Lately, the heavy rainfall and other negative climatic conditions in St. Vincent is reducing honeybees’ access to nectar and pollen, weakening the colonies; thus honey production has declined drastically.
Allan Williams, 32, is an agriculture extension officer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But as a trained apiculturist, he has also been involved in beekeeping as a hobby for the past seven years. He has seen beekeeping grow significantly since 2006, as stakeholders became increasingly aware of its importance to the agricultural sector, and thus an important contributor to economic growth and development.
But today, Williams is worried. Honey production has declined tremendously over the past few years and he blames the changing climate as one of the main causes. He said unfavourable climatic conditions, such as continued heavy rainfall, reduce the honeybees’ access to nectar and pollen, weakening the colonies, which do not have enough food.
“This threat was very evident over the past decade, occurring exceptionally so in 2009, 2010 and 2013. The weather as you know is very unpredictable and it has definitely affected the production of honey for the last two years, but last year was the most destructive in terms of harvesting,” Williams told IPS. “Climate change is evident as we see with the unpredictability of the rainfall and the flash flooding in very unusual times of the year.”
Last December, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was among three Eastern Caribbean countries (the other two being Dominica and St Lucia) affected by a slow-moving, low-level trough which dumped hundreds of millimetres of rain, killing at least 13 people, destroying agricultural farms and other infrastructure. “Most farmers, from what I understand, did not suffer destruction of their hives but they suffered from the torrential rain,” Williams told IPS.
He explained that when there is continuous rainfall “the bees are not able to go out and forage on trees where they could get food, so that really reduced our production and I was really affected by it. For two years we suffered a very unusual rainfall pattern.
“In April, the middle of the dry season, we had continuous rainfall for about three or four days and that impacted out production and we are seeing drier spells in the rainy season so there is a shift in the honey flow season when farmers can harvest,” Williams told IPS. He said it used to be from February to May and even April, but “we are not able to harvest anything. That kind of change of our weather pattern is due to climate change.”
[. . .] St. Vincent and the Grenadines currently has 54 beekeepers recorded in its database, including nine women.
Rupert Lay, a water resources specialist with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), says climate change has begun to cause difficulties for bee farmers not only in St. Vincent but throughout the Caribbean. “An interesting indicator occurring currently is the little to no production of honey in the region,” said Lay, who is participating in the USAID-funded Reducing the Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) project that is being implemented by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
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