By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

It is advantageous for farms to have bees around since these natural pollinators can increase crop production by a significant amount. Ramona M. Pastor, the owner of H.N. Organic Farm in Malitbog, Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro, is familiar with such benefits, which is one of the reasons she keeps several kinds of bees on her property. 

During the MiMaRoPa leg of AgriTalk 2020, a series of webinars held in partnership with the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) and Manila Bulletin, Pastor shared the story of how her farm benefits from the bees along with other information about the valuable insects. 

In the previous article, Pastor discussed the different kinds of bees for honey production that are available in the Philippines. Here, she will share some tips on how to handle the bees’ housing and how to harvest honey. 

Some tips on how to get bees into their new houses 

Usually, bees are able to create their own hive from available materials in their environment. But they can also be housed in artificial homes given to them by their beekeepers for proper maintenance and supervision, but helping them move in can be tricky. 

There are actually some things a beekeeper can do to help bees become more comfortable in a man-made hive.

For example, if an artificial beehive is made out of wood, it has the distinct smell of wood that could affect the bees’ behavior. To solve this, Pastor advises placing some lemongrass inside the container for a period of days to create a more appealing smell so that the bees won’t feel agitated when they move into their new home. 

Another tip that Pastor shared is that if a colony had a previous hive, carefully take a piece of the hive’s entrance and place it inside the new hive or container, specifically in the area that will serve as the bees’ entrance. 

“Since there are usually two holes in a beehive that’s made out of wood, by placing a part of the entrance from their former hive, the bees won’t be confused about where’s the entrance to their [new] house because they can already smell it,” Pastor said. 

When it comes to transferring the colony to their new hive, Pastor said to use a clear hose that has a wide circumference. Gently insert one end to the original hive’s entrance and the other in the box so the bees can safely and securely move from one home to another. Make sure to cover the new hive with its lid to minimize the number of bees that exit their new home. 

This method enables the beekeeper to check on the bees as they transfer from one hive to another. Plus, a wide circumference can help make the transfer easier. 

This usually works on tamer species such as the Apis laeviceps which is a stingless version of the Apis cerana

How to deal with wilder bees 

On the other hand, Trigona viroi bees, although stinglees, are wild in nature which is why the keeper needs to be careful when handling their hive. 

To do this, Pastor explained that it’s best to make sure that the bees are kept away from their hive while the beekeeper goes about their business. Just cover the hive with a plastic bag large enough for the bees’ house to fit then give their house a little tap on the sides to make them come out. 

After half of the colony comes out or if there are quite a number of bees already inside the plastic bag, carefully remove it from the hive without releasing the bees. They can be put back again later by covering their hive with the plastic bag. 

With less bees standing guard inside the hive, it’ll be easier for the beekeeper to either transfer the bees or harvest their honey and other by-products such as propolis, pollen, and beeswax. 

Gently scoop out these products and place in a clean container for later consumption or processing. 

Watch the full video on the webinar here