Apimondia in Acapulco, 1981, The Speedy Bee
The theme for the 1981 Apimondia Congress, beekeeping development in tropical areas, could not have been more appropriate than in the Acapulco setting. Mexico’s beekeeping expertise has enabled the country to become a major world honey exporter, and its success may well be a model for many countries to look to while developing their honey industry. Mexico, therefore, richly deserved to be the meeting place for the 1981 Congress, the first ever held in a country with a tropical climate. Perhaps no part of the earth faces the beekeeping challenges this geographic area does at the moment.
The seemingly inexorable advance not only of the controversial Africanized honey bee, but also its associated parasitic mites casts an uncertain cloud on the very future of apiculture in the New World. Apimondia is a highly political organization, a loosely structured association of countries,which seeks to promote bees and beekeeping worldwide. The present home or the organization is Bucharest, Romania; and its current president, Dr. V. Harnaj, also hails from that country.
The Association is divided into standing commissions: bee biology, beekeeping economy, bee pathology, flora and pollination, and beekeeping equipment and technology. In addition, there is one active working group on apitherapy, the use of honey bees and their products in medicine. Each of these groups held symposia during the Congress. There were also round table discussions on certain topics of interest including the Varroa mite and the technical aspects of apitherapy.
Roy Weaver Jr. chaired the Beekeeping Economy Standing Commission’s session the first day of the Congress. Perhaps the highlight of the series of papers presented was that by the eminent Dr. Espina Perez of Costa Rica, best known for co-authoring the book Apicultura en los Tropicos, with the Cuban apiculturist, Gonzalo S. Ordetex.
Dr. Espina Perez spoke with authority on studying the beekeeping potential of a region. He suggested there were many keys to determine the suitability of an area. These included mapping the nectariferous plants and their association with soil types and studying the kinds of native bees present, as well as investigating the incidence of diseases of bees and the possibilities for migratory beekeeping. In conclusion, he pleaded for a comprehensive study of an area before beekeeping development gets underway, rather than the reverse which often has characterized such development in the past.
The theoretical approach of Dr. Espina Perez contrasted nicely with the rock-hard practicality of Dr. P. Wix from England who discussed the present beekeeping development of Tanzania. He said he emphasis is now being placed on he role of extension programs, that have been lacking in the past. The extension advisers are intensively trained in Swahili, he said, and one of their prime missions is to upgrade the local honey crop to compete in the world market, which in the end will be the key to Tanzania’s apicultural development. Mr. Aix ended on an upbeat note by saying those affiliated with Apimondia were doing on a smaller, but no less important, scale the same kinds of things being done by world leaders at the concluding economics summit in Cancun.
In the following presentation, beekeeping development was discussed at length by a Venezuelan scientist who painted a rosy picture and claimed that small and large operators are able to recoup their full investment in beekeeping after five years. Unfortunately, the impact of the Africanized honey bees on the Venezulean beekeeping industry was not addressed. The presentation provoked a comment by Dr. Espina Perez, who said that development efforts are better invested in training fulltime professional apiculturists rather than small operators. A rejoinder by the Venezuelan indicated this was not relevant to the study because only the business side of the operations were studied. There followed closing remarks by Dr. H. Borneck, vice president of Apimondia from France. He supported the expression of differences by members present and emphasized the role of Apimondia as a forum for alleviating controversy, while helping the beekeepers of the world solve their problems.
The Bee Biology Standing Commission began its first of two sessions the following day with introductory remarks by the chairperson, Dr. F. Rutner of the Federal German Republic. He provided a short history of what he said was one of the most dramatic biological events of the century, the introduction and subsequent migration of the Africanized honey bee in the New World tropics.
The floor was passed to Dr. S. Goncalves of Brazil who discounted the many reports of the devastating effect of the Africanized honey bee in Brazil’s beekeeping industry. He argued that beekeepers in Brazil now are accustomed to the bee, work it with few problems, and produce far more honey than they did in the past with European honey bees. He indicated the bee should be called “Africanized” in his opinion, as this was a better term than either “African” or “Brazilian”. His sanguine remarks provoked a storm of reaction, especially from persons from countries recently invaded by the Africanized bee. In spite of the alleged importance of the Africanized honey bee in the New World tropics, surprisingly few scientific papers were presented diagnosing the effect of the bee or contributing to its biology or rate of spread.
An exception was one by Dr. E. Martinez Rubio of Uruguay who suggested that establishing genetic barriers to Africanization by populating hollow palm trees with wild or so-called “creole” or European stock. This would provide a preserve of genes from which queens and nuclei could be produced. This process, he concluded, would effectivey prevent the eventual Africanization of all honey bee colonies in an area of Uruguay.
Dr. Rutner then followed with a detailed presentation of the African honey bee in Africa. By analyzing biometrically 133 samples of bees from the Dark Continent, was able classify them into five groups: the bees of the savanna of highland East Africa, Apis mellifera scutellata; the coastal bee of East Africa A. mellifera. littorea; the mountain bee of East Africa, A.m. monticola; the West African bee, A.m. adansonii; and finally a diffuse group of bees from Central and East African semiarid regions which cannot be discriminated morphometrically from A.m. yementica. He claimed these bee groups are separated only by ecological conditions in Africa, not geographic barriers, and, therefore, concluded they should be termed “ecogeographic races” or sub races to the race A.m. adansonii.
Another focus of this session was genetics and selection of European honey bees. Dr. C. Milne from Canada outlined the bee breeding program now underway at the University of Guelph. The program is based on laboratory tests using small numbers of caged workers They are then correlated with honey production with full colonies of the same stock in the field. Measurements of hoarding behavior, longevity and pupa weight, according to Dr. Milne, indicate few genes if any to be in common, suggesting that simultaneous selection for increased honey production on the basis of all three should be feasible.
Dr. J. Kulincevic of Yugoslavia followed with results of two-way selection for length in life of honey bees. Short-lived bees and long-lived bees were selected for; by the second generation the two lines differed statistically. These experiments demonstrate that bee breeders when selecting bees of increased honey production can add longevity to other desirable characteristics.
Selection to find the most desirable honey bee for tropical conditions in Latin America is also underway. Dr. Ana Gonzales of Cuba described her experiments on two lines of bees, introduced Caucasians and local or “creole,” bees. She compared these two lines in central, mountainous Cuba and results showed good adaptation of Caucasians to the area, an increase in efficiency of 34% over creole bees, superior gentleness, and little indication of swarming. Future research, Dr. Gonzales, concluded will entail efforts to hybridize Caucasian and local bees to provide a superior bee for the region. A later speaker added that Caucasians have been imported into Colombia with the same good results.
FLORA AND POLLINATION
The afternoon of the second day was devoted to the Melliferous Flora and Pollination Standing Commission. This session emphasized pollen collection and specific nectar and pollen sources for honey bees. Reiner Krell and associates of the University of Georgia, submitted a paper on the collection of pollen in the coastal zone of the state of Georgia. In 22 Ontario Agricultural Pollen Traps, according to Mr. Krell, a total of 73.4 kilograms of dried pollen was collected at five sites between May and November, 1980.
Foraging preferences of the bees was found to change from wind-pollinated and insect-pollinated shrubs in late Spring, to wind-pollinated and insect-pollinated annuals in summer and fall. Dr. S. Pepping of Argentina also used pollen collection as a means to determine preferences of bees for different flower sources. She concluded that pollen trapping can also show the potential value of an area for beekeeping activity.
According to Dr. Cabrera Pech of Mexico, the effects of human activities on beekeeping must not be forgotten when designing national land development programs. He argued such activities as burning, overgrazing and deforestation can do extensive damage to lands which are good bee pasture. in an effort to find more bee habitat, Dr. Cabrera Pech also reported some of his results while searching the arid zones of Mexico (these make up nearly half the country) in search of bee flora. Those he has so far found include Prosopis laevigata (mesquite), Carnegia gigantea (saguaro) as well as others including several Acacia species (huizaches, in Spanish).
MITES THREATEN BEES
After a day of sightseeing and visiting a local honey packing plant in Acapulco, sessions reconvened on Tuesday. This was perhaps the most interesting day of the Congress because it focused on worldwide threats to beekeeping, the acarine and Varroa mites and the use of pesticides. Dr. W. Ritter from the Federal German Republic led off the morning session with a discussion of the history and control of acarosis in his country. The disease was introduced in the 1930s and was controlled with chemicals such as Folbex® Apimilbine®. and Milbex®.
Since the 1960s, however, biological methods which take advantage of the mite’s development time have also been used with good results in conjunction with chemicals. More recently, Folbex® forte has been in experimental use; it appears to totally cure acarine disease after six treatments. The drug has not yet been registered in the Federal German Republic, although application has been made. In spite of these favorable results, however, Dr. Ritter stated that in the long run biological control rather than chemicals should be relied on to control acarosis. The subject of acarine disease had special meaning at the Congress, for recently it was discovered for the first time in Mexico by Dr. Bill Wilson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture bee laboratory at Laramy, Wyoming. A brief resume of the extent of the disease was provided by Dr. Martinez of Veracruz and elaborated on by Dr. A. Zozaya of Mexico City. The mite was discovered in February 1980 in the state of Jalisco. At present 12 out of 29 states in the country are found to be infected and sampling is continuing. When mites are found, states are quarantined to prevent transfer of bees across borders into mite-free states. Infected colonies are isolated and those with high levels of the disease destroyed. Mexico is now commencing a crash program to control the acarine mite. Another New World country infested with the acarine mite was reported to be Colombia by Dr. Marin Quintero and his associates. No prophylactic treatments have yet been found to be effective for acarosis in that country.
PESTICIDES A WORLD PROBLEM
Pesticide poisoning of honey bees was emphasized in the second half of the session. Dr. Larry Atkins of the University of California, Riverside reported the repellency to honey bees of permethrin, demeton and lisulfoton. The latter two chemicals are not true repellents, but modify bee behavior in the field which effectively reduces the insect’s chances of being exposed. Permethrin appears to be a true repellent, but it must be applied when bees are not in the field or it will kill them on contact. Although the above chemicals appear to have the potential for protecting bees from pesticides, there are still many kills worldwide.
This was stressed by Dr. Vidano of Italy whose presentation called for protecting bees and beekeeping from irrational use of pesticides. He lamented the continuing development and use of highly toxic pesticides in spite of their known effects on beneficial insects, which are pollinators, predators and parasites. He called for beekeepers and their organizations, led by Apirnondia, to cooperate in order to avoid excessive application of pesticides to blooming plants that require honey bees for pollination.
Monitoring bee poisoning by chemicals was then addressed by Dr. Mayer of Washington State University. He concluded that using traps, such as the Todd® dead bee trap, were extremely important in identifying bee losses. The status of bee poisoning problems in the United States was then dealt with by Dr. Mayer’s colleague, Dr. Carl Johansen. Penncap-M®, according to. Dr. Johansen, is the most hazardous insecticide formulation to bees yet developed. However, a new formulation of carbaryl, traditionally responsible for large bee losses, Sevin XLR® with a special latex sticker, has been found to be less hazardous than other formulations, except granules. Dr. Johansen also discoursed on the actions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which he said has supported research and training to reduce bee poisoning but at the same time has hampered research efforts.
Dr. Johansen concluded his remarks stating that the national pesticide training program in the United States is currently emphasizing the importance of pollination and the need to minimize bee kills by educating applicators in practices which are known to reduce toxic chemical effects on honey bees.
A footnote to the previous presentation was provided by Dr. Montiel of Argentina, who reported on the applications of pesticides by air in the humid Pampa. He said it is now compulsory to notify by wire beekeeper associations in areas to be sprayed at least 48 hours in advance. Local radio stations, he concluded, further facilitate advanced warning by broadcasting messages to beekeepers in the area to be sprayed.
BEEKEEPING TECHNOLOGY IND EQUIPMENT
The Beekeeping Technology and Equipment Standing Commission session took place on Tuesday afternoon. Standardization of equipment was emphasized by Dr. Roger Morse of Cornell University in New York. He concluded that standard equipment protects the beekeeper’s investment in many important ways and that honey bees have the ability to adapt, within limits, to man’s equipment preferences. Dr. Gordon Townsend of Canada suggested in his paper some standardized measurements for beekeeping equipment which be has compiled by sustained work in an consulting with the beekeeping industry worldwide.
Dr. Vesterinen of Finland presented a paper on the benefits of three-quarter and two-third depth Langstroth brood chambers and honey supers. From the manufacturers’ point of view, he concluded, this shallow equipment can be ripped and planed with a minimum of wood wastage using standard lumber size. The use of plastic to replace wood was dealt with in two related papers from Uruguay. Dr. Ripoll and coleagues reported on a new molded plastic beeswax coated foundation whichh is well accepted by the bees and can be used even in producing section comb honey. The delegation from Uruguay also presented findings on the use of plastic frames, including their near indestructability under long and hard use and their absolute resistance to acids, molds, moths, and rodents.
The fourth day of the Congress was highlighted by the plenary session of the Independent Working Group on Apitherapy. This branch of medicine has always received more study in Europe and other countries than babe U.S. The emphasis in Acapulco, however, was on new developments in the field in the United States. Dr. J. Vick from Maryland presented a paper on the effectiveness of bee venom therapy in treating experimental beagle dogs suffering from arthritis. With regular venom treatment, all dogs demonstrated remarkable improvement. This was postulated by Dr. Vick to be caused by elevation in cortisone levels due to the venom’s stimulation.
Charles Mraz, a leader in the U.S. movement to give apitherapy more recognition, followed with a short history of the movement which started with the work of Dr. B.F. Beck in the 1940s and culminated in the North American Apitherapy Society established quite recently. According to Mr. Mraz, bee venom therapy has taken a back seat to wonder drugs and antibiotics in disease treatment. Using bee venom therapy, however, minimizes side effects the above drugs sometimes cause, he said, because the body itself is stimulated to produce cortisone and this also jolts the immune system into action, perhaps elevating the interferon level.
Mr. Mraz also touched on the negative side of bee venom therapy, the fact that 0.1 percent to 0.4 percent of the population is allergic to bee venom. Besides bee venom, another product with medicinal properties, propolis, was also reported on at the Congress. Studies in Israel by Dr. Mizrahi and associates showed that propolis inhibits the growth of several types of bacteria, including Escherichia coli, responsible for synthesizing vitamins in the digestive tract, and strains of Staphylococcus and Bacillus.
A Yugoslavian paper by Dr. V. Miagan and associates followed, revealing that propolis extract shows promise as a control of Bacillus larvae, the causitive organism of American foulhrood. Dr. Bonimond of France closed the session with remarks regarding the Working Group’s history. The interest is growing so fast in this area, he said, that it’s time to propose to the Apimondia governing body that the working group be given full-fledged Standing Commission status.
Plenary session two of the Bee Biology Standing Commission followed that afternoon. In contrast to the first day’s session, there appeared to be no dominant theme. Dr. Bazzurro of Uruguay discussed and showed slides of a way to feed small measurable amounts of substances to a bee colony. Dr. Bilash of the Soviet Union followed with a description of the kinds of bees prevalent in his country and efforts to select better quality stock. The chairperson of the session, Dr. J. Woyke from Poland, then discussed the influence of internal factors governing honey production in colonies in El Salvador.
Through an elaborate set of experiments, Dr. Woyke was able to conclude that: (1) honey production in kilograms is equal to colony population multiplied by nectar intake; and (2) colony population in thousands is equal to the number of eggs laid daily, multiplied by length of a bee’s life. The length of a bee’s life, he also showed, was indirectly proportional to the number of larvae fed in a colony. Dr. H. Shimanuki of the USDA Bioenvironmental Bee Lab, Beltsville, Md., followed with a paper outlining the sterol requirements for brood rearing by honey bees fed a synthetic diet. Radio-labelled tracer studies in diets fed worker bees, he concluded, suggest a unique system of utilization and metabolism of dietary sterols.
DEVELOPMENT AND EDUCATION
The final session of the Congress was dedicated to beekeeping development and education. Two presentations on beekeeping efforts in Burma emphasized the country’s great beekeeping potential, but stated that this should be tempered by the knowledge that many problems, pests and predators also exist. A particular problem is control of the parasitic mite, Tropliaelaps clareae. At present, the mite is somewhat controlled by fumigation with a mixture of phenthiazine with potassium nitrate and sawdust.
The education of those who are going to educate others in beekeeping development was also emphasized in this last session of the Beekeeping Economy Standing Commission. Dr. Jim Tew, in charge of one of the few training programs in the United States devoted to beekeeping education, provided an overview of his curriculum at Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio. At present, he is involved in several areas of beekeeping development, in training a second contingent of students from Burma. His presentation was warmly received by the persons in attendance as was his invitation to visit the Institute.
Morgan Manley followed with a presentation listing the restrictive factors he has found to inhibit beekeeping development. He argued that besides providing credit and other assistance, field officers and others must first assess the natural aptitude of a population, as well as its basic skills, before instituting large-scale beekeeping development projects. Dr. P. Jankovic of Yugoslavia echoed Mr. Manley’s presentation with his description of the cooperation between his country and the African nation of Tanzania in beekeeping assistance.
According to Dr. Jankovic, a detailed long-range plan is being developed between these two countries assessing the very things Mr. Manley discussed, and each stage will only be implemented based on the results obtained from the previous stage, providing continuity to the total beekeeping development program in Tanzania.
The formal closing of the Congress was impressive with all the nations’ representatives seated on the stage. It was such a lively affair that even the lights’ being out for a unscheduled period of time, didn’t damper the enthusiasm. A fitting climax was the arrival of the President of Mexico, Lic. Jose Lopez Portillo, complete with a red-bereted military contingent and brass band.
This report only touches the surface or what transpired at the 1981 Apimondia meeting in Acapulco. Besides some 180 papers on the program, participants saw visual aids on various topics. Some of the most interesting included video tapes on beekeeping with Apis dorsata in Burma and films showing the actual mating of a queen by several drones, the kinds of stingless bees found in Africa, and the biology of the Varroa mite. In addition, the numerous apicultural exhibits from around the world added great spice to the affair .
Besides information from the formal sessions, the value of a meeting like this lies in the many kinds of people one meets. All presentations were simultaneously translated into the official languages of the Congress: French, German, Spanish, Russian and English. But if they weren’t, the one common language everybody spoke was bee biology and bee culture. „The event in Acapulco was in its own way, as Mr Wix predicted it would be on the first day, extremely important contributing to helping humans understand living together on this ever-shrinking planet.
Post Script: This is included as an historical document and way to reflect on how far researchers and beekeepers have come over several decades with major challenges to the international beekeeping community. The year 1981 was in some ways a transition of sorts.
Back in America, the 28th congress of 1981 was staged in Acapulco, Mexico, with Mr. David Cardoso-Tamez as its President and “Economic and Social Importance of Beekeeping” the general theme. The congress was attended by 1,519 beekeepers from 54 countries. Apimondia continued to grow with 83 Member Associations from 71 countries now represented, the largest number so far. The new Regulations for Congress Organisation were applied for the first time. Again 7 contests were held; ApiExpo ‘81 consisted of 31 stands. At the 8 plenary sessions 214 reports were presented. The suggestion to establish an Apimondia Working Group on Beekeeping in Developing Countries and the recommendation to have the Working Group on Apitherapy changed into an Apimondia Standing Commission were presented to the General Assembly.