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Bee Sector Safe - No Plans yet for Mosquito Spraying

By Claudia Gardner, Gleaner Writer

Jamaica Gleaner Online
December 11, 2006

Lucea, Hanover:

Fears of a threat to Jamaica's multimillion-dollar bee industry were dismissed by the Ministry of Health yesterday, indicating that there were no immediate plans to conduct aerial spraying to kill mosquitoes in the fight against malaria.

Dr. Marion Bullock-DuCasse, director of emergency services in the ministry, told The Gleaner that spraying would only be done if other vector-control measures failed.

"We do not plan to do any aerial spraying at this point in time. We are using other vector-control methods and they are working well," Mrs. Bullock-DuCasse said.

Concerns had been expressed by the bee industry after the probability of spraying had been indicated by Health Minister Horace Dalley last week.

In other developments, the Trinidad Express newspaper reported yesterday that the Ministry of Health in Trinidad and Tobago has started a special programme to ensure that people arriving there from malaria-infected countries are properly screened by officials of the Vector Control Unit.

The ministry's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Rohit Doon, was reported by the newspaper as saying that checks will be carried out on people coming "not only from Jamaica, but also Guyana, Venezuela and other areas where the mosquito lives," to ensure that they have proof they have been vaccinated against the disease. Dr. Doon was reported as saying that people travelling to Jamaica and other malaria-affected nations should either be inoculated against the disease or take prophylactic tablets to ward off the illness.

Wipe out

Last week, after Health Minister Dalley said the ministry might undertake aerial spraying to get rid of the anopheles mosquito which transmits the disease, the All- Island Bee Farmers' Association President, Winfield Murray, on the weekend said such proposed spraying could wipe out the island's bee population.

Mr. Murray made his comments during his address as keynote speaker at the Third Annual Awards Dinner of the Hanover Bee Farmers' Association last Saturday night in Lucea.

"With an industry of this magnitude, I became concerned when I heard the Minister of Health say he was considering the possibility of spraying, to control the onset of the malaria disease," Mr. Murray said.

"It was for this reason that I wrote to him and asked him to make spraying his last resort. I further advised him to employ selective spraying methods rather than general spraying, and, if spraying is necessary, to advise the association and the bee-keeping unit."

Entomologists have said the concerns of the bee farmers should be taken as genuine as spraying may affect nearly all species of insects.

Mrs. Bullock-DuCasse, mean-while, said she is aware of the bee farmers' concerns. She said the ministry has been in contact with the group and they are being kept abreast with development regarding methods being used to destroy the anopheles mosquitoes.

The ministry thus far has been engaging in search and destroy missions, cleaning and fogging suspected breeding sites of the mosquitoes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Murray urged bee farmers to take the necessary measures to protect their apiaries, in the event the Ministry decides to resort to spraying.

Mr. Murray said a recent study conducted by his organisation, had revealed that there are 900 bee farmers in Jamaica with colonies valued at more than $282 million, yielding in excess of $441 million worth of honey and other assets valued at over $300 million.

"The local and foreign demand for honey is phenomenal," Mr. Murray said. JAMPRO (Jamaica Promotions), the exporting companies and the beekeeping unit at the Ministry of Agriculture and I have gotten numerous calls enquiring about the possibility of supply of hundreds of tonnes of honey to the overseas market."

Mr. Murray also said the All Island Bee Framers Association intended to increase the number of bee farmers by 50 per cent within the next three years, as well as well as produce honey by-products such as bee pollen for the export market with in the next three years.