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This webinar was conducted as part of the Asian Pollinator Initiatives Alliance’s (APIA) efforts to “connect like-minded individuals and organisations in Asia to raise public awareness on for pollinator protection as well as sharing of knowledge and resources,” Spencer Leung, Go Organics Peace International’s founder, said in the webinar’s introductory remarks.
Based in Bangkok, The APIA was formed with members from WWF Thailand, Go Organics Peace International, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia, Biothai, as well as having support from Assoc. Prof Dr Orawan Duanophakdee from King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) and Assistant Professor Dr Alyssa Stewart from Mahidol University, two leading researchers in the pollinators field.
Lead by Biologist french Eric Guren, the webinar had a primary focus on Rafter beekeeping, a traditional sustainable and safe beekeeping and honey collection technique for Apis dorsata Fabricius or the Asian giant honey bee. Varieties of rafter beekeeping can be found across Southeast Asia in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
Eric, who has been working with small scale beekeepers and honey hunters across the region for more than a decade, bought immense experience and expertise to the session.
Honey hunting and beekeeping can be dangerous. From Eric’s own experience, he has seen many honey hunters having faced accidents.
“Honey from the Asian giant honey bee, Apis dorsata Fabricius, is highly appreciated and their collection contributes to the livelihood of tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of honey hunters throughout South and Southeast Asia. Honey hunters, who often belong to less privileged communities, take considerable risks to harvest the precious liquid from nests hanging high up in trees. Moreover, part of the nests is harvested in a destructive manner; honey hunters not only collect the honey but cut off the whole nests; thus, contributing to the decline of local bee populations” said Eric
“Several communities in South East Asia have empirically developed a technique that combines more sustainable and safer honey harvests from Apis dorsata. This technique is called rafter beekeeping. Basically, a rafter is the trunk of around 2 m in length and around 20 cm in diameter supported by two vertical poles and mimicking a branch of a tree to attract Apis dorsata swarms to build a nest beneath it.”
Many have tried to domesticate Apis dorsata colonies, but its difficult cause they usually open nest so they do not feel comfortable in boxes as with other species of bees. This is why rafter beekeeping is safer and more effective. It combines sustainable and safer honey harvesting techniques. Due to the possibilities to extract honey without damaging the whole hive or needing the bees to abscond completely, “introducing [rafter beekeeping] to new communities, may greatly facilitate the work of honey hunters while contributing to the conservation of the Asian giant honey bee” said Eric.
Moreover, as Apis dorsata can nest and survive in man-made structures rafter beekeeping, while predominantly utilised in the wild, also provides many opportunities for urban beekeeping projects something that is becoming increasingly more crucial as pollinators populations are declining.
Eric’s report on rafter beekeeping published with the help of WWF Thailand can be viewed here.
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The recording of the webinar can be viewed here.