On 20th and 21st November in Bogota, Colombia, national and international stakeholders of the Healthy Hives 2020 Latam (Salud Apicola 2020 Latam) initiative came together for the second time to discuss the progress made in 2018 and to look ahead. The initiative aims at improving bee health by 2020 in Latin America by surveying honey bee health in Chile, Colombia, Argentina and Costa Rica, to then introduce concrete, quantifiable and region-specific improvement measures.
Participants included project members from Fraunhofer Chile Research, the Dean and researchers from Unicomfacauca University who are carrying out the monitoring in Colombia, members of the Healthy Hives 2020 advisory board from Argentina, Cuba and Chile, a representative from the Instituto Interamericano de Cooperacion para la Agricultura (IICA) Costa Rica, a researcher from Universidad del Rosario in Argentina and coordinator of the project in that country as well as a member of the Bayer Bee Care team.
Focus of the meeting was the sharing of results of capacity building from Chile and from the monitoring in Colombia as well as planning for the monitoring in Argentina, which starts early next year.
From monitoring in Chile, assessing beekeeping practices, colony strengths, pathogen levels in the hives and the amount of pesticide residues found in bee bread of the colonies, it was clear that beekeepers surveyed needed to adopt better hive management practices in order to improve the health of their bees. Training courses which focus on making local beekeepers aware of the health status of their colonies were introduced, and these have been really well received. The project team worked in close partnership with two beekeeping associations to develop an approach that would be effective. The approach is already yielding results, “We have definitely seen a change in the beekeepers we’ve worked with,” said Marnix Doorn, Project Director and Business Development Manager of Fraunhofer Chile Research, during a break in the meeting program. “They have learned about bee health and helped us to design a capacity-building model that works. I have learned a lot, our partners too; this is how things improve.” The next step will be to scale this up across Chile and motivate other stakeholders to support this exciting work. “We have put in a lot of effort and this now needs to be used, to make a real contribution to change!”
Building on this work, the monitoring in Colombia involved 91 beekeepers from the Cauca region and certainly provided for some thought-provoking results for the attendees to reflect on and some clear opportunities for hive management improvements have been identified.
It for instance showed that some 83 percent of beekeepers surveyed don’t measure rates of Varroa mite infestation in their beehives, even when the infestation was detected. "With the information gathered in these studies, we can offer training to beekeepers to improve their hive management and encourage good beekeeping practices. In addition, it opens the door to strengthen the joint work between farmers and beekeepers throughout the country," said Blanca Bonilla, ecologist and researcher at the Unicomfacauca University Institution in the Cauca region where the study was conducted. Actual training on best practices for several of the most pressing issues will take place from early next year.
Soon, the Healthy Hives 2020 Latam initiative will, with the support of the Rosario University, start to carry out bee health monitoring in Argentina. With 51,363 tons of honey produced in 2016, Argentina ranks 3rd in the world with regard to honey production indicating how important this initiative is for local economies in this country. Five departments in the Santa Fe province will be monitored.
Preparations for the monitoring are in full swing, with ongoing training for the team of monitors – including vets, veterinary medicine students, beekeeping technicians and producers – and selection of the 80 producers who will be taking part from early next year onwards.
Representing the Bayer Bee Care Center at the meeting, Dr. Juliana Jaramillo, a scientist at the Center, took the opportunity to discuss with experts from the many different disciplines which are involved with the project. “It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the participants in discussing the results and engaging in discussions on next steps” she said, adding “For me, it is so important to see this network of collaborators being established and great to see everyone freely sharing their experiences and helping to generate new knowledge about beekeeping in Latin America.”
It will be very interesting to follow the progress of the Healthy Hives 2020 initiative and results from all the countries involved as this project progresses. In addition to understanding the different factors which play a role in affecting bee health in all of the countries being monitored, the project can contribute on a scientific basis to the prevention and control of diseases that affect the honey bee, in modern and intensive production systems in order to increase the competitiveness of the agricultural sector.
"Healthy Hives 2020 Latam involves researchers, universities and beekeepers who recognize the importance of bees for food production. Bees have an enormous value for all, beekeepers and farmers, and we want to understand what the best alternatives are, to take care of their health in Latin America", concludes Marnix.
For more on the Healthy Hives 2020 Latam Initiative:
Press Release on the meeting:
Our BEENOW article gives an overview: