Chile’s worst wildfires in its modern history, which are ravaging wide swaths of the country’s central-south regions, have claimed another silent but essential victim of human life: Bees.
For the past few weeks, bees and other pollinators have faced increasing risks to their survival, threatening foods such as apples, blueberries and coffee.
It is estimated at least 9,000 hives have been destroyed around the country, local media reported.
Roberto Maass, from Coronel del Maule in the Maule Region, was one of the beekeepers who lost all his hives due to forest fires.
“I was going to harvest myself. There must have been about 500 kilos of honey, plus all the wax, plus all the bees,” Maas said.
Pollinators like bees are crucial for the production of fruits, nuts and vegetables and they represent billions of dollars in value each year to the agricultural economy of countries.
Maas said that bees are the most important pollinators.
“Bees are important for pollination. That is, not only mine but the whole neighbourhood and the farmers because they used to go to their harvesting fields (to pollinate) and their production of whatever would increase,” Maas said.
For the insects that managed to survive the forest tragedy, the forecast is not very encouraging.
They have no food, so affected beekeepers are looking for donations of sugar, which is used to prepare a syrup to feed them and help them survive.
Beekeepers are looking for donations of sugar to feed them.
A beekeeper, Johnny Caro, from the Pumanque, O’Higgins Region, stands next to his wife on the side of the highway, waiting for sugar donations.
To date, 1,100 hives have been lost in different communes of O’Higgins alone, according to local media reports.
“There is nothing for the bees and bees don’t eat bale,” said Caro.
Alejandro Berrios, who delivers fodder for animals, said he has also helped purchase sugar for the survival of the bees.
“Fodder and a bit of food. In reality, we had not seen the issue with the bees. Yesterday we were talking with the man (Jhonny), and we made a contribution of sugar and those things,” Berrios said.
Caro explained how he feeds the bees with donated sugar.
“A drawer without bees, of course, and this is located here (shows how food is placed in a container to feed bees). The sugar dissolves in water, as I said, a kilo for half a liter of water and you bind it carefully and cool it,” Caro said.
“That amount (of sugar) the hives are going to eat it all, for sure, but they keep it as a reserve inside the cells of the hive, and it serves them for a month. (Reporter asks: How many kilos of sugar would need per month) About 6 kilos per month,” said Mauricio Venegas, official from the Agriculture Farmers Service, SAG.
A campaign was launched last week, with representatives of the companies and institutions involved in the bee industry.
Gathering food for bees, helping beekeepers, contributing to the recovery of ecosystems and highlighting the importance of this noble activity to healthy and sustainable agriculture, are the main objectives of the campaign, local media reported.
The campaign – aiming to gather as much sugar as possible for bees from donations from community members – is set to last nine months.
“We already have 20 tonnes (of sugar) contributed by companies, now it depends on the community,” said Marcelo Arellano, group member of the campaign to collect sugar for bees.
Preliminary total costs associated with massive ongoing forest fires throughout Chile have reached $333 million dollars, Chilean finance minister Rodrigo Valdes told reporters on Friday.
The estimate excludes several categories of losses, including losses to forestry plantations which have already reached well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.