Beekeepers producing honey from the flowers of false acacias are panicking about the possibility that the trees may soon be regulated as an exotic species.
In response, some have joined animal and plant researchers to set up a group to protect the tree also known as the locust but widely known in Japan as “nise akashia.”
About 120 of them gathered in Tokyo’s Hibiya district last month, distributing leaflets against moves to regulate the trees and honey.
A campaign to preserve the trees was also held May 11 in the town of Kosaka, Akita Prefecture, where a mountain that was ruined by mining has since been restored through the planting of false acacias.
A false acacia was featured in a song, “Akashia no Hana” (“The Acacia Flower”) written by noted poet Hakushu Kitahara (1885-1941).
The deciduous trees native to North America were introduced to Japan during the Meiji Era (1968-1912) as roadside trees and for fuel. Because they were so robust and prolific, they spread to mountains, forests, seashores and riverbeds.
They became the source of high-grade honey in Hokkaido and the prefectures of Nagano and Akita.
But with the introduction last June of the law to limit damage from so-called exotic species deemed harmful to regional native ecosystems, the Environment Ministry included false acacias on the list of 148 exotic living organisms requiring special attention.
Cultivating the trees would be banned and they would be subject to extermination if the ministry formally regulates them. But officials said they have not made any decision because scientific verification is necessary to find whether they pose a risk to the ecosystem.
Domestic honey output amounts to about 2,500 to 2,600 tons a year, according to the Japan Beekeepers Association. That constitutes a self-sufficiency rate of about 5 percent. The industry meanwhile faces a glut of low-priced honey from China.
Beekeeper Masami Kimura said, “Domestic beekeeping businesses would be wiped out if acacias were regulated because honey produced from lotus flowers is sharply declining due to the damage caused by noxious insects.”
But the Ecological Society of Japan listed false acacias among about 100 exotic species it said were harmful in 2000. Researchers from the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry are felling the trees along Tokyo’s Tama River to save wild chrysanthemums along the banks.
Susaka, Nagano Prefecture, plans to eradicate false acacias that have thrived along the Chikuma River because some people claim the trees are the source of anthracnose infection in apples.
Beekeepers are opposed to eradication, saying that it will not only lead to the decline of the apicultural industry but also bees themselves.
They also said there would be an immeasurable economic loss resulting from bees’ inability to cross-pollinate fruit, including strawberries, and vegetables.
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