Special New Houses help Vanuatu’s Honey Bees Adapt to Climate Change

Everyone knows that honey bees are important producers of honey; and even more importantly that bees are key pollinators of the crops and trees that we depend on in Vanuatu. But while honey bees are not usually considered victims of climate change in the Pacific, Vanuatu’s bees are already suffering the negative consequences of changing weather patterns and increasing temperature. Climate variability and change affect the behaviour, productivity and health of Vanuatu’s local bee populations. New pests and diseases are affecting bee populations, as is the severe lack of available nectar and pollen during rainy periods. But like all negative impacts of climate change, there are actions that we can take now to help our bees and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

Gilbert Gibson is a champion for climate change adaptation in the honey bee sector. Living in Vanuatu for decades, he knows our bees inside and out. According the Gibson, the potential for Vanuatu to commercially produce honey is huge, and could be a major source of economic revenue and also food security for our people. Currently many people focus on the harvest of wild honey from the bush, but Gibson has shown that with some work, bee farming in Vanuatu can be extremely successful. But dealing with climate change is an important part of becoming a bee farmer.

With the support of the SPC-GIZ Climate Change program, Gibson has trialled several adaptation techniques with bees to help hem adapt to climate change. Working at pilot sites on Pele Island and Ulei Junior Secondary School, he and local counterparts have tested ways to keep bees healthy and productive despite variable climate and weather. For one, he has developed an innovative cooling system for bees: hives with wire mesh undersides which keep bees content even as temperatures rise. In addition he has developed a veranda-type entry system for hives, which ensures that rain and moisture does not disturb honey production.

Most exciting, Gibson has designed a special new climate change adaptation house for bees. The bee house is an attempt to prevent climate extremes from affecting bees and bee keepers. By shading and sheltering bee hives, high temperature, extreme rainfall and strong wind concerns are drastically reduced. Gibson’s bee house currently houses 24 hives, and allows bees to enter from the outside, and beekeepers a bee-free space to work inside. Using widely available materials, the new bee house looks to be a major boost to the honey industry in Vanuatu and a key adaptation for climate change among Pacific Islands. Gibson has included climate change adaptation considerations into his Vanuatu-focused training materials, and also regularly runs courses on bee keeping and climate adaptation to interested farmers throughout the country.

For more information on climate change adaptation in Vanuatu, contact SPC-GIZ Climate Change at VanuatuClimateChange@gmail.com or visit the NAB online Portal www.nab.vu.