General status of Apiculture in Iraq (2003)

Dr. V. Sivaram
FAO Consultant for the Apiculture Project (Ministry of Agriculture - Government of Iraq)
Department of Botany, Bangalore University
Post Graduate Centre, Kolar - 563101, India

1. Introduction
The beekeeping practice in Iraq is mainly with the indigenous honeybee and original strain, Apis mellifera syriaca. The bees are maintained in modern frame hives, which have been introduced from countries like Jordan, United Kingdom, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Italy etc.. It was observed during the field investigations, that the bees represent the stock of mixed race (yellow and black strains), which differ in size and colour. In the southern governorates of Iraq the bees are very gentle and it is easy to manage the colonies, as they are not highly defensive. The available information clearly indicates that, the beekeepers have been imported bees mainly the queens from various countries, that is the reason why the mixed race of honeybees are found in different parts of the country. Also, it is understood that there are no other bee species are distributed in the country except there was a report stating the presence of little bee, Apis florea in some parts of eastern Iraq. There is no detailed information available on the distribution of this bee species and whether the distribution was natural or introduced by man. This bee is also very important for pollination of economically important crops. The details of the distribution of this species are essential to find strategy to increase the population in the country for pollination purposes. The majority of the flowering plants are entomophilous and they require insect pollination. It was observed that most of the cultivated crops provide pollen and nectar to bees and also they require bees for pollination service.

There is a long history of beekeeping in Iraq. It is believed that during the years 1970 and 1980's most of the agriculturists were beekeepers, as per the information there were more than 500,000 traditional bees hives. Presently, there is no sign of beekeeping practice by using traditional hives except in few places of Iraq. As per the information the indigenous honeybee, Apis mellifera syriaca is well distributed in northern governorates of Iraq, later this bee made a way to central and southern governorates of Iraq. However, the three northern governorates are not covered in this project to study the extent of beekeeping and disease. The number of beekeepers in Baghdad governorate are more when compared with other governorates. The least number of beekeepers and bee colonies are from the Najaf governorate. The average honey production in Iraq is 8-10 kgs per colony per year. The available information on the number of beekeepers and bee colonies is presented.

The Iraqi farmers are showing lot of interest to revive the beekeeping industry as it was flourished in this country few years back. Due to various reasons the farmers had lost their colonies. The beekeepers considered that apiculture is an important agricultural activity as it provides subsidiary income in addition to the profit from agri-horticulture. The people of Iraq are aware of the importance of honey and other bee products in nutrition and other health related aspects from time immemorial.

By considering the importance of beekeeping industry, the Government of Iraq has taken several measures to revive and restore the beekeeping into large scale. The Ministry of agriculture, Government of Iraq is making elaborative arrangements to strengthen the hands of bee farmers to manage the bees in sustainable way. As a part of this initiative the Iraqi Government making all efforts to control the Honeybee diseases in the country.

2. Status of Apiary Management Methods in Iraq
During the field visits to all the 10 governorates by the Team Leader Consultant (TLC) along with the Honeybee Disease Expert (HDE) and the National project Director (NPD) have assessed the management methods followed by the beekeepers in controlling the bee diseases. The Consultants could observe few colonies in different apiaries of the 10 governorates of Iraq

2.1 American foulbrood (AFB) and European foul brood (EFB)
The colonies were inspected particularly to know the presence of American foulbrood (AFB - causal organism is Paenibacillus larvae larvae), European foulbrood (EFB - causal organism is Melissococcus pluton) and Varroa mites. Most of the present dat bee diseases in Iraq is probably due to the result of importing bees and queens from various countries. The beekeepers are using chemicals to control foul brood diseases. They mentioned the chemicals are not effective may be because of poor quality. Most of the beekeepers are maintaining the colonies with proper care. They are lacking knowledge on moder management practices. The AFB is found in two governorates i.e. in Baghdad and Ninevah (Mosul). Where as the EFB was common in Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Babil and Tameem Governorates.

The beekeepers are using oxytetracycline for the control of bacterial diseases (AFB and EFB). In most of the time beekeepers finding it difficult to identify the type of bacterial disease, due to the lack of knowledge on the observation of the symptoms of the disease. The beekeepers reported to us that the EFB is very common in all the beekeeping areas during spring and in the month of August. The consultants also observed for the presence of EFB in some bee colonies during field inspection. Presently there is no chalk brood incidence in the bee colonies observed. 

2.2 Varroa mite (Varroa destructor)
It was noticed that the incidence of Varroa mites is high in almost all the colonies inspected. The incidence of Varroa is ranging between 10 to 40% approximately. In each of the inspected cell there were more than 3 - 4 adult Varroa mites. There were number of dead bees and deformed workers (with out wings) in front of the beehives affected by the Varroa mites. The incidence of Varroa infestation is low wherever the colonies are treated with chemicals like Bayvarol or Apistan. It was also observed in some bee colonies despite treating with the Bayvarol. The high incidence of Varroa in Iraq may be they have developed resistance against Apistan and Bayvarol. Most of the beekeepers are finding it difficult to purchase required chemicals for the control of diseases. This may also be the reason for the high incidence of Varroa mites.

2.3 Nosema (Nosema apis)
According to the beekeepers the Nosema disease is high during rainy season. To control the disease they are using Fumidil - B, Oxytetracycline and extract of Artimissia sp. with sugar syrup. Most of the beekeepers expressed their opinion that the Nosema disease is under control.

2.4 Wasp (Vespa orientalis)
It is found to attach honeybees in almost all the beekeeping areas in Iraq. These Wasp menace is very serious from August to November and will reduce in December. The beekeepers are using Alluminium phosphide with meat or fish. Also, the beekeepers are practicing physical methods as well as using traps for control.

2.5 Bee-eater (Merops sp.)
It is said to be very serious problem in spring and summer seasons. However, we could not notice any bee-eaters during field inspection. 

2.6 Agricultural pesticides
The indiscriminate use of pesticides and insecticides to control pests and plant disease is a serious threat to the bees and it is a serious problem for beekeepers to maintain pesticide free bee colonies.

2.7 Control measures for American foul brood:

  1. Feeding of sodium sulphathiazole @ 0.1 g / lt. in sugar syrup.
  2. Feeding of oxytetracycline (Terramycin) @ 0.25 in 5 lt. sugar syrup.
  3. Feeding streptomycin in sugar syrup @ 0.05 to 0.15 g/lt.
  4. Dust Terramycine (TM 50) in powdered sugar 1:20 @ 4 tea spoon full is kept on top bars of the brood frames.

2.8 Control methods for European foulbrood
The treatment of European foulbrood is usually not required if the infection is light, because the colonies can overcome the infection without assistance. However, the following methods are employed for the control of EFB disease. One gram of Oxytetracycline (Terramycin) dissolved in 500 ml of concentrated sucrose syrup sprinkled on bee cluster for good results.

2.9 Control methods for Varroa:

  1. By using Apiguard to control mite, when there is few brood in the hive.
  2. By practicing biological control methods, which is depending on the seasons.
  3. Breeding varroa resistant bees.

For control of other diseases and pests suitable management practices has to be practiced by the beekeepers.

3. Recommendations
The following recommendations may be considered for the sustainable beekeeping management in Iraq:

  1. There should be a full pledged beekeeping directorate under the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Iraq.
  2. There must be a close coordination between the Central veterinary Laboratory, Department of Plant protection and the Beekeepers / Beekeepers Association for the early diagnosis of the bee diseases. However, the NPD (National Project Director) and HDE (Honeybee Disease Expert) felt that the bee disease research laboratory may be established in the Department of plant protection department since the department having the required qualified staff in the area of apiculture research.
  3. It is suggested that there must be a regular short term beekeeping training programmes for beekeepers to know the latest scientific management methods in beekeeping.
  4. Establish a close coordination between farmers and beekeepers particularly to minimize the pesticide poisoning of honeybees.
  5. The Government must take initiative to made available the required drugs to treat the bee diseases like AFB, EFB and Varroa.
  6. The concerned department has to create awareness on the utilization of bees for pollination service for increasing crop productivity.
  7. There should be a marketing support for honey producers by the Government.
  8. The government has to provide some assistance to encourage migratory beekeeping as it is highly useful for sustainable beekeeping.
  9. There should be a rigorous policy of the government in restriction on the import of bees as to avoid new diseases.
  10. There is an urgent need to establish a library in the department of plant protection and also to take appropriate steps to translate the scientific information in local language for the benefit of beekeepers.

The Team Leader consultant is extending his sincere thanks to the FAO of the United Nations, Rome; the AGST, FAO, Rome; the staff of FAORNE, Cairo; the staff of FAO representation, Baghdad; the FAO representation, India ; for their invaluable help, suggestions and cooperation during the first mission. Also, to the Department of Plant protection, Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of Iraq for extending cooperation during the field investigations. Lastly, the TLC appreciates and thank the FAO drivers Mr. Mann and Mr. Ayman for safe drive during our visit to the governorates for bee colonies inspection.