By Javier Martin
Easter Island, Chile, Nov 25 (EFE).- Isolated on an island in the middle of the southeastern Pacific Ocean, free from predators and all illnesses that decimate their population in other parts of the world, the bees of Chile’s Easter Island produce the purest honey on Earth.
“The farmers here use practically no pesticides. They use ancestral farming techniques. The water also is completely natural, from rainfall. They have a clean source of water all over the island,” Rodrigo Labra, one of that special territory’s beekeepers, told Efe.
“But the main thing is that unlike the bees (elsewhere) in the world these are not associated with any type of diseases,” the apiarist added, referring to illnesses such as Nosema, Varroa mite disease, American foulbrood and European foulbrood.
In recent years, amid a growing sense of urgency surrounding the need to tackle climate change, a debate has begun on the importance of bees and the devastating impact on the planet if they were to be lost.
Besides producing honey, these winged insects are essential for pollination and, according to experts, their disappearance would cause half of all plant species and 75 percent of the food products humans consume (including meat) to disappear as well.
“Most of our foods have gone through the process of bee pollination, from fruits like papaya, the wheat in bread, even chicken and pigs, which feed on pollinated products,” said Adriana Correa Benitez, head of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Department of Medicine and Zootechnics of Bees, Rabbits and Aquatic Organisms.
Correa Benitez pointed to different reasons for the decline in bee populations, particularly in Asian and Latin American countries, among them the climate crisis; phytosanitary products used in agriculture, such as insecticides; and diseases.
On Easter Island, the island’s year-round mild temperatures and wide variety of flowers enable up to four harvests annually, while its isolation (a five-hour plane flight from Santiago) is conducive to preserving the honey’s purity.
Diana Edmunds, president of the Easter Island Apiarists’ Association, hailed the island’s unique qualities.
“Having a number of wild beehives available on the island for everyone enables us to have a world-class bee reserve. That’s why it’s so important to have and protect wild beehives,” she said while showing Efe one of the largest remaining ones in the Ahu Tepei cave.
But not everyone is aware of their importance, particularly farmers, who are known to set fire to wild beehives either out of fear or in keeping with a tradition handed down by the first European settlers on the island.
“Bees are constantly working, and if there are fires nearby, a lack of water, they leave what’s there and emigrate. They start from zero (in another place),” said Edmunds, who said she is determined to raise awareness among children so they change their minds about the erroneous concepts passed down by their parents.
“Adults don’t understand because they see they need to work and the bees are an annoyance. But if we can create awareness among children, explain to them the real work bees do within the course of their grandfather’s farm work or at their father’s place they’ll understand the bees’ work” and the need to preserve that precious resource in their only remaining paradise on Earth, she added. EFE