Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Bees are the Nectar of Life

Save Bees for Biodiversity and for Sustenance of Nature

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CAP has been propagating natural farming practices for the past few years. Realising the danger of pesticide to human health and the environment, CAP has been educating farmers and the general public on the dangers of pesticide, besides recommending and demonstrating safe and productive natural farming practices.

Integrated farming is one way of getting rid of pests and weeds. This ensures the elimination of dangerous pests and increase in predator insects.  As a way of promoting integrated farming, CAP has taken a step forward to set up bee nest. A bee expert P. Kaliyamurthi (54) from Lalgudi, Tiruchi, Tamilnaadu who has 35 years of experience in bee keeping was invited by CAP for this purpose. Kaliyamurthi was shocked after he failed to find any bee nest in several areas in Penang, Kedah and Perak.  A hunt of natural bee nest for the past one week ended with the finding of only 3 bee nests. Kaliyamurthi says that within that span of time he would have found at least 20 bee nests in his own town. Kaliyamurthi received his training in bee keeping from Tamil Naadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, India.

Bees are an integral part of natural farming. They help in pollination.  Honey bees travel from flower to flower, collecting nectar and pollen grains. The bee collects the pollen by rubbing against the anthers. The pollen collects on the hind legs. As the bee flies from flower to flower, some of the pollen grains are transferred onto the stigma of other flowers. Thus, their role in cross pollination is of great importance. It is common practice among guava, mango and chiku planters in India to set bee nests in their plantation to increase pollination and thus their yield.   

Bees travel 24km per hour and they could make more than 900 trips from flower to nest and uncountable times from flower to flower. Hopping from one flower to another helps in cross pollination and thus increases yield up to 20 to 30%.  Pollination enhances the growth of the plant and ensures the plants are disease resistance. Besides that, farmers are able to collect pure honey. This honey has many health building properties. Since ancient times it has been used as natural remedy for many diseases.

A farmer in Balik Pulau, Penang said that excessive use of pesticides and weed killers is one reason for dwindling number of bee nests in his area. A bee that sits on pesticide filled flower brings the nectar to its colony where this nectar is fed by queen bee to its growing worker bees. That way the whole colony is poisoned. Thus in the last 20 years there has been a tremendous drop in number of bee nests.

Besides that, human being’s lack of knowledge on bees is another reason for their extinction. Upon seeing a bee nest, they set fire and destroy the whole nest for fear of being stung. Not all bees are dangerous. Except for several varieties of hill bees, honey bees and stingless bees are considered safe when we learn proper method of keeping them.

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Setting a bee colony in a box requires identifying natural honey bee colony and transferring the queen bee to the bee box.  Queen bee is 2.8 times bigger than worker bee and male bees. Once queen bee is shifted to the bee box the whole colony follows the queen to the new bee nest.

A queen bee lays 1,000 to 2,000 eggs per day.  One bee colony approximately has 50,000 bees. A very strong colony can have up to 100,000 bees. Keeping bee involves experience and expertise. Honey bee doesn’t like sweat, alcohol, cigarette, perfume scent to name a few. Thus it is important to maintain hygiene when handling bees.

Kaliyamurthi also says that from what he had observed, small scale bee keepers in Malaysia only collect honey once a year. The whole hive is destroyed during the honey collection which chases away the bee colony.  In a proper honey collection from bee box, the honey alone is extracted and hives are preserved for next nectar saving by the bees.  This way, honey is collected two months once. This method ensures the bee colony remains in the same bee box for further nectar keeping, unlike in our current methods where the whole colony flies away to another place.

Farmers have forgotten and neglected the role of bees in increasing their yield. It is high time that they get rid of pesticides, weed-killers and a host of other dangerous chemicals from their farm and switch to natural farming methods. This will save not only the bees but also other friendly insects. At the end, farmers benefit from harvesting better yields.

At the moment CAP under the guidance of a bee expert had successfully set bee boxes together with bee colony in CAP’s premise, in a farm in Balik Pulau, Bukit Mertajam and Sungai Petani.

Bees are pollinators vital to our food chain and play a role in increasing yield and enriching biodiversity.  Understanding bees’ role in agriculture, the environment and our lives, CAP is now advancing our natural farming programme by integrating bee keeping. Those interested can contact CAP for guidance and advice.

Press Statement - 24 September 2013