Food and Fertilizer Technology Center - publications

Sep. 01, 2005

Beekeeping by Small-Scale Farmers in Asia

Beekeeping is a popular occupation that has augmented the income of Asian farmers since time immemorial. Honey, its main product, has long been noted for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Aside from additional income, it improves yields by promoting pollination of cultivated crops. Hived bees are brought to farms where pollinators are not enough. Bees are also essential components in glasshouse/greenhouse for pollination.

This international conference and workshop brought together researchers, scientists, project managers, extension specialists, development workers, and entrepreneurs sharing common interest in bees at different perspectives. It provided a forum to exchange technical and managerial skills in beekeeping, discuss the problem faced by the beekeepers, and find out possible solutions t hereof. In this gathering, which was also dubbed as the 7th Asian Apicultural Association Conference and 10th BEENET Conference and Techno-fora, FFTC sponsored 10 technical paper presentations from Japan, Taiwan ROC, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. These papers showcased recent findings and practical technology on beekeeping addressing such areas as pollination/bee biology, behavior, physiology, breeding, pests and diseases, and beekeeping technology, extension and apitheraphy.

Stingless Bees for Crop Pollination under Greenhouse Conditions

Stingless bees are social bees which lack a functional sting. They store honey and pollen, and are sometimes called stingless honey bees. Since they occur in perennial colonies in tropical and sub-tropical climates, it is impossible for them to survive naturally throughout the cold season in countries with a temperate climate. Considering that these people- and ecosystem-friendly bees could be used as crop pollinators, promising stingless bees have been screened and introduced into Japan with practical aim of pollinating crops.

For greenhouse pollination in Japan, stingless bees are potentially promising pollinators for the following reasons: they are harmless to beekeepers and greenhouse workers, visit a wide range of crops (polylecty), are tolerant of high temperatures, are active throughout the year, can be transported easily, and do not pose an environmental risk by escaping and invading natural habitats as they would not survive the Japanese winter. On the other hand, there are many issues which need to be solved before using stingless bees, one of which is how to improve methods for propagating and maintaining colonies throughout the year. To address this issue, a specific glasshouse with attached laboratories has been completed solely for stingless bee researches.

The efficiency of insects as crop pollinators would depend on their biological characteristics in relation to the crop and the environment in which they are needed. Each insect species which has been used as a pollinator so far would have its specific characteristics, which might be favorable or unfavorable from the standpoint of the user. The value of stingless pollinators is obvious from the farmer's point of view. Due to their compact colonies and safety for farmers and visitors, they can be used in areas where stinging insects are not desirable, as in greenhouses. However, very few surveys concerning pollination by stingless bees have been conducted in temperate countries. This work is still limited, and experiments to assess crop pollination efficiency by stingless bees and improve colony management techniques are needed before they can be confidently used for the pollination of crops in greenhouses.

Queen Rearing

In Thailand, queen rearing with Apis cerana provides a challenge to bee breeders for the propagation of bee stock in a selection program in the future. Easier rearing of many queens will predictably improve stock more rapidly. In the future, A. cerana will probably become the favored species for commercial beekeeping in tropical and subtropical Asia, especially if the problems of queen production and absconding can be solved.

Critical factors in the successful queen production of A. cerana include the following: 1) schedules for queen rearing must arrange for the mating of queens to coincide with the availability of mature drones; 2) optimal conditions prevail during the swarming season, or in the early part of a honey flow; 3) bees must be fed if there is no honey flow; 4) colonies must have ample stores of honey and pollen; 5) colonies should have an abundance of young bees; 6) simple methods should be used while the operator learns more demanding techniques such as grafting.

Bee Pests and Diseases

Some important bee pests and diseases identified during the conference include the weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) in Thailand, Varroa destructor in Korea, and American foul brood (AFB) in Taiwan.

In Thailand, one of the dominant insectivorous predators of dward honeybee (Apis florea) is the weaver ant O. smaragdina. Generally, the main mechanism of A. florea to protect its nest against ants (and other pedestrian predators) are the "rings" of sticky material which the bees build around the branches and all structures which connect the comb to the outside. A study was conducted to determine whether the appearance of O. smaragdina ant on the comb releases a specific behavioral response of the bees.

In Korea, V. destructor has brought severe economic damages to the beekeeping industry. For the national control program, the government has provided each apiary with synthetic miticides. The miticides, essential oils, and organic acids were pre-evaluated with respect to their efficacy against Varroa mites in two commercial apiaries. Formic acid was effective in reducing the population of mites, and may be recommended for the reduction of Varroa infestation under apiary conditions. Absorbent materials, temperature range, and the negative effects on bee brood of formic acid application will be investigated in the future.

In Taiwan and many other countries, American foulbrood (AFB), an important disease of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae larvae, is a major concern of the beekeeping industry. AFB is lethal to bee colonies if treatment is not carried out. Only the spore of P. l. larvae can initiate the disease and spores can remain viable on beekeeping equipment for an indefinite period. AFB may recur in a few weeks if the remaining spores are not destroyed.

The strategy for controlling AFB is based on good field diagnosis by experienced beekeepers, regular monitoring of AFB spores in honey by the government, and control of the disease by the proper methods. Depending on the levels of infestation, control methods may include the extraction of contaminated honey, the shaking method (which only preserves adult bees), and the burning of severely infected colonies.

Bee Technology/Apitherapy

In Korea, the use of propolis and bee venom for curable human disorders was reviewed. Of the 903 persons treated by the Korea Apitherapy Healthcare Association (KAHA) for bee stings in 2003, 50% were satisfied by the treatment. Since 1982, when the Korea Bee Sting Institute was founded, 8,730 persons have experienced bee sting therapy. Stingless bee colonies were reared in greenhouses to get high quality unifloral honey and propolis.

Other bee technologies presented during the conference include: development of functional food for the reduction of oxidative stress using propolis; use of honey for treating acute and chronic non-surgical would; and bees as potential sources of chitosan and melanin.


At the end of the conference deliberations, the participants agreed to adopt the following resolutions to bind their commitment in the global promotion of beekeeping:

  • 1. Gaps in the existing knowledge of Asian bees should be identified by documenting observations on bee biology, behavior, and all other information related to bees.

  • 2. The importance of the contribution of non-Apis species, including stingless bees, bumble bees and others to pollination, man's well being, and the maintenance of ecological balance, must be given due consideration. This includes funding for research toward the improvement of management skills in utilizing non-Apis species in crop pollination, among other areas.

  • 3. More data on pollinators and bee plants must be collected to give a fuller picture of bee behavior, as well as to shed light on ecological relationships and provide an indicator of environmental changes and trends.

  • 4. The conservation of native bees should be actively promoted, both through the protection of their natural environment and by culturing of such species, a practice which will contribute to the maintenance of these species while benefiting man. Stricter policies on deforestation should be implemented.

  • 5. An integrated approach to the management of bee pests and diseases should be supported, incorporating chemical, ecological and other approaches , making for a holistic and ultimately more effective strategy.

  • 6. Researches on the genetic and molecular aspects should be given emphasis, not only as a basic research, but for its contribution to the elucidation of the taxonomy and evolutionary status of Asian bees- an area which has seen many recent development and revisions.

  • 7. In order to maximize the impact of research and development on apiculture in the continent, existing technologies should be made freely available and modified to suit the needs of different countries. Traditional practices should be recognized and complemented with new ones. This could be done through government agencies, and private sectors (including existing national industry networks0 or through the Internet, where they might be accessed through a centralized website.

  • 8. The development of apitheraphy should be encouraged through the dissemination of information both the medical community and the general public, even as more research is conducted in this area to establish a firm scientific basis for this discipline.

  • 9. Those involved in bee science and apiculture should be more aggressive in submitting relevant proposals to funding agencies like the FAO to promote research in the field as well as to increase awareness on the part of the agencies and the general public of the importance of bee science and technology.

International Conference and Workshop on Beekeeping by Small-Scale Farmers in Asia

Held at the SEARCA Auditorium, University of the Philippines Los Baños on February 23-27

Countries represented: 21 (Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Poland, China, Philippines, Germany, Russia, India, Switzerland, Indonesia, Taiwan ROC, Italy, Thailand, Japan, United Kingdom, Korea, USA, Malaysia, Vietnam)

Papers presented: 65 (FFTC-sponsored papers: 10)

Participants: 215

Cosponsors: Asian Apicultural Association University of the Philippines Los Baños

List of FFTC-Sponsored Papers

  • 1. Attempts to introduce stingless bees for the pollination of crops under greenhouse conditions in Japan

  • - K. Amano, National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science, Japan

  • 2. Control strategy of American foulbrood in Taiwan

  • - Y.W. Chen, National I-Lan University and K.K. Ho, National Taiwan University, Taiwan ROC

  • 3. Foraging behavior of stingless bees in Korea

  • - K.S. Woo, Seoul National University, Korea

  • 4. Preliminary evaluation of synthetic miticides and natural compounds to control Varroa destructor

  • - M.L. Lee and S. J. Chang, National Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology; C. Y. Hwang, Cheonbuk National University; Y. D. Chang, Chungnam National University; and K. S. Woo, Seoul National University, Korea

  • 5. Queen rearing of Apis cerana in Thailand

  • - S. Deowanish, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

  • 6. Social defense of dwarf honeybees, Apis florea against weaver ant, Oecophylla smaragdina

  • - O. Duangphakdee, Chulalongkorn University;N. Koeniger and G. Koeniger, Institut für Bienenkunde (Polytechnische Gesellschaft), Fachbereich Biologie der J.W.Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main Karl-von-Frisch-Weg 2, 61440 Oberursel, Germany; S. Wongsiri and S. Deowanish, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

  • 7. Some biological characteristics of Apis dorsata Fabr. in Vietnam

  • - P.H. Chinh, Bee Research and Development Centre; N. Q. Tan, University of Agriculture and Forestry, Vietnam, and Museum of Natural History and Department of Zoology, Oxford University, UK; and P. H. Thai, Bee Research and Development Centre, Vietnam

  • 8. Use of bee venom and propolis for apitherapy in Korea

  • - K.S. Woo, Seoul National University, Korea

  • 9. Variation in mitochondrial DNA of Apis mellifera in Thailand

  • - T. Suppasat, D. Deowanish and S. Wongsiri, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

  • 10. Variation of the dwarf honey bee Apis florea Fabricius, 1787 in Thailand revealed by morphometric analysis

  • - S. Deowanish, T. Chaiyawong and S.

  • Wongsiri, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

For further information contact:

Dr. Te-Yeh Ku, FFTC Technical Consultant and

Dr. Franklin B. Aglibut, FFTC Animal Industry Officer

Index of Images

  • ac2004d1.jpg

    Figure 1 Brood Comb of Melipona Beecheii. the Arrow Shows a Queen

  • ac2004d2.jpg

    Figure 2 Bee Product Exhibition during the Conference in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines

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