Beekeepers arrested in protest as Chile megadrought hits honey production

Seven police officers were stung during the protests

Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 04 January 2022 13:52
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<p>Beekeepers protest with honeycombs full of bees in front of the Chilean presidential palace</p>

Beekeepers protest with honeycombs full of bees in front of the Chilean presidential palace

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Beekeepers have been detained in Chile after protesting for more government support as a megadrought continues to damage honey production.

Demonstrators took beehives to the presidential palace as they called for more help, saying the current climate was killing the bees on which they rely.

Chile has been hit by prolonged drought conditions over the past decade, prompting its science minister to say it was a “national priority” to tackle the climate crisis. He said last year the South American country was facing “a very significant decrease in rainfall” which was leading to water shortages.

Droughts also affects bee populations, withering the animals’ food sources such as flowers and crops.

This has hurt honey production in Chile, which has led to beekeepers calls for subsidies for honey producers or reforms to improve prices to help them through the dry climate.

Four were detained after staging a protest in Santiago on Monday, which saw 60 beehives - containing an estimated 10,000 bees - placed in front of the Chile’s presidential palace. Seven police officers were stung.

Bees fly around riot police during a protest in Chile

Beekeeper Jose Iturra told reporters the drought in the Colina commune north of Santiago was killing the local bee population.

“Bees are dying,” he said. “There would be no life if the bees die. That’s what we wanted to highlight with this demonstration.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture in the Santiago region said the agency was concerned about the effect the drought was having on the bee.

The government has been providing aid for months to 20 communities experiencing severe water shortages, Omar Guzman, the regional agricultural secretary, told reporters.

The megadrought which has plagued Chile for a decade has been linked to a warm ocean “blob” in the Pacific Ocean, believed to have grown in size at least partly due to rising temperatures.

The “blob” radiates hot air which gets transported by wind currents to Chile. This impacts pressure trends, which affects rainfall.

Excess heat in the air also leads to more moisture evaporating from the soil, leading to dry conditions.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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