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Illegally harvested timber in Colombia is being repurposed to aid bee populations.
Americas Science & Health

Illegally harvested timber in Colombia is being repurposed to aid bee populations.

Police in northeast Colombia are protecting warehouses filled with seized timber, which will now be used to create new homes for bees that are struggling due to pesticides and climate change.

The wood that is obtained through illegal means is being utilized in the “Timber Returns Home” project in the Santander department. This project, which started in 2021, involves constructing hives to shelter the essential pollinators necessary for human survival.

The Santander environmental authority reports that the project has utilized 200 cubic meters of wood to create 1,000 beehives, with plans to construct an additional 10,000 in the next phase.

Before, confiscated wood was converted into sawdust, given to local governments for use in projects … and occasionally left to decompose.

Biologist German Perilla, director of the Honey Bee Impact Foundation, stated that the current focus of the organization is on tackling the pressing issue of potential bee extinction.

Approximately 75% of crops that provide fruits or seeds for human consumption rely on pollination. The United Nations has raised concerns that 40% of invertebrate pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are at risk of going extinct worldwide.

According to beekeeper Maria Acevedo, a major concern is the depletion of trees and lack of flowers. This could result in a chain reaction where the absence of flowers leads to the decline of bees, ultimately affecting humans who rely on bees for food. Acevedo is one of the individuals benefiting from this project.

According to the woman, she lost over 50% of her beehives in 2023. She believes that the use of pesticides in the production of crops like coffee nearby is the cause.

Multiple threats

According to official data, some 3,000 hives, each able to house around 50,000 bees, die off in Colombia each year. Laboratory tests found traces of the insecticide fipronil in most of the dead insects.

Starting in February 2024, Colombia will prohibit the use of fipronil, which is already banned in Europe and limited in use in the United States and China.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. reports that climate change is causing more severe weather events such as high temperatures, droughts, and floods. These events are resulting in a decrease in nectar-producing flowers that bees rely on for food. Additionally, research has shown that bee infertility is connected to heat stress.

The environmental agency in Santander confiscates approximately 1,000 cubic meters of illegally cut down trees during annual anti-trafficking efforts.

In 2022, the nation suffered a loss of 123,517 hectares of forest, with the majority being in the Amazon, which is the biggest rainforest in the world.

The environment ministry reports that approximately 50% of timber traded in Colombia is obtained illegally.