Bees are flying insects with many as 7-12 species belonging to the genus Apis. Although bees are commonly associated with honey production, not all bees make honey and the specie that make it are referred to as Mellifera. Hence, the honey-producing bees are given the scientific name Apis mellifera. The western honey bee is the most common among the species and creates colonies with a single female called the queen, many infertile females called workers, and fertile males called drones. Inzerki, a Moroccan village, prides itself in having the largest and oldest collective beehive in the world dating back to 1850.
Climate change and the Moroccan drought
The world is experiencing very harsh changes in climate and Morocco isn’t left out. According to a publication by Reuters, Morocco has had a “catastrophic year” as rainfall dropped 64% less than the average. Mohamed Benabou, a climate expert opines that this is the worst drought Morocco is experiencing in 30 years. Droughts now occur at 2-year intervals rather than the expected 10 years. The effects of this drought are not just felt by beekeepers but across the entire Agricultural sector of the Moroccan economy.
Effect of the drought on the bees
The bee colonies in Inzerki are collapsing amid the raging drought. Many beekeepers have lost about a third of their hives within two months and according to Brahim Chatoui, a beekeeper, the bees are dying at a terrifying rate. This dramatic rise in the rate of dye-off of the colonies is referred to as a “colony collapse disorder”. Although this disorder is linked by experts to nature destruction and pesticide use, Moroccan authorities believe theirs to be caused by the drought that has destroyed the plants that these bees rely on to survive following the ruling out of disease as a possible cause by the Moroccan National Food Safety Office. These conclusions are in keeping with the findings of Antonin Adam, who drew similar conjectures after studying the colonies in southwestern Morocco. As of last summer, beekeepers were managing around 910,000 hives but by August, the number has dropped by about 100,000 in Beni Mellal-Khenifra alone.
Other causes of the decline in the bee population
According to Antonin Adam, the bees are very vulnerable to disease, common pastoral practices, intensified agriculture, and increased stress on the bees to increase honey production. He opines that these may have exacerbated the drought situation. These assertions may be true as honey production in the last decade has increased by 69%.
Negative consequences of colony collapse
The colony collapse is an economic nightmare that threatens the unique heritage of the Inzerki people. Bee rearing is an important source of livelihood for these people as, before the drought, as many as 80% of the families had beehives. Today, as little as 20% can boast of a hive. Many of these families have decided to give up beekeeping as they cannot afford the cost of reviving them.
Also, the decline in the bee population holds negative consequences for plants that rely on them for pollination. The results of this are food shortage and widespread hunger.
The government is not folding its hands in the face of the economic disaster posed by the drought. The government has released $13 million (130 million dirhams) as funding for finding the cause and possible solution to the environmental disaster.
Morocco is facing its worst drought in decades and the bee population is in rapid decline. Concerted efforts are to be made to arrest this economic and environmental disaster. There should be no room for giving up in the struggle as these bees deserve a chance at survival too. According to Chatoui, the aim isn’t just to produce honey but to protect the hives until better days come.