The community of Odou on the Larnaca mountains, an area ravaged by a massive fire last July, will reap the benefits of the world’s most valuable creatures with the creation of a queen bee artificial insemination centre.

Seventy-five per cent of beehives in Odou were destroyed in the fire.

The creation of ‘Life Bee’ centre, an initiative by Bank of Cyprus and Rotary Clubs, was announced by Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis on Tuesday. He stressed the importance of beekeeping in producing high value nutrition products in Cyprus and providing a primary as well as supplementary source of income for a significant number of families.

“The importance of bees is far greater for environmental production, as they contribute towards establishing ecological balance and biodiversity, with 84 per cent of plant products and 76 per cent of food production in Europe depending on bee pollination,” Kadis said.

He further referred to a number of policies implemented by the agriculture ministry through both local and European programmes, mostly the European Commission’s co-funded beekeeping programme, supporting improvements in production and trading conditions for hive products. The funds have increased from 200 to 340 thousand euros in 2021.

Beekeepers are also supported by the agricultural development programme, including efforts for co-existence with bee-eaters (Merops Apiaster), an innovative measure that Cyprus is the first to implement.

Kadis said that beekeeping programmes have led to positive results, with the total number of hives increasing from 43 thousand in 2017 to 58 thousand in 2021, a rise of almost 40 per cent. Honey production has also almost tripled from 246 to 660 tonnes a year.

But this past winter has hit the sector hard, the agriculture minister said, so beekeepers will receive an additional subsidy of 380 thousand euros.

“We all stood witness to the devastating fire last summer which cost lives, destroyed infrastructure and caused major damage to the area’s agriculture and environment,” the minister added and expressed the hope that collective efforts can strengthen the area’s agricultural activity and natural landscape.

Kadis praised efforts by non-governmental organisations and volunteers, including the creation of the queen bee artificial insemination centre, aiming to restore the environment and build up business in the area.