Greek Bees and Pine Forests Devastated in Wildfire Inferno
Greece is one of the European Union’s largest honey producers. The Mediterranean climate and heavily forested areas create a soft climate where bees thrive.
Istiaia Beekeepers’ Cooperative on Evia has 60 members. According to its head, Stathis Albanis, the rolling mountainous forests of northern Evia produced around 40% of the pine honey collected in Greece. Now there is no more pollen, nothing for bees to eat, and the beekeepers are devastated.
Intense blazing fires have carved paths of utter destruction throughout the Mediterranean this year. Just this week we posted on bees, trees and entire honey businesses going up in flames on the Italian island of Sardinia, coastal Turkey, and now a Greek island. There is more to come.
Arsonists have been arrested but there is also talk that the fires are caused by searing heat from a record heat wave. It hardly matters in the aftermath, once the trail of destruction leaves nothing but ash, burnt-out buildings and destroyed forests in its wake.
As always, our focus is on bees and honey. The story here in Greece is as grim as the fiery tragedy unfolding in Turkey that we blogged about earlier this week.
The island of Evia blazed for a solid week, with just about everything on fire. The pine forests were scorched and charred beyond recognition.
This 2:25-minute video by BBC News shows the Greek island of Evia being evacuated in a peculiar orange light, and it seems that much of the population feels they were let down by their government in how these fires were handled.
Local beekeeper Antonis Vakas surveyed the blackened remains of the burnt-down forest where he made his livelihood until recently. The hungry fire devoured scores of beehives. Millions of bees were incinerated, just like the losses in Turkey. Vakas had 130 beehives until the angry fires swept through. Now only 30 remain.
Now that the pine trees are gone, there is no food for the bees. Pine forests take five to six decades to grow to a point where honey can be produced from the trees. This tragic unfoldment heralds the end of an era, as there can be no further pine honey collection in this area for the next two generations.
Greece was famous for its high-quality, prized pine honey. The beekeepers took pride in their unique and rare product, as well as in the bees that worked with them in collaboration to produce that honey.
In 2018, Greece produced 15,000 tons of honey according to the most recent Eurostat figures. This makes Greece the EU’s eighth biggest producer and fourth biggest exporter.
As the fires recede and the damage can be assessed, it is clear there is nothing left to sustain bees or beekeepers on Evia. The bees can’t survive in such a desolate and barren landscape, so the beekeepers are also destroyed. Gone are the homes and livelihood of many, overnight.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced compensation and relief this week to help residents and communities rebuild after the devastation.
Vakas and many others affected by the fire feel that the help does not go far enough. In fact he is so angry, there was nothing he could say to him in response.
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