Man feels sting as bees ‘sick of hu­mans’

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

The min­ers sac­ri­fice chick­ens and give money to chil­dren in the hope that the spir­its will smile on them in a coun­try where nei­ther Chris­tian­ity nor Is­lam has en­tirely dis­placed tra­di­tional an­i­mist be­liefs.

“Ev­ery morn­ing I pray to God to help me find big di­a­monds,” said Lau­rent Guitili. “One day for sure I will find a big one. Then I will be able to have my own mine and earn all the money I need.”

When one of the min­ers does find a gem, the per­son who holds the con­ces­sion takes it and sells it, giv­ing them back be­tween 30 and 60 eu­ros per carat.

Good qual­ity di­a­monds sell on lo­cally for around three times that.

But at least in Boda min­ers are paid. In the north of the coun­try, where some of the coun­try’s rich­est mines are still in the hands of armed groups, they are forced to hand over what they find at gun­point.

The Kim­ber­ley Process, the in­ter­na­tional PRE­TO­RIA — In a wor­ry­ing de­vel­op­ment which could threaten food pro­duc­tion, South Africa’s tra­di­tion­ally tough honey bees — which had been re­sis­tant to dis­ease — are now get­ting “sick of hu­mans”, with the pop­u­la­tion of the cru­cial pol­li­na­tors col­laps­ing, ex­perts say.

The se­ri­ous­ness of the global prob­lem was high­lighted when US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounced a plan last month to make mil­lions of acres (hectares) of land more bee-friendly.

Loss of habi­tat, the in­creas­ing use of pes­ti­cides and grow­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity to dis­ease are blamed by many crit­ics for the plight of the honey bees.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal group Green­peace, which has launched a cam­paign to save the in­sects, says that 70 out of the top 100 hu­man food crops, which sup­ply about 90 per­cent of the world’s nutri­tion, are pol­li­nated by bees.

In South Africa, an out­break of the lethal bac­te­rial dis­ease foul­brood is spread­ing rapidly for the first time in re­cent history, says Mike Allsopp, honey bee spe­cial­ist at the Agri­cul­tural Re­search Coun­cil in Stel­len­bosch in the Western Cape province.

“It’s ex­actly the same as around the world, the bees are sick of hu­mans and the pres­sures and the stresses hu­mans are putting on them,” said Mr Allsopp.

“In the past they were less vul­ner­a­ble be­cause they weren’t stressed by in­ten­sive bee-keep­ing and pes­ti­cides and pol­lu­tion.”

The foul­brood hit­ting South Africa is the Amer­i­can strain of the dis­ease, he said. The coun­try’s bees have pre­vi­ously coped with the Euro­pean ver­sion.

The fear is that the dis­ease could body which tries to stop the sale of so-called blood di­a­monds, slapped a ban on the ex­port of di­a­monds from CAR af­ter the over­throw of pres­i­dent Fran­cois Boz­ize in March 2013 by Seleka rebels threw the coun­try into civil war. The mainly Mus­lim in­sur­gents had al­legedly funded their re­volt with illegal di­a­monds.

Seleka and ri­val “anti-bal­aka” Chris­tian mili­tias have since bat­tled to con­trol the mines, the eco­nomic lifeblood of the im­pover- spread north through Africa, where hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple work in small-scale bee farm­ing, Mr Allsopp said.

“It is a tick­ing time bomb. Ev­ery colony that I’ve looked at that has clin­i­cal foul­brood has died, and we’re not see­ing colonies re­cover.”

When honey bee farmer Bren­dan Ash­ley-cooper dis­cov­ered foul­brood in his colonies in 2009, he knew the worst was yet to come.

“We thought we were go­ing to have this ma­jor ex­plo­sion of foul­brood,” said Ash­ley-cooper, a 44-year-old based in Cape Town. “I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what the ex­tent of it was. I ished coun­try, with smug­gling boom­ing.

“If you are armed you can have di­a­monds,” said for­mer prime min­is­ter Martin Ziguele. “And with those di­a­monds you can buy more arms and fund your re­bel­lion.”

French and UN peace­keep­ing troops have tried to wrest con­trol of the mines from the armed groups so the le­gal trade in di­a­monds can restart, vi­tal to putting the shat­tered econ­omy back on its feet.

The gov­ern­ment hopes the em­bargo can was just wor­ried about the bees.”

Six years later, the night­mare has come true for the third-gen­er­a­tion bee­keeper as hives die off.

The state of South Africa’s bees has never been as bad as it is now, he says.

Bees un­der siege Foul­brood at­tacks the bee lar­vae, lead­ing to the col­lapse of the colony. It is spread when bees raid the dead colony, bring­ing back spore­in­fected honey to their colony, or by the im­por­ta­tion of con­tam­i­nated bee prod­ucts.

While North Amer­ica and Europe have bat­tled foul­brood for cen­turies, South Africa’s bees have stayed healthy — a re­silience at­trib­uted to the coun­try’s di­verse bee pop­u­la­tion, which has nat­u­rally fought off dis­ease and pests in the past, as well as strict reg­u­la­tions that re­quire any im­ported bee prod­ucts to be ir­ra­di­ated.

Yet to­day the hardy South African bees are un­der siege. “Foul­brood has spread mas­sively in the last five months, it has now spread over a 500 by 400-kilo­me­tre (about 300 by 250-mile) area where most bee­keep­ing oper­a­tions are in­fected,” said Mr Allsopp.

“It is grow­ing rapidly and I can think of no rea­son why it will stop

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