Honey Bee Culture in Wadi Hadramout [Archives:2001/19/Health]

May 7 2001

Hassan Awadh Rubeya
Agriculture engineer
Hadramout University of Science and Technology
Honey bee keeping as an agricultural activity, and means of livelihood among rural agricultural communities in Yemen, has a deep root throughout the history, with a very old and rich tradition. Bees and honey in Yemen have figured in folklore and legends similar to those in other countries. The Arabs and European tourists are generally familiar with Hadramout honey as a distinctive, precious gift from Yemen. It is a part of our heritage. Bees in Wadi Hadramout are nurtured mainly for the production of honey; but on a narrow scale bees are regarded as pollinators among the seed growers as well.
The honey bee keeping in Hadramout is generally a full or part time profession, with holdings up to several hundred hives. Traditional methods of bee keeping are still maintained. But unfortunately, the pattern of crop protection in Hadramout is at an exploitation phase involving small scale mono cultures with an intensive pesticide control program on some commercial crops. The misuse of pesticide still poses hazard to the bee keeping industry, which presents evidence of chemical layers in pollen supply. The colonies are weakened to such an extent that they are no longer productive or effective pollinators. However, the continuous demand for logs, for mud house contraction from the natural habitat, urbanization, drought, desert encroachment, are the causes leading to this situation.
Such factors have reduced the extent of plants and trees needed to provide nectar and pollen through out the year. There have been numerous reports from bee keepers about the continuous recession of the honey bee industry attributed to the factors affecting the production level. Of late the honey bee centers in the neighboring gulf states have been complaining about the marketing of adulterated honey under Hadramout brand by some Asian peddlers. Based upon the complaints of farmers, Hadramout University of Science and Technology hosted the first symposium 2001 on honey bee Apis, sp., and forage zizyphus sp., under the patronage of the former Prime Minister Dr. Abdul Karim Al-Eryani, from 22 to 24 March 2001. At the beginning of the opening ceremony on the behalf of ex-prime minister, the minister of agriculture in his brief speech, indicated the importance of adopting environmentally safe methods in controlling pests as a crucial agricultural strategy for the coming decades. Symposium 2001 was the first of its kind at both the local and Arab world level. Papers and posters were presented by researchers in the presence of farmers, bee keepers, and scientists. The papers discussed topics relevant to the honeybee, pests and effective safe environmental methods of control devised by both Yemen-researchers and Arab participants from neighboring countries. Some papers discussed the problems existing in the area and suggested ways of tackling them. At the end of the symposium some recommendations were made to overcome some of those adverse effects. These are summarized below:
1.To reduce the adverse effect of pollen and nectar shortages through out the year, trees and flowering plants must be planted around the boundaries of farms and on the embankment of irrigation canals and streets.
2.The farmers, the bee keepers, the pest control advisors and pesticide applicator should co-operate closely to minimize the harmful effects to those insects.
3.Volatile oil extract of Thymus sp., Eucalyptus sp., and Rosmarinus as an alternative to a caricide, proved to be effective against varroa spp.
4.The local authorities in cooperation with the agriculture research centers should encourage the farmers to adopt modern bee hives culture systems.
5.In cases, where the break out of insect population is reported, the use of pesticide is indispensable as the only practical control measure. The pesticide should be mixed with a strong honey bee repellent and the bee keeper must be notified prior to the application.
6.Local authorities should increase the public awareness about the benefits of the honey bee.
7.The local authorities, in cooperation with environmental organizations, should frame laws and regulations to protect the bio diversity of flora and fauna of valuable species in their natural habitats.