I have been fortunate and blessed to have stumbled on the chronicled experiences of some beekeepers in Jamaica here on beesource that has not only been educational and inspiring but they have also highlighted the many differences between beekeeping in Jamaica and other tropical third world countries as compared to the United States which produces most of the research, much of which is not directly transferable to these regions. Unfortunately the accounts are buried and scattered since there is no forum here for tropical beekeeping such that the differences and challenges encountered by beekeepers in these areas can be shared and solutions developed. Please look at these posts and pictures. Be prepared it will take a few hours to go through everything. Please note that some of the posts are multiple pages with embedded links to pics and other blogs, have fun as I did.
It is with this in mind that i am starting this thread and inviting beekeepers who have spearheaded training in Jamaica or who live there and have hives to share their experiences, challenges, solutions, experiments/research so that we can all benefit.
One account I read spoke of the challenge with red ants and biting ants and questioned whether or not these insects that invade hives, eat brood and honey and decimate weak hives could also possible be conduits of disease through the transference of bacteria ans spores. A rather interesting question but one without an answer. Jamaican beekeepers are faced with many challenges and many revolve around lack of economic resources, tight import regulations, lack of technical support for the government and geographical/geological factors which directly impact their success and rate of growth. I have only been a beekeeper two years and I have experienced first hand many frustrations particularly as it relates to import restrictions and lack of technical support but I press on allowing personal inquiry, research, and the drive to succeed plot the course I take.
Jamaica is beautiful, does not have distinct seasons but has a distinct period for the peak honey flow though the flow is often disrupted by climatic conditions such as drought, and hurricanes. The flora of the country is distinctly different from the United States where clover, buckwheat, and dandelion thrive and support hives outside of the orchards. In Jamaica there is heavy reliance on fruit tree blossoms including mango, citrus, avocado, cashew, ackee, guinep, and tamarind with supplemental flow from trees/shrubs such as moringa olifera, gliricidia-quick stick, and logwood among others in each of the respective groups. The economic reality is also starkly different from that of the beekeepers in the United States which impact the equipment and the tools of trade used. Boxes are made from, cedar, spathodia-Chin Piss, breadfruit, guango, broadleaf, and other locally available lumber many of which are not ideal for external weather conditions as experienced in Jamaica which receives a great deal of rainfall. The economic reality is also an advantage since many beekeepers practice natural beekeeping because they cannot afford the recommended treatments and supplements. Even with these alternatives the cost of production increases the cost of the end products which creates barriers for many to become beekeepers. There has been a growing focus on top bar hives especially as an economic empowerment tool for poor communities but while this helps there are many questions about the long term viability of the model to grow to commercial standards.
Strict import standards has kept CCD at bay but hives continue to abscond and die. Pests such as the wax moth, varroa and tracheal mites and small hive beetle continue to pose a significant challenge and beekeepers who are able to afford chemical treatments have been realizing that the pests have been growing resistant to the treatments. These bests run along side lizards, ants, termites, birds, and toads known as frogs in Jamaica that also contribute to hive demise. Despite the challenges, we are known for the logwood honey we produce although most of it is exported to Europe. Its color and taste is unlike anything else on the market and is highly sought after. There is however a lack of a formalized production and marketing plan to meet the demand across the country.
Reports are that the All Island Beekeepers Association is polluted by politics and therefore ineffective at the national and parish levels. I am told Hanover started a Beekeepers Cooperative to address some of these concerns but up to the time of this post I have not been able to ascertain how successful they have been since they were incorporated. In the final analysis, the picture of the beekeeping sector fits well with the national picture, peculiar challenges, unexplored opportunities, and lack of resources. Is a cooperative model the answer and if so, what would that look like? What if anything can be done to encourage growth in the sector in general and assistance to individual beekeepers across each parish. This is not intended to cast stones, point fingers or cry woe is me but rather for us to take an honest look in the mirror and start having a conversation that will move us towards finding workable solutions. I hope you will share your thoughts and experiences.
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