Bees have deserted up to 25% of hives in towns like Guayanilla in southern Puerto Rico after hundreds of tremors and a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rattled the area.
Puerto Rican bees are abandoning hives as
weeks of earthquakes disrupt colonies, experts said, raising
concerns that a subspecies seen as a possible solution to the
global bee crisis could take another hit after being decimated
by hurricanes in 2017.
Bees have deserted up to 25% of hives in towns like
Guayanilla in southern Puerto Rico after hundreds of tremors and
a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rattled the area, said Hermes Conde,
director of the island’s Eastern Apiculture School. The quakes
have shifted the position of many hives, confused returning bees
and caused destruction inside the wooden boxes, he said.
They have also disrupted beekeepers’ normal feeding of hives
during winter months as farmers recover from quakes that
collapsed hundreds of homes and caused at least one
death. Thousands of Puerto Ricans are sleeping
outdoors, fearful their houses could collapse in another big
As the US territory seeks a disaster declaration from
President Donald Trump to increase relief resources, the
island’s beekeepers are appealing for U.S. donations of “protein
patties” and other bee food to save their hives.
“Bees are looking for calmer areas, fleeing all the movement
in the earthquake zone,” said Conde, who has lost 10 of his 50
hives in Guayanilla and fears more may go if quakes continue.
Alena L. Leeds, a scientist from the United States Geological Survey, operates earthquake monitoring and recording equipment amid aftershocks across the island’s southern coast where recent quakes have toppled homes and schools in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Picture: Carlos Giusti/AP
Puerto Rico’s hardy, productive bees are the descendants of
Africanized bees. They are seen as a possible substitute for
western honey bees that have died off in unprecedented numbers
due to so-called colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Scientists say Puerto Rico’s bees are less susceptible to
parasites blamed for CCD, a phenomenon which has caused economic
losses worldwide in crops that depend on western honey bees for
A Puerto Rican flag hangs within the rubble after it was placed there where store owners and family help remove supplies from Ely Mer Mar hardware store, which partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica. Picture: Carlos Giusti/AP
Around 85% of Puerto Rico’s bees were wiped out by Hurricane
Maria in 2017, which killed about 3,000 people on the Caribbean
island. The bee population has since recovered to around 60% of
its former size, according to Conde.
Neighbours gather outside a shelter afraid of aftershocks after an earthquake in Guanica, Puerto Rico. Picture: Carlos Giusti/AP
Bee expert Tugrul Giray, a professor at the University of
Puerto Rico, said the principal reason bees were abandoning
hives was likely a lack of food as beekeepers tended to other
priorities in their lives.
But he said bees hated vibration, and the repeated tremors
and earthquakes since Dec. 28 had caused them to become less
docile and leave nests.
“Puerto Rico’s beekeepers need special help right now,” said
Giray, warning locals to take care when encountering the
island’s stressed-out bees.