30% of bees at risk

Kurdish beekeepers warn of risks to colonies from pesticide use

ERBIL — The Kurdistan Beekeepers Association is raising concerns about the decline in bee populations due to the widespread use of pesticides in the region.

Association head Ahmed Pashdari estimates that 30% of the region’s bees have disappeared, based on observations, expressing concerns over the lack of official data on bee population decline.

Pashdari criticized the use of chemical pesticides, particularly during the current application season, highlighting the negative impact on bee colonies located near sprayed areas.

Pesticides are widely used across various areas in Kurdistan, notably by farmers in the plains of Erbil, Koya, and beyond. Pashdari emphasized the need for a 2-kilometer buffer zone between spraying zones and beehives to keep apiaries safe.

“Bees, which typically travel distances ranging from two to five kilometers, are inevitably exposed to these hazardous substances due to their foraging habits,” he added.

Chemical herbicides and other insecticides have a similar negative effect on bee populations, adding to the effects of other pesticides. A 2013 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) determined that “insecticide use had a significant negative effect on bee species richness and abundance.”

He also noted the limited effectiveness of rain in mitigating the harmful effects of pesticides on bees and criticized the Ministry of Agriculture for not providing specific guidelines on pesticide use despite requests, stating, “There has been no practical response; the Ministry itself distributes these chemicals to farmers.”

Pashdari has advocated for the use of natural alternatives to harmful chemicals like a mixture of milk and apple cider vinegar, emphasizing its cost-effectiveness and safety for bees.

He further linked the decline in bee populations to a corresponding 30% reduction in honey production in the Kurdistan Region last year, compared to previous years, highlighting the economic and environmental impact of pesticide use.