SHIBIN EL KOM, Egypt (Reuters) - Egypt's beekeepers say their hives are under threat because of a shortage of sugar, as are the flowers and crops that their bees pollinate.
Sugar became hard to find in recent months after the government took control of stocks to counter what it said was an epidemic of hoarding by merchants reacting to rising prices as a result of a shortage of foreign currency.
Bees are fed sugar to tide them over the winter and to compensate for honey harvested from their hives.
Beekeeping in Egypt can be traced back to the time of the Pharaohs, with the first hieroglyphs of bees dating back thousands of years.
"There is a sugar crisis and the bees have to receive nutrition through their winter hibernation," said commercial beekeeper Saeed Hagras.
With sugar in short supply, beekeepers had to let their bees consume honey instead.
"So now instead of profiting from taking the honey produced and selling it, we are now supplying it for the bees again instead of the sugar," Hagras told Reuters Television at his farm in Shibin El Kom, the capital of the Nile Delta province of Menoufia.
His son Mohamed said the government should step in to help, particularly as there were opportunities to export honey profitably to the United States and Canada.
"We are calling on the government to help the beekeepers to provide support. This will create employment opportunities to the youth and open up investment."
Mohamed added: "Many will be employed and the country will receive hard currency. We are in dire need of hard currency and investment."
Another beekeeper, Rayhan Meligy, said crops would suffer if bees were allowed to die out.
"The crops are pollinated through bees. There will be no crops and the corn will decline, the harvest will decline and the clover will decline. All the crops will decline," he said.
(Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)