Where disappear swarms of bees in Morocco?

lace- This season was exceptional and difficult for the Moroccan beekeeper Hassan Ait Ousdaan, as he incurred heavy losses after the disappearance of nearly half of the bees from his apiary in the Tiflet area on the outskirts of Rabat.

Hassan has been working in beekeeping for 15 years, but he did not live – as he tells Al Jazeera Net – this damage to his apiary and to the apiaries of his colleagues.

He says that he noticed the disappearance of bees from the hives last June, and the phenomenon began to spread little by little until it increased in ferocity in December, which required the synergy of beekeepers among themselves and collective thinking to stop the disaster.

Hassan’s apiary had 550 beehives, and today he has only 300 beehives, which he strives to save by various means.

For this beekeeper, he explains the collapse of cells in the apiaries due to climate change and the lack of rain, in addition to the extensive use of chemical pesticides, as these factors, he says, created a fertile environment for the multiplication of Nosema bacteria, which caused the death of bees.

Besides overseeing his apiary, Hassan runs a cooperative that produces pollen, propolis, and about 10 types of honey.

Its production last year was only 4 tons of honey, which is a weak number compared to previous years when it produced between 8-10 tons.

Hassan worked hard to save his bees with the help of a “bio-natural” medicine he bought from outside the country, and he is trying to search for lighter areas where pollen is available to put bee boxes, and he is also keen to sterilize the tools he uses in the apiary before and after using them, and confirms that the measures he took saved the rest of the beehives from collapse.

Beekeepers in Morocco sounded the alarm, warning of what they called a “strange phenomenon” that caused the disappearance of bee colonies, a phenomenon that has spread in a large number of beekeepers across the kingdom in an uncharacteristic way. The professionals and the authorities responsible for the sector in Morocco are rushing to understand what is happening and to save the beehives from perishing.

Moroccan beekeeper Hassan Ait Ousdadan in his apiary, in which half of the beehives were damaged (Al-Jazeera)

heavy losses

For Mohamed Abulal, head of the Bioprofessional Federation for Beekeeping in Morocco, he witnesses this phenomenon for the first time. He says, “I have been a field expert in the field of beekeeping for 35 years. I lived through seasons in which beekeepers were damaged and collapsed, but I did not witness a collapse with this severity and spread in various regions of the country.” The situation is very dangerous.”

Abulal cannot assess the size of the losses because they are still ongoing and the federation is still communicating with beekeepers to estimate the extent of the damage, but he confirms that the losses are heavy and that the beekeepers have lost between 20-100% of the bees.

“We expect an impact on the profitability, especially since the country does not achieve self-sufficiency in honey, and direct and indirect job positions will also be affected,” he said, noting that the losses will not affect the beekeeping sector, but will exceed it by losses in other areas such as agriculture.

Abulal adds, “Bees pollinate more than 75% of plants, whether natural or cultivated, and improve the quality and quantity of plant production, and therefore its disappearance will have an impact on agricultural production, not to mention the impact of what happens on health, especially since the treatment with honey and bees is part of the health traditions in Morocco.” .

The beekeeping sector constitutes a source of total or partial income for more than 36,000 beekeepers, not to mention the rest of the indirectly related professions such as transport, carpentry and others.

The beekeeping chain has witnessed an important development in recent years, as Morocco produces about 8,000 tons of honey, according to official statistics for 2019, and imports about two thousand tons, while the average per capita consumption, in proportion to the population, is 250 grams of honey annually, and this sector provides 2.45 million working days. .

Is it polycystic brood disease?

The first case of bee hives was detected in the Bezou and Foum El Jumaa area in the Azilal province last May, according to the National Union of Bee Professionals in Morocco.

The head of the union, Al-Hassan Bnbul, told Al-Jazeera Net that after discovering the sudden collapse of the beehives, they contacted the concerned authorities in the government and visited a number of apiaries in various regions of the Kingdom, after the situation reached a level that “cannot be tolerated” as he put it.

The union issued a report in which it diagnosed the nature of the mysterious disease and its symptoms, including “the complete disappearance of the workers, as only the queen remains inside the hive with a few bees on a patch or two of dead brood.”

After the disease spread widely last month, the Syndicate carried out several other laboratory research, which included a comprehensive examination of samples from 5 different apiaries in the Scientific Research Laboratory headed by Moulay Ismail University in Meknes.

According to the report, research resulted in the diagnosis of the disease in two of those samples, as it was confirmed that they had a disease called “brood cyst”, an infectious disease known globally, caused by a virus called SBV for short.

The virus infects the brood, and causes the death of the larvae before their growth is completed, which leads to the failure of the bee colony to renew after the end of its lifespan, and then the sudden collapse of the cells in many apiaries in various regions of Morocco.

Al-Hassan Bnbul says that they launched an awareness campaign to mobilize beekeepers to fight and inform them of the measures to be followed to stop the spread of infection between hives, by sterilizing tools for examining bee hives before and after their use, keeping infected bee hives in their places until they are treated, and getting rid of tires carrying infected brood and other measures.

Benbel confirmed that some of the apiaries that followed the instructions and measures have known an improvement in the status of bees, and the spread of infection between the cells has stopped.

A picture of some apiaries in Morocco visited by the Bioprofessional Federation for Beekeeping (Al Jazeera)

Investigations continue

Muhammad Abulal, an expert in bees and head of the Bioprofessional Federation for Beekeeping, believes that many factors may have an impact on the sudden collapse of bee spectra, including drought, infectious diseases, and lack of water and food, but he nevertheless believes that these factors are not sufficient to explain what happened, because they were present in Years ago, the damage was not that large and widespread.

Therefore, he stresses the need to deepen the research and continue the investigation in cooperation with the official authorities to determine the causes and find solutions, and warned that the continuation of this phenomenon and the failure to act on it may lead to the extinction of bees from Morocco.

For its part, the National Health Safety Office, a government institution under the tutelage of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, announced the results of investigations carried out by its offices in some areas.

According to the office, the preliminary results of its teams’ field visits to about 23,000 beehives concluded that “the disappearance of bees from the apiaries is a new phenomenon that includes some areas to varying degrees.”

The results of laboratory analyzes conducted on bee hives and brood ruled out that a disease that affects bees is what caused the phenomenon of bee disappearance in some areas.

She explained that she continues to carry out the necessary investigations and field studies in coordination with the various stakeholders in order to find out the causes and the auxiliary factors for this phenomenon.

While the official investigations did not resolve the reasons behind the bee’s death, the beekeeper Hassan Ait Oussadan is racing against time to save his apiary from complete collapse, using his experience in the field and in consultation with his colleagues.

He hopes that the alarm raised by the beekeepers will result in drawing attention to the danger threatening the beekeeping chain, a danger that, in his view, will not only harm the beekeepers, but also threaten agriculture and the entire ecological balance.

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