Thursday, December 10, 2015 10:41 AM
“Nectar-rich pasture is at the very heart of beekeeping, which cannot survive without it. This is why we are acknowledging KKL-JNF’s contribution through planting nectar-rich pasture all over Israel.”
KKL-JNF has been assisting beekeepers for many years and has been contributing to the survival of bees by planting nectar-rich plants all over Israel and providing farmers with nectar-producing trees for planting on their own. At the 23rd Beekeepers Conference, which took place at the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) in Beit Dagan, eight KKL-JNF employees were awarded certificates of appreciation for their work in this field.
Bees have a crucial function in the ecosystem by being responsible for the pollination of flowers in natural and cultivated areas. The danger of honeybee extinction, which has been impending, is troubling everyone who cares about our world, not only beekeepers and consumers partial to honey.
KKL-JNF has been assisting beekeepers for many years. At the 23rd Beekeepers Conference honoring the late Brig. Gen. Zorik Lev, eight KKL-JNF employees were awarded certificates of appreciation for their work in producing and planting nectar-rich saplings for promoting pollination and reinforcing apiculture.
Agronomist-Engineer Pablo Chercasky – Director of the Gilat Tree Nursery in the Southern Region, who wrote and photographed the book Nectar-Rich Garden Plants for Bees in conjunction with Sima Kagan.
Agronomist Aviv Eisenband – Director of the Forestry and Development Department in the Forestry Division. One of his jobs has been supervising the Seeds and Saplings Section and the Acclimatization and Hybridization Section.
A Small Insect with a Big Job
The Bees and Pollination Conference took place this year for the 23rd time in conjunction with the Israeli Honey Board, the Israel Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the ARO (Volcani Institute). It was held in honor of the late Brig. Gen. Zorik Lev, a combat pilot who fell in the October War, whose brother, Avi Lev, represented the family at the conference.
In the opening greetings at the conference, Yossi Slavetzky, who is in charge of apiculture for the Agricultural Extension Service of the Israel Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said, “The field of beekeeping has been on the brink of disaster for many years, threatening the many fields of plant cultivation that depend on it. Nectar-rich pasture is at the very heart of beekeeping, which cannot survive without it. This is why we are acknowledging KKL-JNF’s contribution through planting nectar-rich pasture all over Israel.”
“Although the field of beekeeping is small, it has great importance,” said Hanan Bazak, the Director of the Extension Service at the Israel Ministry of Agriculture. “Bees,” he said, “constitute the mainstay of plant cultivation, and if they are absent, we will be compelled to dry up hundreds of hectares of crops.”
Dr. David Brand, Chief Forester and Director of the KKL-JNF Forestry Division, pointed out that “development of pollination services ensures the survival of habitats and flora that depend on pollination. These plants protect the functionality of ecosystems.” He went on to say that there are 18,000 beehives in KKL-JNF areas, and there are millions of nectar-rich trees planted in KKL-JNF forests such as carob, tamarisk and eucalyptus, which provide the nectar that is so essential for the survival of the hives. “Many nectar-rich saplings are distributed annually free of charge to apiarists,” said Dr. Brand, “and KKL-JNF supports research studies on nectar-rich species.”
The Controversial Eucalyptus
At the conference, Dr. Yehoshua Shkedy, Chief Scientist at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), presented INPA policy with regard to placing beehives in nature reserves and national parks, and to the issue of invasive species in general and the eucalyptus in particular. The INPA decision to fell eucalyptus trees in nature reserves is very problematic for the beekeepers, since eucalyptus trees are a major source of nectar. The eucalyptus issue elicited outrage among the conference participants who called for saving the trees.
In the words of Boaz Kanot, Chairman of the Israel Beekeepers Association, “The INPA has issued a death sentence on the eucalyptus trees. It is trying to fell as many eucalyptus trees as possible, and we oppose their actions and are trying to forestall them in every lawful way possible.”
Dr. Shkedy presented a counterview and said, “Our job is to preserve the biodiversity of flora and fauna in Israel and the original landscapes of the country, and to restore what people have ruined. We do not display tolerance for invasive species, which were brought by people from the territories of their natural habitats, especially in nature reserves.”
He said that there are places in the world where the eucalyptus is considered a harmful plant due to its effect on habitats and the damage it causes to indigenous species. He stressed that the INPA replaces the felled eucalyptus trees by planting local species of trees that are indigenous to Israel.
On the question of placing beehives in nature reserves, Dr. Shkedy also expressed his opposition due to the potential for competition with local pollinators and the treatments administered around the hives such as spraying pesticides and forging roads.
Dr. Shkedy concluded by calling for a dialogue between the beekeepers and the INPA in order to devise a national program that will safeguard the interests of farmers and prevent harming nature.
“The eucalyptus trees are not just a source of income but also part of the vegetation of Israel, which was brought here by the Zionist pioneers more than 120 years ago,” responded Botany Professor Emeritus Dan Eisikowitch at the conclusion of the presentation.
Noga Reuven, a beekeeper who resides in Manot, expressed indignation as to the INPA’s conduct. “Agriculture can’t survive without bees, and bees can’t survive without the flowering in nature. There is no proof for the claim that the honey bee is detrimental to the ecological balance. The eucalyptus is the oxygen of apiculture. It isn’t invasive. It was planted here and has blended into the landscapes of Israel, just like many other species such as the carob.”
At the first professional session, Dr. Arnon Dag, a senior scientist at the ARO, reviewed the economic contribution made by the honeybee to the pollination of agricultural crops. He noted that among the agricultural crops that depend to a great extent on the honeybee are the almond, apple, pear, plum, apricot, avocado, cherry and kiwi. The bees are also vital for field crops such as zucchini, strawberry, bell pepper, watermelon, melon, sunflower, cotton and onion. “The annual value of honey products is around NIS 57 million, but the value of agricultural products that depend on honeybee pollination is close to NIS 2 billion a year,” concluded Dr. Dag.
Herzl Avidor, CEO of the Israeli Honey Board, spoke about the challenges facing apiculture. Like many other speakers, he also mentioned KKL-JNF’s significant contribution to nectar-rich pasture. “In the last few years, we have been seeing a growth in honey consumption due to the growth of population and the increase of consumption per capita,” he said. He noted that the total honey consumption in Israel is up to 4,000 tons a year, 3,000 tons of which are produced in Israel, and 1,000 tons of which are imported, mainly from Europe and South America. “The challenge we are facing is to increase honey production in the next decade by around 20%, from an average of 31 kg per hive per year to 37 kg per year,” said Avidor. How can this be done? He says the solution is in the betterment of the species, improvement of the breeding interface using new technologies, improvement of the nectar-rich pasture and finding solutions to pests.
The second professional session, chaired by Dr. Boris Yakobson, included presentations by Shay Hen, from the Israel Ministry of Health, on the Israeli honey standard; Prof. Nur Tchechanovsky, from the ARO, on lethal viruses; Dr. Gideon Toporov, from the Extension Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, on trends and changes in the use of pesticides; and Dr. Ehud Afik, from the Extension Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, on the efficacy of the various substances used to combat pests.
The third session, led by Dr. Eric Palevsky, included student presentations. Raya Seltzer, a doctoral student at the Volcani Institute, who also received a research grant at the conference, described her research on the hygienic conduct of the honeybee; Ron Korkidi, from the ARO, described his research on the reduction of bees in Israel and the use of oxalic acid for controlling the Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that attacks honeybees; and Tal Erez, from the Agriculture Faculty in Rehovot, spoke about the role of the common mustard flower's appearance in attracting the honeybee.
“Forests are meant to provide biodiversity, and to the realization of this goal, KKL-JNF attributes great importance to the field of pollination,” Dr. David Brand said, summing up the KKL-JNF perspective. “We have been supporting the beekeepers for many years, and we shall continue supporting them in the future.”