Gemma Bastida |
Malaga (EFE).- Repopulating the peninsula with 47 million specimens of Apis mellifera iberiensis, better known as the Iberian bee, is the objective of a project that has been launched in Spain to reverse the “disappearance trend” of this native breed of bees, so necessary for the preservation of ecosystems.
This is the Smart Green Bees project, promoted by the technology company LG with the collaboration of the El Rincón de la Abeja association, technical partner of the initiative, and artisan beekeepers from different regions of Spain, such as Malaga, Valencia or Barcelona.
Iberian or Spanish bees belong to the only species native to the peninsula, but their population is receding at an accelerated pace due to factors such as drought, diseases that affect the species and the downward profitability of beekeepers, since it is not the most efficient breed for honey production.
One bee for every inhabitant
The initiative aims to expand the Apis mellifera iberiensis throughout Spain with up to 47 million new bees within two years, “one for each inhabitant,” explains Paola Vecino, president of the El Rincón de la Abeja association, to EFE.
“We are choosing enclaves that are conducive to this expansion of swarms, where sustainable beekeeping can be carried out and this reverts to a benefit for the ecosystem,” she says, clad in a beekeeper’s suit from a farm in the Montes de Málaga Natural Park, where they have placed the first hives that have to help this demographic recovery of the Iberian bee.
In Malaga, the artisan beekeeper José Sebastián Sánchez, founder a decade ago of Mieles Joseíllo, a local firm that has a long tradition and sustainable production, collaborates with the project, since “it has exactly the number of hives that correspond to this area per the floral load that there is, ”says Vecino.
In this mountainous area, located just twenty minutes by car from Malaga city, we can find a great diversity of plants, such as sage, gorse, rockrose or cantahueso, which ensure that bees have available resources -flowers to pollinate- “the largest part of the year.”
This farm, where goats, dogs and chickens also live, currently has 14 hives installed, although the forecast is that there will soon be 45: “That means tripling the number of bees in a short time, in a matter of a year and a half” , says Neighbor.
A hive in its initial phase has between 5,000 and 6,000 Iberian bees
A newly created hive in its initial phase can house between 5,000 and 6,000 bees, although this figure can reach 60,000 after a few months. This expansion usually occurs between spring and summer.
But since beekeeping is not mathematical and there are “a thousand factors” that can prevent a hive from progressing, the promoters of the Smart Green Bees project have “overcalculated” the number of swarms that they have to establish, taking into account that there may be diseases and other losses due to natural and uncontrollable reasons that prevent a honeycomb from prospering.
“In this area, for example, it is quite common for wild boars to attack the hives, so we try to choose several enclaves and overestimate the number of swarms that will be needed to reach those 47 million bees to ensure the success of the project. ”, says Paola Vecino.
They incorporate biometric monitoring systems
The hives installed in Malaga incorporate biometric monitoring systems that “do not affect the development of the swarms at all” and that allow the population growth of the bees in each apiary to be evaluated in a simple way.
This technology also offers relevant information such as weight, internal humidity, temperature or the sound of the bees, to follow the state of health of the hives in real time.
According to LG, the fifteen hives installed in Malaga already contain some 15,000 bees each and this figure will grow in the coming months thanks to the floral richness of the surroundings and the “privileged climate” of the province, “whose 300 sunny days a year allow an efficient and little intrusive care”.
The Iberian bee has some morphological characteristics that differentiate it from other races of Apis mellifera: they are dark in color, smaller than European bees and with a longer tongue, have slightly blurred stripes and show a somewhat nervous and aggressive behaviour.