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By Ramiro Velasteguf and Giovanni Onore, Ecuador
In the tropics, at altitudes from sea level to 1500m, one of the most common and serious problems that beekeepers face is the destruction of hives by harmful agents like termites. Termites need cellulose as a main part of their diet and therefore search for wood sources. The termites penetrate the hive walls and eat the wooden structures. They cause great and irreversible damage.
Mr Berni Loor is a beekeeper in Ecuador's Manabi Province, near the Pacific Coast. Using his own knowledge and the experience of other beekeepers in the region, he has discovered a very efficient and cheap method to prevent this problem. He uses a home-made repellent using chemicals extracted from the seeds of the plant Lupinus mutabilis.
This is locally known as "choco", and grows in the tropical and temperate regions of the highlands of the Andes, from Colombia to Bolivia. The seeds of this plant are rich in protein. and therefore our people have always used them as part of their diet. According to De Lucca & Zalles writing in Yesid & Correa (1992), the "choco" seeds, prior to being eaten are boiled and then soaked in water for five to six days to eliminate the poisonous and bitter substances.
The repellent is made from the water in which the "choco" seeds were boiled. This cooking water is mixed with one spoonful of liquid soap per litre. It is not yet known which chemical, or group of chemicals, from the seeds of these plants are responsible for the action against the termites. It is probably the toxic alkaloids that are present in a high proportion.
Before they are used, hive boxes and frames are washed thoroughly with this mixture. They are then soaked in the same liquid for at least two days to allow the ingredients to penetrate into the wood. After the hive boxes have been treated with the compound, they are dried out completely in the open air. The active ingredients impregnate the wooden surfaces, forming a long-lasting barrier that repels intruding insects.
YESID, H; CORREA, J E (1992) Especies vegetales promisorias de los Paises del Convenio Andres Bello. Editora Guadalupe Ltds, Santafe de Bogota DC, Colombia
[Bees for Development Journal #44]