St. Vincent & Grenadines Apiculture Assessment
Tomas Mozer
Conducted week of February 21-25,2005 by Tomas Mozer, consultant/volunteer sponsored by Favaca, IICA and ministry of agriculture & fisheries, government of S.V.G.

Background
February 16, 2004: IICA co-operator Mr. Godwin Daniel received a request from Mr. Philmore Isaacs, Chief Agricultural Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for technical support to the beekeepers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. According to the Chief Agricultural Officer “our trained beekeeping technician emigrated several years ago and recently, it was drawn to the Ministry’s attention that complete colonies have disappeared and some beekeepers have dropped out of the business. We are unable to provide scientific reasons”. Additionally, “some beekeepers who have remained in the industry are desirous of raising queen bees to improve their production”.


Further correspondence elucidated the following:

  1. The beekeeping technician at the Ministry of Agriculture was not replaced. His duties have been carried out by his assistant, Mr. Lennox James.
  2. Mr. James will be the main beneficiary of the training and he will be expected to implement the recommendations. It is also expected that the beekeepers themselves will receive some training through seminars/workshops and field visits to be conducted by the volunteer/consultant.
  3. There are approximately 20 beekeepers who have an interest in remaining in the industry.

FAVACA response enabled consultant/volunteer to travel for field visit/survey of apiaries as the first phase in the provision of technical assistance. The workshop/seminar will constitute the second phase, at a later date.

Historical overview of FAVACA apiculture missions to S.V.G.: June 17-20, 1993 - Laurence Cutts, a bee expert from the Florida Department of Agriculture worked in St. Vincent and other Windward Islands to train quarantine officers. As a result of his professional intervention, government officials and beekeepers are developing legislation to keep the region free of plagues and diseases. July 21-25, 1992 - Ralph Russ returned to St. Vincent and Bequia to work with the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Labour and local beekeepers on queen rearing, bee inspection practices, general apiary management skills, and American Foulbrood disease detection, prevention and treatment. August 25 - September 2, 1990 - Ralph and Pam Russ trained beekeepers in queen-rearing methods and assessed progress on previous assistance missions. January 26-February 10, 1990 - Ralph Russ and Robert Tadeyeske provided additional assistance in beekeeping to the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as teaching woodcrafters at Liberty Lodge how to build beehives to sell locally. September 11-18, 1989 - Beekeeping consultant Laurence Cutts (accompanied by his wife Elouise) advised the Ministry of Agriculture on the potential for beekeeping in St. Vincent.

Findings
Anecdotal accounts revealed the existence of a thriving beekeeping industry in S.V.G. during the past century as well as other previous efforts including those of Bees for Development, resulting in a significant apicultural capacitation.

This visit involved surveying approximately 12-15 beekeepers and inspecting 20-30 beehives/colonies, including some that had succumbed/absconded and were devoid of bees due to various causes. One beekeeper in Bequia reported a find of Varroa mite on a honey bee aboard a ferryboat about three years ago; he claims to have submitted the sample to the Ministry and heard nothing since then, but his bees all died in the interim. The pattern of devastation was repeated nation-wide as corroborated by beekeepers on both Bequia and St.Vincent as well as the bee officer\'s records, upwards of 90% collapse in both domestic/hived and feral/wild populations. This scenario is all too familiar wherever the global pandemic of Varroa destructor, a honey bee parasite that is phoretic on a number of other insect species, has spread and suggests an introduction to S.V.G. circa 2000 or earlier. We were able to visually confirm the presence of Varroa spp. in most colonies examined, albeit at apparently insignificant levels and mostly on drone rather than worker brood.

However, the corollary to this demise of susceptible/commercial stocks is concomitant survival of the <10% of tolerant/resistant bee populations that were naturally selected and/or locally adapted and form the biological basis for re-stocking the industry. Perhaps half or more of colonies inspected were strong enough to split/swarm soon, reason for encouragement based on similar experiences on other Caribbean islands such as Grenada.

Unfortunately some surviving colonies exhibited other serious pathologies including parasitic mite syndrome (usually viral in nature) and American/European foulbroods (bacterial infections of varying virulence); suspected pesticide poisoning was also observed, as were opportunistic wax moth infestations/damage.

Recommendations
The revitalization of beekeeping in S.V.G. will require resources and time, but such recovery attempts after other natural disasters as in Montserrat [10] are worth the effort for numerous reasons [11]. Available apicultural experience should be maximized by supporting inspection/extension services with sufficient means to re-train beekeepers about integrated pest/disease management as part of a sustainable/"organic" strategy, including future consulting visits to present workshops/demonstrations and continue monitoring surveys.

With assistance to beekeepers in order to facilitate rebuilding colony numbers to previous historical levels over the next 5-10 years, S.V.G. could be in position to follow a development model similar to that described in St. Lucia [12]. The present challenges to beekeeping in small island developing states are substantial, but so are the potentially sweet rewards.

References