With nine parishes inspected to date, the Apiculture Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture is reporting that less than two per cent of bee hives are infected with the American Foulbrood Disease (AFB).
Head of the Unit and Chief Plant Protection Officer, Reginald Peddy, told JIS News that the intent is to bring the infection rate for the disease to below one per cent.
“That is the level that we think the country can live with, and, if in fact, we can eliminate the disease totally from the island then that is the ultimate thing that we want to do,” he stated.
Mr. Peddy was speaking to JIS News on October 25 following a sensitisation session with bee farmers in Trelawny, held at the Water Wheel in Martha Brae.
Some 25 bee farmers benefited from the session, which is part of a series being carried out across the island by the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) under a $40 million project being sponsored by the European Union (EU). The All-Island Bee Farmers Association and the Jamaica Federation of Commercial Apiculturists are collaborating with the IICA on the initiative.
The AFB, caused by the spore-forming Paenibacillus larvae ssp. larvae is the most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases. It is highly contagious and the spores of the bacteria can survive on contaminated equipment for up to 40 years. The disease can appear and spread quickly through a colony and if left untreated, may result in the death of the hive in a short time.
The Ministry began inspections for the disease in March under the EU project, which also includes measures to eradicate the disease from the island.
Mr. Peddy told JIS News that the inspections should be completed by November, following which a deadline will be set for full control of the disease.
“As soon as we have completed the inspection of the entire island, then we will do the analysis of our data, and then we will set ourselves a timeframe,” he stated.
He said that the Ministry is placing focus on destroying the infected hives by fire, rather than treating them, as this only makes the disease-causing organism inactive for a while.
Mr. Peddy informed that training of apiculturists in beekeeping best practices will continue even after the EU funding has ended, as that is essential for the protection of the apiaries against diseases.
There have been six recognised outbreaks of the AFB disease in Jamaica since 1918, the worst of which was in 1943 and again in 1989, which the country is still battling.