Bees living along and near the Mediterranean Sea face more devastation... we just blogged about the bees lost to the wildfires on the Italian island of Sardinia and now this Turkish tragedy comes at the same time. Marmaris is located on the southwestern coast of Turkey, close to the Greek Island of Rhodes.
At least eight people have died in the wildfires that have devastated Turkey's coastline.
In the Marmaris region, the people are also mourning the loss of their bees and their pine forests.
Most of the world’s pine honey came from this corner of Turkey. It is a special kind of honey that depends on a delicate ecosystem that has now been mostly destroyed.
The beekeepers in this area are facing a bleak future, having lost both their bees and their pine trees. Many homes and livelihoods are gone in one big blaze.
The people are sorrowful, and at this time they cannot imagine how beekeeping is not dead in their world.
This 2:30-minute video by BBC News is called “Will Turkey’s Bees Return After the Wildfires?”
The question becomes, if Turkey's bees were to return after the wildfires, what would they return to? If they weren’t killed in the blaze, they would return to find their pine trees gone—and therefore their source of food—and the trees are not coming back.
The rare pine honey of Marmaris is no more. The bees pollinated the pine trees and now all the pine trees are gone. Turkey has been the world’s biggest producer of pine honey and most of it came from this region.
It is easy enough to replace honeybees, at least so far. It is impossible to replace pine trees in a manner where this industry can recover. New pine trees can be planted but it will take 50-60 years for these trees to grow to the size where they acquire honey-giving properties and are populated by the necessary insects again.
Two full generations from now is when this area may be able to start making pine honey again.
With their ecosystem destroyed, the people are grieving the loss of a way of life and their livelihood. Many of them are older and have been beekeepers all their lives. They don’t know what to do.
Pine honey comes from only certain pine tree species: Pinus brutia and Pinus pinea. It requires cooperation between two types of insects. The bees first gather the honeydew (basura) secretions of the insect called Marchaline hellenicas that lives on the pine trees. These secretions contain the pine sap, to which the honeybees then add their own secretions to turn it into honey in their honeycombs.
Check out the Marmaris Honey House website to see the amazing honeycomb-shaped building and the beautiful interior of their 'honey temple-like building.' One sees immediately how proud these people are of their honeybees and pine trees and pine honey.
Perhaps once things settle down, if the bees do come back to the humans that love them, there will be a solution. It will not be ideal, because it won’t be pine honey. But maybe they can start over with other bee-friendly plants and produce a different type of honey while they wait with patience for their pine trees to grow for future generations.