Everybody wants honey but afraid of the bees

THE Cordillera Regional Apiculture Center (CRAC) of Benguet State University was established through a Memorandum of Agreement between Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University and Benguet State University on September 25, 2013. This became the regional center of the National Apiculture Research Training and Development Institute (NARTDI) in the Cordillera region.

The mission of the center is to educate and train would-be beekeepers, apiculturist, and other stakeholders; to conduct researches and extend technologies towards the development of apiculture in the region in collaboration with the concerned government agencies/institutions, non-government organizations/private sector, and other apiculture stake holders. The goal is to establish beekeeping as a sustainable households’ complimentary source of income that is integrated into the farming systems in the region.

The potential of Benguet and the whole of Cordillera as a beekeeping region is promising. It has a cool climate which is very conducive for all year round raising of honeybees. Highland elevation favors the growth of sunflower, which is native to the region and blooms from October to January gives the Cordillera-produced honey a very distinct taste, quality and golden color.

According to statistics, the demand for honey in or country is about 370 to 535 tons/year and only about 150 tons are produced locally. Locally produced honey comes from four species of honeybees. Three are indigenous bees, Apis cerana (anig), Apis dorsata (uyukan) and Tetragunola spp. (stingless bees, lukot or lukotan), and one introduced honeybee species – Apis mellifera (introduced by the Americans as early as 1913). A large percentage of this locally produced honey is produced by the introduced honeybee here in Benguet.Aside from honey, we are also the top producer of mated queen bees of the introduced type of honey bees which is Apis melliferathat are supplied to other beekeepers all over the country.

We import honey but we export beekeepers. A lot of our trained beekeepers in the Cordillera are recruited as beekeepers to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. This is also one of the reason why beekeeping is becoming popular. The following are the reasons why beekeeping is very popular:

* Pollination. Bees pollinate flowering plants – this activity is vital for life on earth. Adequate pollination leads to good quality seeds and fruits, and it is essential for maintaining biodiversity.

* Useful Bee Products. Honey is valued by all societies as a healthy food or medicine. Beeswax is used in cosmetics and candles, and has many other uses. Pollen and propolis may be also harvested from bees.

* Land use. Bees visit flowers anywhere, so wild, cultivated and protected areas all have value for beekeeping. Beekeeping does not use up land that could be used for crops.

* Low cost. Beekeeping can be very low cost. Hive and other equipment can be made locally. Bees do not depend upon the beekeeper for food.

* Income creation. Where beekeepers have good market access, beekeeping easily generates a profit.

* Benefits to several sectors. Where there are beekeeping activities, other people in the community generate income by making equipment, from selling bee products, and making secondary products.

* Comparative advantage. In areas where there are abundant natural resources and healthy bee populations, there are good possibilities to market organic-certified honey.

* Resilient income. It is not necessary for beekeepers to own land or to be settled permanently. Hives are migrated to areas where flowers are in bloom.

* Gender and age inclusive. Bees can be kept by women and men of all ages. Bees do not need daily care and can be attended to as other work allows. Even people with certain physical disabilities could enjoy beekeeping.

With the rising popularity of beekeeping, the center maintains an apiary of about more than 50 colonies which serve as a research laboratory of scientific studies, laboratory where students hone their skills in beekeeping. The center also conducts two beekeeping short training course at the university and as part of extension activity to interested municipalities or barangays:

1. Introductory Beekeeping for Beginners. This covers bee biology and anatomy, tools and equipment in beekeeping, hive management, pest and diseases, melliferous plants, honey extraction and harvest of other bee products.

2. Advanced Beekeeping. This covers queen rearing, role of queen in the colony, production of queen cells, starter and finisher hives, mating nucs and mating of virgin queens, introduction of queen to nucs hives and practical selective breeding for beekeepers.

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