LUPANE — Zimbabwe’s honey industry is under threat from a menacing killer insect that feeds on bees.
Known as the pirate bee, the insect infests beehive entrances and sucks juices out of the bees — killing them in the process.
This forces the bees to hibernate inside the hives, thereby limiting the time they should spend collecting nectar used to produce honey.
The killer insect is not only a threat to the bee population but to the production of honey as well.
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers.
The main uses of honey are in cooking, baking, desserts, as a spread on bread and as an addition to various beverages such as tea and as a sweetener in some commercial beverages.
The pirate bee or cuckoo bee, first discovered some years back in Cape Verde — a chain of islands off the western coast of Africa — has become a major threat to the honey industry.
“The pirate bee has come while we are also facing challenges to do with adequate forage and water for the bees. This has greatly affected our projects,” said Nyovani Ndlovu, a beekeeper and kraal head at Njanjanja village, Lupane.
Ndlovu also revealed that the honey harvest circle has declined from three times a year to twice a year following the invasion by the pirate bee.
Several other insects, among them beetles and wasps, are also impacting on yields during the production of honey by infesting hives and forcing bees to abandon their hives.
“What we have advised beekeepers is to upgrade their hives from the traditional ones (mukoko), which they used. We have given them user friendly, technical knowhow on how to address the challenges to do with pirate bees. They use sticky substances to trap the killer insects when they land on hive entrances before killing them. We are looking at planting gum trees to increase the forage density for the bees as well,” said Cliff Maunze, who is heading a team called Forest Forces.
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