Programmes

Conserving the Hainan Native Bees and Stingless Bees  

 

The indiscriminate use of pesticides has caused marked global decline of bee populations in recent years, and fruit plantations now resort to the more expensive artificial pollination. Hainan has an endemic subspecies of honeybee (Apis cerana hainanensis), and two species of stingless bee (Trigona pagdeni and T. ventralis). The Hainan honeybee forms small colonies with low honey production compared to other “commercial” bees like the Chinese bee from the mainland and the exotic Western honeybee (Apis mellifera). The foraging range of Hainan honeybee is far shorter than that of western honeybee, and has a very high tendency to abscond. Despite these shortfalls, Hainan honeybee is the major pollinator of many native plants, including valuable herbs like the cardamom (Alpinia oxyphylla), therefore is important to the local ecosystem.

 

Although it was quite a challenge to convince beekeepers to go for the more delicate and less productive local bee, Kadoorie Conservation China Department promoted the idea to farmers around nature reserves in an attempt to provide incentives for villagers to preserve their community forests. We designed the “pagoda type” and “vertical type” beehives to suit the natural behaviours of bee, and train beekeepers to meet organic honey production standards. Besides, we promote keeping the little-known stingless bees of Hainan, which are largely neglected although they are major pollinators in the tropics. We designed a “2-chambers bee box” so that the brood is not disturbed during harvest. The unique tasting stingless bee honey is much more expensive than the usual honey and we are exploring production of honey wine as a value-added product. We also encourage beekeepers to put their beehives under the rubber agroforestry system as these insects pollinate the cardamom and improve yield.

Read more:
1. Farmers Joined Hands in Conserving the Hainan Gibbon