bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pining away from too much attention

An EU initiative is alleged to be destroying Greek forests. With a grant of 2.1 million euros from the EU, Greek beekeepers have populated 15,000 hectares of pine forests with insects that secrete a substance that bees collect to make honeydew (yes, that's right, honeydew honey is effectively insect poo and bee vomit). But the forests are reported to be dying under the the infestation of the insect.

The insect in question is Marchalina hellenica, found in the eastern Mediterranean, and it sucks pine tree sap and then secretes a white cotton-like wax in the process. Honeybees forage this and it is thought it accounts for up to 8,000 tons of pine honey each year. Overall it accounts for some 60 percent of Greece's honey (I haven't checked those reported figures.)

Natural oil sprays containing thyme and lentisk are now being considered to deter the sap-sucking insect.


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