The Peasant Coordinator of Valencia-COAG has warned that the mortality of hives and the application of the Pinyolà Agreement threaten the pollination of crops such as avocado. Extreme weather events such as the persistent spring rains of the last three years and the problems arising from Varroosis have decimated the number of bees, and it is estimated that the current apiary census may have decreased by 40-50% and that the hives are facing spring in an unusual state of weakness.
"The reduction of bees available to pollinate spring crops will be more pronounced due to the application of a new Council Agreement on the banishment of hives during the flowering of citrus trees (Agreement of 10-3-23, DOGV 9551)," the organization stated.
"For the past 30 years, bees have been used as scapegoats for an issue that was created by the lack of planning of citrus varieties. The responsibility for this issue lies solely with citrus growers and the Ministry of Agriculture. When adjacent compatible varieties are planted without control, the appearance of seeds is a logical problem, but bees are a passive subject, and it is a fallacy to place the responsibility on beekeepers when the solution to the problem would be to order the plantations of mandarin hybrids. The offense for the Valencian beekeeping sector is greater when there are other options to recover coexistence such as meshing, using hybrid varieties that don't present seed issues, or even using effective treatments based on sulfur."
The census of professional beekeepers has fallen by half in the Valencian Community during the last decade. "When we add to this decrease in the number of bees the chronic decay of the rest of the pollinating insects in agricultural environments due to habitat destruction and the intensive use of phytosanitary products, the result can be very negative for avocado and kiwi crops, as their distribution and flowering time coincides with the citrus crops."
"Avocado cultivars have experienced a considerable increase in recent years due to the lack of profitability of citrus crops. According to the literature consulted, honey bees are a very effective pollinator of avocado flowers, but there should be a high density of hives because bees have a greater preference for citrus flowers.
"Therefore, in order to guarantee the correct production of crops and natural flora that share territory with the citrus trees and that coincide in their age of flowering, it would be necessary to ensure the abundant presence of honey bees, which is not compatible with the application of the Pinyolà Agreement, which requires the withdrawal of hives from citrus areas during the months of April and May 2023."