Nakuru County has started lobbying for commercialisation of the queen bee as part of efforts to curb a decline in its population.
The county's agriculture department said this on Thursday, adding that there has been a tremendous drop in both the quality and quantity of honey and the health of bees, as well as a general low yield due to an unexplored potential for pollination.
As such, Agriculture executive Dr Immaculate Maina noted the need to review the policy on bee keeping at county level.
“The government needs to speedily look into the safety of honey and the health of bees, and address issues relating to the ban of molecules that are harmful to the bees and which cause low yield,” he said during a meeting with the State department of livestock on Thursday.
Dr Maina observed that the department of agriculture, livestock and fisheries is keen on growth but needs the government's support.
Going forward, she said, the county will partner with other parties in commercialising incubation of the queen bee as well as bee bulking to ensure multiplication of colonies as supported by the Big Four Agenda.
Today, the declining bee population has seen annual honey production drop from 35,000 to 25,000 tonnes, leaving the country with a consumption deficit of 13,000 metric tonnes.
The department noted that for last one year, farmers in Mogotio, Njoro, Rongai and Bahati have expressed concerns about production.
They once recorded high levels but they have been opting for fruits and vegetables.
“Most of them are discouraged by how much longer it takes the bees to colonise the hives in areas that initially had plenty of the insects,” she said.
Dr Maina said that with technology, farmers can avoid variability in production, with some hives missing honey due to lack of a colony and others having plenty of it.
Without bees, chances of cross-pollination are dim. This drastically reduces food production, a circumstance that worries most agriculturalists.
Agriculture Chief Officer Joel Kibet said Nakuru risks suffering a food shortage yet the goal is for a surplus that would see it send large portions to neighbouring counties.
“Many farmers are complaining that their hives are not colonised. We need queen bee propagation technologies to boost bee farming,” he said.
Mr Kibet noted that the main purpose of the bee is pollination but that most people do not understand this.
“We keep insisting that farmers should grow sunflowers and avocados, which require pollination, but we do not tell them how the crops will be pollinated. This is why we must address the pollination service,” explained the chief officer.
The queen bees are sole reproductive female in a colony, and the presence of a healthy, high-quality queen is essential for colony survival not only because of their ability to lay large numbers of female and male eggs but also because the social coherence of a colony depends on her pheromones.
According to experts, pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the country and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in diets.
However, insect pollination is integral to food security. Honey bees enable the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops in the country.