• Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, close the hive back up after checking on the bees at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012.  They replace the layers of insulation devised to help protect the bees from the extreme variations in desert temperature.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, close the hive back up after checking on the bees at...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, close the hive back up after checking on the bees at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012.  Marshall replaces the layers of insulation they devised to help protect the bees from the extreme desert temperature variations.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, close the hive back up after checking on the bees at...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, spread their mixture of bee food into gauze wrapping at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012. Having spent much of their time fighting off invading hornets, the bees did not have enough time to collect enough food for the winter.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, spread their mixture of bee food into gauze wrapping...

  • USgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, spread their mixture of bee food into gauze wrapping at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012. Having spent much of their time fighting off invading hornets, the bees did not have enough time to collect enough food for the winter.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    USgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, spread their mixture of bee food into gauze wrapping...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, mix a batch of bee food at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012. Having spent much of their time fighting off invading hornets, the bees did not have enough time to collect enough food for the winter.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, mix a batch of bee food at Forward Operating Base...

  • A bee approaches the hive entrance at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2012. The entrances were made smaller by the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4 in order to keep invading hornets from entering the hives.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    A bee approaches the hive entrance at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2012. The entrances were made smaller by the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4 in order to keep invading hornets from entering the...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, stand by one of the beehives at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Nov. 16, 2012. The ADT's Mescal detachment is working to introduce beekeeping as a method for increasing the yield of flowering crops in Tarnek-wa-Jaldek district of Zabul province.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, stand by one of the beehives at Forward Operating Base...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, close the hive back up after checking on the bees at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012.  They replace the layers of insulation devised to help protect the bees from the extreme variations in desert temperature.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, close the hive back up after checking on the bees at...

  • Before closing the hive back up, Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, gently brushes the bees back into the hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Before closing the hive back up, Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, gently brushes the bees back into the hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012.

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, show the inside of a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, and some of the modifications they have made Nov. 16, 2012. Vented slats were added to the top of the beehives to help heat escape during the hot desert days.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, show the inside of a hive at Forward Operating Base...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, shows the inside of a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, and some of the modifications they have made Nov. 16, 2012. The ADT's Mescal detachment is working to introduce beekeeping as a method for increasing the yield of flowering crops in Tarnek-wa-Jaldek district of Zabul province.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, shows the inside of a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, and some of the modifications they have made Nov. 16, 2012...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, work at a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012. The ADT's Mescal detachment is working to introduce beekeeping as a method for increasing the yield of flowering crops in Tarnek-wa-Jaldek district of Zabul province.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, work at a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, work at a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012. The ADT's Mescal detachment is working to introduce beekeeping as a method for increasing the yield of flowering crops in Tarnek-wa-Jaldek district of Zabul province.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, work at a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, holds out a comb from a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, showing the darkened area of capped honey that the bees produced Nov. 12, 2012.  The Mississippi National Guard's ADT4 is working to introduce beekeeping as a method for increasing the yield of flowering crops in Tarnek-wa-Jaldek district of Zabul province.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, holds out a comb from a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, showing the darkened area of capped honey that the bees...

  • Bees working in their hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012.  The gauze seen in the upper portion of the photo contains food specially prepared for the bees by the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Bees working in their hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012. The gauze seen in the upper portion of the photo contains food specially prepared for the bees by the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4.

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, show the inside of a hive at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, and some of the modifications they have made Nov. 16, 2012. The Mississippi National Guard's ADT 4 is working to introduce beekeeping as a method for increasing the yield of flowering crops in Tarnek-wa-Jaldek district of Zabul province.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, and Romanian Plutonier Eugen Arsene, with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, show the inside of a hive at Forward Operating Base...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, holds out a comb at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2012, showing the destruction of the hornet attack.  The rough portion to the left of the comb shows where the hornets ate away at the comb to retrieve the bee larva to feed to their own brood.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, holds out a comb at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2012, showing the destruction of the hornet attack. The...

  • The Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4 introduced beekeeping as a method for increasing the yield of flowering crops in Tarnek-wa-Jaldek district of Zabul province, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2012. Vented slats were added to the top of the beehives to help heat escape during the hot desert days.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    The Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4 introduced beekeeping as a method for increasing the yield of flowering crops in Tarnek-wa-Jaldek district of Zabul province, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2012. Vented slats were added to the...

  • Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, finds that making food for the bees is a sticky job at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012. Having spent much of their time fighting off invading hornets, the bees did not have enough time to collect enough food for the winter.

    Bees: More than honey makers

    Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the Mississippi National Guard's Agricultural Development Team 4, finds that making food for the bees is a sticky job at Forward Operating Base Mescal, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012. Having spent much of...

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MESCAL, Afghanistan (Dec. 12, 2012) -- When the Mescal Detachment of Agricultural Development Team 4 from Mississippi arrived in Afghanistan, they didn't know they were inheriting beehives from the outgoing Agricultural Development Team, or ADT, but they found out pretty quickly and they were just in time.

Arriving in September to FOB Mescal, a Romanian-run forward operating post in southern Afghanistan, the Mississippi team took over the effort of bringing improved agricultural practices and animal husbandry to the farming people of Tarnek-wa-Jaldek in Zabul province.

Beekeeping for the purpose of crop pollination was among the improved practices their predecessors tried to introduce. Bees have been proven to significantly increase crop yields for flowering crops such as almonds and pomegranates, both local specialties for the area.

Nine hives of Asian bees were introduced by the previous ADT to various farms in the surrounding area.

When the Mississippi ADT arrived the hives were under attack.

The local Afghans call the attackers "bee wolves." At nearly two inches in length, the large hornet-type of insects were attacking the beehives with military-style precision. They were an enemy the ADT, who are mostly infantrymen, hadn't trained for.

"Nothing we had would kill them that wouldn't also kill the bees, said Sgt. Paul Marshall, an agricultural specialist with the ADT Mescal detachment.

The hornets, five times the size of the bees are able to decapitate their prey mid-flight and can decimate a hive in just a few days.

The Mississippi ADT acted as fast and as best as they could, but they were at a disadvantage in knowledge and expertise to deal with the scope of the problem. Fortunately, they were able to find help in a Romanian soldier who just happened to be stationed at FOB Mescal.

Plutonier Eugen Arsene, a soldier with the Romanian 21st Mountain Battalion, was raised around hundreds of beehives and was taught by his father to be a beekeeper.

With Arsene's help, ADT4 gave their attention to the remaining hives.

The first task tackled was retrofitting the hives with smaller entrances. The modifications made the entrances too small for the hulking wasps to squeeze into and easier for the bees to defend.

Despite the modifications however, the bees were still in trouble.

Some of the trouble that remained was almost to be expected in a project of this type. The goal of the project was, after all, to teach local Afghans the benefits of beekeeping as an improved agricultural method.

But, as portrayed in the 2007 DreamWorks animated feature, Bee Movie, most people think of one thing when they think of bees, and Afghans, it seems, are no exception.

"When you ask people about bees, they think of honey." said Marshall. "Most people don't realize the service they provide."

According to recent estimates as much as on third of all plants and plant products eaten by humans are either directly or indirectly dependent on pollination by bees.

While honeybees are not the only type of insect to perform the service of pollination, they are for many reasons, one of the most effective at the job. The bees' hairy bodies trap pollen as they move from blossom to blossom making them excellent crop pollinators. Without pollination, few seeds, berries or fruits will develop.

On inspecting the hives in the Afghan orchards, Arsene and Marshall found that some hives had squares of honeycomb missing. It was obvious to the team that the honey was being cut out of the hives.

The misconception about the usefulness of bees in pollination rather than simply as makers of honey is well documented. A recent United Nations report titled "The Value of Bees for Crop Pollination" indicated that many farmers all over the world do not recognize the need for bee pollination.

The same UN report stated that the value of bee pollination for crops in regions where agriculture remains challenging is estimated to be 100 times greater, depending on the crop, than the value of the honey harvest.

The important role that the bees can play in significantly improving harvests is a lesson that the Mississippi ADT4 definitely want to teach the Afghan farmers. To do this however, the bees had to survive.

Based on Arsene's recommendation, ADT4 decided to transport the faltering hives back to FOB Mescal for rehabilitation.

What ensued was beekeeping intensive, with Arsene, the master teacher, and Marshall, the primary apprentice.

Only three hives had survived the wasp attacks and honey thefts.

"We improvised," Arsene said. "We invented practically, many activities."

Marshall had much praise for Arsene.

"He has addressed more problems in six months here than he would have had to handle in ten years at home," Marshall said.

Over the next few months Arsene, Marshall and the ADT4 combated everything from fungal infections to a food shortage in trying to care for the bees.

As the hives' health improved the team continued to make modifications to the hive boxes to help combat the extremes of desert temperature and weather conditions.

Next the ADT4 plans to build a shelter over the hives to protect them during the harsh Afghan winter, one that Arsene won't be around to help with as he will soon be headed home to Romania with the rest of his unit.

"Everything [Arsene] has done has been right," Marshall said. "I had to get answers and Arsene had the answer every time."

Arsene however, is confident in Marshall's ability to care for the bees after he leaves.

Marshall and the ADT4 have plans to start more hives in the spring to revitalize the Afghan bee project.

The bees can make a big impact on the agricultural production in the area Marshall explained. The project just has to teach the Afghans that the bees are not for honey, at least not yet.

Page last updated Wed December 12th, 2012 at 00:00