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Jul 11, 2019

Sarteneja Honey Producers Association Fight Small Hive Beetle

Last month we told you about a donation of small hive beetle traps that was handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture.  Those traps are to be used to control the pest that has taken over bee colonies in the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts. It is a pest that is native to the African region, but made its way to the Americas.  About three years ago, the small hive beetle was first detected in northern Belize.  Authorities managed to suppress the pest, but in recent months, there has been a resurgence of the beetle, again in the north.  Today, News Five’s Andrea Polanco went to visit with a beekeeper in Sarteneja.  In the following story, she tells us more about the impacts of this pest and what the Ministry of Agriculture is doing to assist the farmers.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

These men are on a mission – fitted in protective gear, equipped with a smoker and some special tools – they are visiting an apiary in Sarteneja, Corozal. The purpose of the mission is to control the small hive beetle. It is an invasive pest that can be found on every bee-keeper’s farm in Corozal and Orange Walk. Mario Howe is the honey-bee focal point in the Ministry of Agriculture.


Mario Howe

Mario Howe, Honey-bee Focal Point, Ministry of Agriculture

“The Small Hive Beetle is now present all over Corozal district, in all our apiaries. As well now, we have it in Orange Walk. I think now roughly one hundred percent of the bees are infested with small hive beetle in Orange Walk. Those are the ones we have confirmed now.  If the bee-keeper brings in maybe contaminated stuff from other countries, it could be the main source of introducing the small hive beetle. Also by the movement of swarms because the small hive beetle could move from one area to another area maybe fifteen miles a day.”


Andrea Polanco

“Would contraband goods fall into one of the categories of how it’s introduced in Belize?”


Mario Howe

“It is a major way of how we introduced this beetle to Belize.”


The Sarteneja Honey Producers Association owns this apiary. As you can see, these small black critters moving around inside this box are the small hive beetles. The pest was first detected here back in 2016 – and over the years had managed to control. But earlier this year a re-infestation has Association Chairman Ivan Perez very concerned.


Ivan Perez

Ivan Perez, Chairman, Sarteneja Honey Producers Association [Translated]

“We have a fear that we can be faced with the same level of problem when it just started in 2016. Back then we didn’t know a lot about the small hive beetle and that year it affected us so badly. In that year up to twenty-five of our colonies died out. We lost twenty-five boxes. So, we saw that it’s a pest that can really hit us hard.”


It’s impossible to eradicate. If it isn’t managed, it can destroy honey production and decimate colonies.


Mario Howe

“The Small Hive Beetle once it is in the hive it could cause great impact by losing the product which is the honey. The small hive beetle targets the honey and what normally happens is that beetle gets in the hive and lays eggs. That hatches larvae and the larvae feeds on the honey. It normally looks for the honey and the pollen and also the brood itself. I think the small hive beetle has something that they repel as yeast which causes the honey to ferment. Once the honey ferments then it is not safe to use or market as well. So, at the end of the day the bee-keeper looks for honey to sell and if you can’t sell that then you lose your money and you lose money and you lose your hive as well.”


Last year, Belize’s bee-keepers produced almost one hundred and twenty-thousand pounds of honey. This is all consumed on the local market. There are presently one hundred and ten registered beekeepers; with majority concentrated in Cayo; Orange Walk and Corozal. So, the small hive beetle must be controlled because it has it the potential to wipe out this honey industry.


Mario Howe

“It could cause great devastation to the honey industry that is why we in the ministry are putting up programs so that bee keepers can have good management practices of their bee keeping operation. If you don’t do good management practices it could lead to great losses to your operation.”


And that is exactly what has been happening with the Sarteneja Honey Producers Association. When they started out eight years ago, their honey production was booming – they were producing upwards of ten barrels for every seventy-five bee boxes – but fast forward to 2018 and 2019 – that number is down to six barrels.  The seven-member group owns a small honey processing facility in Sarteneja. From here they distribute bottled organic honey to Corozal Town, Orange Walk and San Pedro.


Ivan Perez [Translated]

“We have quality honey. Our honey in Sarteneja is different from Orange Walk and the rest of Corozal. Sometimes people ask me why honey crystallizes. I tell them that the flowering here is different from there because they have sugar cane. We don’t have sugar cane here, just one hundred percent blooms. So we work together like a team and we have seen a huge demand for honey. From when we detected the small hive beetles have seen that our bee population declined. We realized that that the pest was wiping out the pollen; destroying the honey and feeding on the larvae.  So, before the small beetles came we had more production because we didn’t have the pestilence problem. We were producing about ten barrels for every seventy-five bee boxes. But since last year and this year, production has dropped. We were only able to produce six barrels of honey. So, we have seen a big difference. It is really affecting us a lot.”


So, the Ministry of Agriculture has been working with bee-keepers in northern Belize to try to control this pest. Awareness programmes have been boosted with several control practices. At this apiary, the control methods being used include this felt cloth, as well as the beetle blaster.


Mario Howe

“The cloth is a felt type cloth which has a lot of little strings. How we normally apply that we cut about one foot square and if you have mesh wire you can also put that because it also prevents – or it also collects the larvae as well. They will lay there as well once they are trapped there they will lay their eggs. The beetle blaster is a good form of control as well. It is a simple little trap that is imported. We normally use cider vinegar and also vegetable oil to attract and trap the beetle.”


Over two weeks ago, OIRSA donated six hundred of these small hive beetle traps which will be given to farmers in the north. This trap uses insecticides.  It is the first time it will be used in Belize. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


In Friday’s newscast, we will have more from the Ministry of Agriculture on some good bee management practices and other challenges facing the honey production sector.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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