The term "Africanized Honey Bee" puts most Maryland beekeepers on alert, with fear for our colonies. But Puerto Rico is home to a very special Africanized honey bee that may teach us a great deal about sustainable future stocks. And that bee is in under a threat. MSBA members, you can help, and your donation can be deducted.
Honey bees on the island off Puerto Rico have been “Africanized” for quite some time, but have undergone intense selection for gentleness in this isolated setting by methodical destruction of aggressive colonies over the past decade. This management approach has created the unique combination of gentleness with Varroa mite resistance, so that these bees have become a prized resource in the ongoing battle with the varroa mite (link).
With the recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico, beekeepers in the southern region of the island have seen up to 25% of their colonies abscond. According to a recent report in Reuters News Service, beekeepers in Puerto Rico had been able to recover up to 60% of their colony losses after Hurricane Maria reduced the number of colonies by 85%. However the earthquakes have again rattled the population in southern areas, with colonies absconding due to hive disruption by the tremors and lack of food reserves.
As the embattled beekeepers and their colonies in the southern region of Puerto Rico struggle to recover their personal and honey bee losses, both are in urgent need of our support. From his honey bee research lab at the University of Puerto Rico, in a recent conversation Dr. Tugrul Giray estimates that there are 1200-1500 colonies at risk under the current conditions. This includes his estimate of 20 beekeepers who manage a range of 20-300 colonies, each in urgent need of 1- 2 lb of protein supplement for winter feeding.
We have reached out to explore how to help feed these bees! Mann Lake has offered to ship 1500 pounds of UltraBee at its cost to University of Puerto Rico in San Juan for distribution to the needy area under the direction of Professor Giray. He estimates that this would provide about half of the current needs (1 lb per colony) for those most at risk in the southern region. MSBA would need to cover the price of the UltraBee plus shipping in order to make this happen. The MSBA Board estimates that this could require as much as $5,400.
As a 501(c)3 organization, MSBA can accept your directed donation to feed these Gentle Puerto Rican Africanized Honey Bees on a tax-deductible basis. Because the methods used to create both gentle temperament and mite resistance are important to current and future beekeeping management priorities and skillets, supporting this work is important to beekeeper education.
by Crystal Lehmanking, M.D.