazilian honey production at forty thousand tons per year, just behind
Argentina, the world’s fourth largest honey producer. Experiments in
Brazil have now shown that Africanized bees can be good honey
producers; selected colonies have produced more than 63.2 kilograms
(about 138 lbs) per year, and there is unprecedented activity in
beekeeping and associated enterprises. Thus, Brazilian beekeeping has two phases, Dr. Gonçalves
said: The first, from 1800 until 1956, when beekeeping was
characterized as a hobby and extremely underdeveloped. The second,
after arrival of the Africanized honey bee, however, changed beekeeping
into a modern agricultural activity, full of dynamism and promise.
Now, Dr. Gonçalves said, Brazil may be on the verge of
assuming another important role in world beekeeping. A plague of
enormous proportions has descended on beekeeping with the introduction
of the Varroa bee mite around the globe. The Africanized honey bee of
Brazil, however, appears to resist the mite. Although present, Varroa
does not kill the colony as it does elsewhere and chemical treatment in
most areas is not necessary. Brazil, therefore, might become a source
of genetic material which might be incorporated into the rest of the
world’s honey bees to help resist Varroa. Beyond this, however, is the
fact that because there has been no chemical treatment of honey bees in
Brazil, it may become the only Varroa-infested country where
certifiably uncontaminated bee products can be found. These facts
alone, concluded Dr. Gonçalves, are enough to consider the Africanized
honey bee an unqualified benefit for the world’s fifth largest country.
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A different look at the Africanization of the honey bee was given by
Dr. Ernesto Guzmán of México. The process so far has had an undeniably
negative impact on the country; honey production and exportation has
dropped by 14 percent and 29 percent respectively. Yucatán state was
particularly hard hit with a drop from 15 thousand tons in 1985 to a
present six. Africanization has also resulted in an increase in the
number of human and animal deaths. Whereas only five humans died from
bee stings in 1988, the number peaked at 66 in 1993 and was 47 and 30
for 1994 and 1995 respectively. Africanized bees have also increased
production costs by 30 to 50 percent, Dr. Guzmán said, hurting the
large number of small producers in the country.
In spite of all the difficulties, there are alternatives to
Africanization that Dr. Guzmán and colleagues are pursuing in México.
These measures employ modern bee breeding using instrumental
insemination. The results have been encouraging, showing up to a 50
percent reduction in defensiveness. At the same time, these populations
have produced up to 30 kilograms (66 pounds) whereas those of
Africanized bees have averaged 20 kilograms (44 pounds). The reality of
apiculture in México and Central America, Dr. Guzmán concluded, is that
it is much more expensive than in the past with arrival of Africanized
bees. In addition, the introduction of Varroa has also stressed the
beekeeping industry, for most bees in Mexico appear to be susceptible
to this parasite. New practices are evolving, however, providing some
buffer to increased costs. The increased world price of honey will
continue to be key as well.
In summary, it appears that Africanized bees are still making
their presence known with different consequences throughout the
Americas. Brazil, however, continues to be the only country that now
considers them an unqualified asset.
Return to top of page Varroa seemed to be on everyone’s mind at the Congress. This
part of South America is a transition zone between Africanized bees
which predominate in the north (Brazil) and European bees found further
south (Argentina). Many beekeepers in the area are not using
Africanized stock even in the Africanized zone, but prefer European
bees in spite of their susceptability to mites. Although Africanized
bees are reportedly resistant to Varroa, the mechanism as to how this
happens is not yet clear. Dr. Peter Rosenkranz, University of
Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany discussed some of the factors involved,
including hygienic behavior, mite reproduction rates and the dynamics
of the bee/mite populations in a colony. He also brought further news
of another consequence of widespread fluvalinate use in Europe,
contamination of the continental beeswax supply through
With reference to hygienic behavior, Dr. Rosenkanz and
colleagues concluded that: (1) the percentage of damaged mites (thought
to be done by worker bees) found in a colony does not appear to have
any relation to a colony’s tolerance of Varroa, and (2) many mites that
are characterized as damaged by bees could be the result of other
conditions within the hive or production of unfit mites that simply do
In all proven cases of Varroa resistance, the populations and
reproductive rates of female mites in brood are low, according to Dr.
Rosenkranz. Over a ten-year period, the reproductive rate of mites in
colonies of Africanized bees have been much lower than in European
(Carniolan) bees in Germany. This fact may be the most important in
determining tolerance of honey bee populations. Experiments show
further that mites which feed on well-fed drones are three times more
reproductive than those feeding on workers. Thus, the nutritional
status of the host appears to determine the reproductive ability of the
Finally, Dr. Rosenkranz said the ebb and flow of the honey bee
colony host population greatly influences the eventual Varroa
population. This is the result of a combination of both the internal
reproductive rate of the bee colony, the weather and other factors. The
fact remains, Dr. Rosenkranz concluded, that few good field tests exist
to determine the resistance of any bee colony to Varroa. Until such an
instrument is developed, much more biological study is needed to fully
understand this unique host-parasite relationship.
Dr. David DeJong and his students reported on the results of
their studies showing that in much of Brazil, Africanized bees tolerate
a low level of Varroa parasitization and no treatment is necessary.
Their results indicate that development of resistant bees is possible.
They also reported on the positions of adult mites on adult bees
throughout the year and the number of damaged mites found in both
Africanized and European bee colonies. Dr. Geraldo Moretto and
colleagues also reported on experiments showing that more hygienic bees
had lower levels of Varroa. They also corroborated Dr. DeJong’s results
in describing the present situation in Brazil, the presence of many
tolerant colonies two decades after Varroa was introduced from Paraguay
in 1978. The resistance to Varroa they theorize comes from the same
sources as noted by Dr. Rosenkranz.
In spite of the seemingly “good” news from Brazil about Varroa
tolerance, papers at the Congress suggested different scenarios in
other countries. Many beekeepers in the host country, Uruguay, for
example, prefer the European bee. A study by Juan Campá, University of
Montevideo, showed a seasonal fluctuation in Varroa populations; larger
in the warmer months. The possible use of acaricides as a possible
control mechanism has been eagerly seized on by many beekeepers in the
In nearby Paraguay, the situation is somewhat similar to
Uruguay. Ing. Marion Quiñones and colleagues reported that even though
the Varroa infestation appears stable in Africanized bees and no
treatment is required, the continued use of European bees for royal
jelly production has created much interest in controlling this
parasite. The use of acaricides has brought the infestation levels in
European bees down significantly in Paraguay. Apistan® was found to be
superior to oxalic acid in this respect, and in 1992 the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) provided funds for a Varroa
control project in the country. This included: (1) implementing a
control procedure proven effective in other areas, (2) investigating
the level of infestation in the country in general, and (3) training at
various levels to ensure the program’s success. The program was
recently evaluated and the following results were found:
1. The Varroa infestation level was 13.3 percent in adult bees
and 3.5 percent in brood. There were, nevertheless, some levels that
were very high.
2. The use of Apistan® /Bayverol® was recommended; there are strict
regulations about the use of these materials to prevent product and
3. The educational program was targeting all beekeepers, but
particularly those using European honey bees for royal jelly production.
Argentina also has Varroa problems, at least enough to warrant research
in several areas. One ongoing study by Dr. M. Eguaras and colleagues,
National University of Mar del Plata, is attempting to collect
information on Varroa population growth in colonies throughout the
year. Dr. M. Labattaglia and colleagues from the same institution are
looking at the role hygienic behavior plays in reducing Varroa in bee
colonies. The results show great variability among populations with
some bees able to remove 80% parasitized larvae, while others only
reach the 10 percent level. The success of those with an 80 percent
removal can be seen in a superior survival rate. This characteristic,
the authors concluded, could lead to populations able to reduce the
Varroa load to reasonable levels without the use of acaricides.
Finally, J. Marcangeli and colleagues reported on a study confirming
the effect of density dependency on Varroa mite populations in honey
bee colonies. The number of daughter mites developing is reduced from
2.7 to 1.6 and 1.3 to 0.95 in drone and worker cells with 1 and 6 mites
already present respectively. This alone, however, is not enough to the
warrant total elimination of chemical treatment in colonies.
The situation in Chile is different according to Dr. Serio
Campano, Chilean Department of Agriculture. No bees of African descent
exist in that country. Varroa was first discovered in 1992. Subsquent
to detection, an educational program was put into place and various
chemicals imported for treatment, including Apitol® , Perizin® and
Bayverol®. Since introduction, a 30 percent loss in colonies has
resulted, although there has been little decrease in honey production.
Chile also has a huge demand for colonies to pollinate the fruits and
vegetables the country is known for around the world. Due to lower
costs, beekeepers are using wooden strips soaked in Maverik® ,
something the Secretary of Agriculture does not recommend, because
Chilean honey exported to Germany has been found to have residues of
fluvalinate over the tolerance limit. In spite of this, the use of
wooden strips has become the defacto treatment, described by
Dr.Campano, as “indisriminant use” in his presentation.
To summarize, the Varroa situation is not under natural
control in most of the countries south of Brazil, presumably due to the
use of predominantly European honey bees. At the same time, similar
problems evidenced in other parts of the world are seen, including high
colony mortality and widespread use of pesticides with concomitant
possibilities of product contamination and mite resistance. The one
hope on the horizon for developing mite tolerance appears to be the
response to the parasite by the Africanized honey bee in Brazil.
Elsewere, however, (Colombia, Central America, México and U.S.) this
defensive, migratory insect seems more susceptible to Varroa.
Meanwhile, no biological control exists and there are few specific good
tests that reveal when or if mites are becoming resistant to the
pesticides now being used to reduce their populations inside living bee
Return to top of page Argentina continues to be plagued by an old beekeeping
problem, American foulbrood. The present situation was described by
Lic. Marcelo del Hoyo, Veterinary Faculty, University of Buenos Aires,
Argentina. He said the country has gone through three stages since 1989
when the disease appeared. The first step was one of denial when the
name American foulbrood was not uttered. When finally recognized in
affected areas, beekeepers tried to combat the problem, but it was
still ignored elsewhere in the country. The final stage is now present,
a mature condition exists where most good apiculturists have had the
disease and have at least temporarily treated the problem. American foulbrood has literally changed the face of
beekeeping in Argentina, Lic. De Hoyo concluded, and there continues to
be recognition of the problem by authorities and an educational program
in place about what to do if hives become infested. An example of these
efforts was the 1994 American foulbrood workshop held in Tandil,
Argentina, attended by some 350 beekeepers and a complement of
researchers and educators from all over South America.
Lic. de Hoyo lists a number of ways beekeepers attempt to
control AFB. Burning is still the most effective method, but due to its
cost, only a few beekeepers have used this. Other methodologies have
now been implemented that are less expensive, according to Lic. De
Hoyo, but all must be based on one thing, routine inspection for
disease. (a 90-day interval at the least is recommended). These must be
done even in winter, as one abandoned diseased colony can undermine a
control program that has taken years to implement. His list of controls
includes: burning colonies, using packages to move bees off
contaminated hives, making splits into clean equipment, chemotherapy
and various sanitation procedures (dipping in hot wax and lye solution
and scorching supers).
Argentina is perhaps unique in the world because resistance to antibiotics by American foulbrood has appeared. Resistance of Paenibacillus larvae
to oxytetracycline in Argentina was confirmed in a study reported in
Mercedes by A. Alippi and M. Aguilar.who used biochemical techniques to
analyze DNA (PCR). Resistance was found in only 28 percent of samples,
but in 58 percent of tested locations in the country. This supports the
theory, according to the authors, that beekeepers used antibiotics as
an alternative to burning colonies in many cases. This behavior, along
with inadequate doses used as a preventative, and use of a wide range
of products of dubious origin and quality appear to have favored the
appearance of resistant bacteria. Using DNA fingerprints, the authors
found prominent genotypes of bacteria that corresponded to resistance,
suggesting a common focus may have been responsible.
Another study by A. Alippi and colleagues compared the
effectiveness of various antibiotic formulations. These included three
principle materials: tylosine, Tylan® , Elanco labs; erythromycin,
Abbot labs; and oxytetracycline, Sigma® and Terramycin® , Pfizer labs.
The materials were tested for toxicity to adults, abatement of symptoms
in the field and residuals in honey. The authors concluded that
tylosine appears to be the best material that effectively controls
American foulbrood, is not toxic to bees and degrades in honey in about
60 days, an acceptable limit.
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The incidences of two other diseases were described at the congress. The presence of Acarapis woodi
(tracheal mite) was described in Argentina by M. Eguaras and colleagues
(National University Mar de la Plata). This parasite was first found in
1944, but little work has been done on either its presence or damage.
The investigators used ten colonies to determine the mite load using
intensive dissection of all tracheae. Most mites were found in winter,
with a maximum infestation rate of four percent recorded. E. Corbella
(National Animal Science Institute, Uruguay) determined the incidence
of chalkbrood in his country. A variance from 5 to 70 percent of
infested brood was found in colonies examined. Some perforated cappings
with mummies were seen, considered a sign that worker bees had
identified the problem, but did little to clean it up. There appeared
to be no relationship between Varroa incidence and that of chalkbrood.
Comb renovation did not appear to affect the rate of disease and it was
also seen in comb that was recently being constructed.
Return to top of page Uruguay, like other areas of the earth, has been highly
affected by humanity. The introduction of both honey bees and the
plants they forage on has occurred in much of the country. Licenciado
Gloria Daners, University of Montevideo, has characterized much of the
honey flora in the country using pollen analysis. She listed the
following vegetational associations and their principal plants:
1. Artificially planted pastures-- Birdsfoot trefoil is a major producer here as are the clovers Trifolium repens and T. Pratense. These are also the primary sources for monofloral honeys.
2. Artificial forests-- Introduced Eucalyptus species
predominate here. They are abundant producers of both nectar and
pollen. Species of Acacia, imported from Australia, are also present.
3. Cultivated plants-- These include citrus, sunflower and others.
4. Palms-- Found in certain areas which can produce monofloral honey on occasion.
5. Natural forests-- The natural vegetation of this region,
called the “pampa” is grassy steppe. It contains a huge number of
plants that bees can use.
Lic. Daners concluded that most native Uruguayan habitats are
not effectively used by beekeepers at present who prefer cultivated
environments. There exists, she concluded, opportunity to more fully
exploit these areas, in some cases producing quality, unifloral source
honeys available nowhere else in the world.
Return to top of pageLicenciado Marina Basualdo, Veterinary Faculty, Central
National University of Buenos Aires Province, discussed the pollination
of both Apis and non Apis bees in Argentina. The use of Megachile rotundata
to pollinate alfalfa for seed is on the increase, but Apis bees are
used exclusively on other crops. Research in Argentina in alfalfa
fields shows that pollen collectors are more important than nectar
collectors in the pollination process. A colony of five brood frames,
with little honey, produced 16 pollen collectors/minute, whereas one
with ten frames of brood and two supers of honey produced 7.3 pollen
collectors/minute. Other quoted research in Pakistan recommends
limiting the number of frames of honey to one or two to produce more
pollen collection and in the United States that young colonies produce
more pollen collectors than mature colonies. Finally, with reference to
placement in the field, Lic. Basualdo concluded that colonies should be
grouped in batches of five and brought into the fiels when flowering is
at 10 to 15 percent to avert bees being lured to competing blooms. M. González of Costa Rica discussed work on melon
pollination in his country. The size of the colony, according to Mr.
González is all important. The larger the number of bees, the more
pollen is collected. In Costa Rica, a standard pollinating unit is five
frames of bees; a frame is counted if 80 percent is covered with four
to five bees per square inch. A laying queen and brood on both sides of
at least three frames covering at least 75 percent of it are required,
but he recommends at least eight frames. The question concerning the
number of colonies per unit area to adequately pollinate a crop of
melons remains questionable, Mr. González concluded, due to the large
number of variables that must be taken into consideration. Other
reports included studies of honey bee pollination of apples (Uruguay)
sunflower (Uruguay) and pear (Brazil)
Return to top of page World trade in honey is a product of demand versus production
potential, according to Ingeniero Justo Peris Martinez, National
Coordinator of Apiculture Products Exports, Director General of Export
Commerce, Valencia, Spain. The number of hives in use at any one time
multiplied by the average production determine world capacity. The
former is a function of both modern movable-frame hives and rustic s,
many of which still predominate in Africa. The lack of statistics is a
reality that must be acknowledged according to Ing. Peris, but he
estimates that the world produces some 1.2 million tons of honey.
One-quarter of this production is American (North, Central and South
America), another quarter is Asiatic, a third is European, including
the ex USSR, and the final sixth is African. Aside from Africa, the
total number of colonies he estimated at 50 million with a average
production of 20 Kg (44 pounds). . Of total honey production, perhaps
25 percent or 280,000 tons enters the export trade.
The world’s largest exporters of honey, according to Ing.
Peris, are: North America (U.S., Canada and México) with 40 to 50
thousand tons, Central America (Cuba) with 15 thousand tons, South
America (Argentina, Uruguay, Chile) with 65 to 70 thousand tons, Asia
(principally China) with 90 thousand tons, Oceania (Australia and New
Zealand) with 15 thousand tons and Europe (less the USSR with 65
thousand tons. The largest imorters are the European Union (130-150
thousand tons), U.S.A. (50 thousand tons) and Japan (40 thousand tons).
The world price of honey does not necessarily reflect only
demand and capacity, however. As an example, Ing. Peris discussed the
recent Federal Trade Commission decision concerning Chinese honey
dumping in the U.S. Partly because of this, the price has doubled since
the last Ibero Latin American Apicultural Congress was held two years
ago in Brazil. Although honey has a good image and is associated with
noble ideas or principles, according to Ing. Peris, its consumption
does not often reflect this fact. Therefore, he concluded, that the
future of world price in the long run must be based on raising world
consumption. Argentina as an example with seven million homes consuming
only ten Kg (25 lbs) per year , two pounds per month, would not be able
to export any of its honey production.
The Mexican honey trade was described by Lic. Enrique Carillo
of Rucker de México, S.A. In 1992, 2.5 million colonies were operated
by about 42,000 beekeepers in five apicultural regions. Some 70 percent
of colonies are operated by small beekeepers, averaging 50 colonies.
These have changed with the arrival of both Varroa and the Africanized
bee, causing reductions.of some 30 percent by 1995. Other honey marketing issues were discussed at the Congress.
In Uruguay, D. Bazurro and colleagues (Agronomy Faculty, Probides,
Montevideo) revealed evidence of possible unifloral source honey being
obtained from palms (Butia capitata).
G. Daniers and P. Campá also suggested the same for Scutia buxifolia
and B. Baldi and colleagues (National University of Entre Rios) for
Lotus corniculatus in Argentina. Extremaduran honeys from Spain were
characterized by S. Riolobos of that Spanish province.
The concept of combining the bee product marketing efforts of
Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina into a common market (Mercosul) was explored
(Eng P. Gustavo- Brazilian CBA). Other areas reported on included HMF
and Diastase levels in honey (Brazil), susceptibility to
crystallization based on honey analysis and botanical
origin(Argentina), control of critical points and risk analysis in
honey (Argentina), and pollen collection in Extremadura (Spain).
Return to top of page D. Bazzurro and colleagues reported on use of fructose corn
syrups in supplemental feeding. All syrups tested (Fructodex 42 and 55,
and Fructocode 2000) were found to be acceptable to colonies and
produced no harmful effects. The authors also discussed the
ever-present danger of these kinds of syrups resulting in adulterated
honey. An in-depth analysis of honey bee pollination on red clover
reported by E. Corbella and colleagues (National Agricultural Research
Institute, Uruguay) that adequate pollination is possible given the
right conditions. Honey bees were found to visit red clover almost
exclusively for pollen.
Return to top of page No Congress of this nature would be complete without some
interchange of apicultural characteristics in other countries. Those
primarily described in Mercedes were Cuba and Mexico.
Ingeniero Agronomo Ninger Cabrera described in some detail the
history of Cuban apiculure from its beginnings in 1763, when a black
honey bee was introduced from northern Europe. By the 1900s, there had
been a mixture of bees introduced which produced the current insect,
the creole bee of Cuba. By 1946 there were 10,300 producers with some
215,000 colonies. Many beekeepers abandoned the craft in the late 1950s
during the beginnings of the revolution. The Cuban state, however,
recognizing the importance of the activity, resurrected apiculture in
the 1960s as a state enterprise. This sector produced 70 percent of
Cuban honey by 1972.
The structure of Cuban apiculture changed radically in 1977,
according to Ing. Ninger, with formation of the National Apiculture
Group in 1977. In addition to nationalizing beekeeping, a
state-sponsored research station was set up. Cuba’s best honey year was
1983 when state enterprises averaged 63.0 kg per colony. Production
dropped after the wall of Ëastern Europe came down and the country was
left on its own. Today, however, Ing. Ninger concluded, the country has
a dynamic, modern apiculture thanks to the help of many world nations.
Sr. Antonio Alfaro, current president of the Mexican National
Beekeeping Association, mirrored the presentations by Dr. Guzmán and
Lic. Carrillo. The future of Mexican apiculture, Mr. Alfaro concluded,
in spite of both Africanized bees and Varroa, is bright with
participation of the national government that is directly involved with
beekeeping associations in helping beekeepers become better trained and
financed. Sr. Enrique Estrada, one of México’s largest queen producers,
also presented information on his efforts to raise large quantities of
quality queens near Cuernavaca. . México was perhaps the best
represented country at the congress. This presence resulted in the
successful invitation by that country to hold the next congress in
Mérida, Yucatán, two years hence.
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