Turkish Beekeepers Abuzz Over Pesticide Concerns

bal honey polonezkoy istanbul photo

Honey for sale in Polonezköy, an Istanbul village. Photo: ccarlstead / Creative Commons

If you ask me, the real "Turkish delight" is served at breakfast time: A square of rich, thick kaymak (clotted cream), topped with fresh-off-the-comb honey (bal). But though Turkey is one of the world's top honey producers, and a major exporter to Europe, problems with pesticide use have beekeepers worried.In the past, the sunflower-growing area of Tekirdağ, part of the Thrace region west of Istanbul, was a major draw for honeybees. Now experts and beekeepers say the crops have become a serious threat. According to retired Professor Muhsin Doğaroğlu, an apiculture expert, pesticides used in the region have had a negative effect on bees, the Turkish paper Hürriyet Daily News reported:

The type of pesticide used on sunflowers has been banned by the Agriculture Ministry, Doğaroğlu said, but added that the effects of its past use would continue to be felt for years to come.

"This pesticide affects the bees' nervous systems," he said. "It causes bees to lose their ability to smell and find their direction."

Because of the pesticide, beekeepers have stopped coming to Thrace, the academic also said.

Beekeepers who used to bring their bees to the area to feed on the sunflowers say their bees became confused and weak after coming to Tekirdağ and sometimes even die.

Other parts of Turkey have experienced similar problems as part of the global decline in honeybee numbers. The same newspaper reported last year that bee deaths were increasing in the country's eastern Black Sea region, where some honey producers had seen a 50 percent drop in their harvest. Better enjoy your bal kaymak while you can.

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