As told to Yvette Tan

Wilfrido “Jonji”  S. de Jesus Jr. of Two Bees Apiary in Iloilo City has been keeping bees for more than a decade. His small batch honey sells for about P4,000 a gallon and is always sold out.

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De Jesus, in his own words, shares some tips for intermediate beekeepers:

The most important thing is to be open to other ideas. You may know how to take care of bees but there may be some things that other people may know that you don’t know.

Be open to suggestions. It may work, it may not work, but you have to try it because if you don’t try it, you can never say that it was or was not feasible.

Help beginners (and help one another). Like for me, those who have undergone training, especially under me, I help them until they are able to harvest their first crop.

Practice hive hygiene. Keep your area clean. Be on guard for pests like ants and lizards, frogs. You have to be mindful of those little things, but the more it makes a difference.

On a daily basis, what I do is I walk to my hive. Over the years, just by looking at the entrance of the hive, I can tell if they’re okay or if they’re not okay. If the traffic of the bees going in and out of the hive is normal, or if they’re clustering, there’s something wrong, I have to open the hive. Sometimes even if it’s raining you have to open it, especially if there are dead bees [outside], you should really look into it. Check all the hives if that happens.

Coordinate with nearby farms if necessary. In my area, since the forestry is still good, there’s so much space and foraging areas.

You could do beekeeping [near] farmlands as long as they don’t use pesticides. If they do pesticides, it could still be done but you’ll have to coordinate with [neighborhood farmers so that] if possible, they could inform you a day before [they spray pesticides] because what you would do is you would cage your bees, close their exit [of their hives to keep them inside].

Most of the farmers spray in the morning. Once the spray is dry, then it will be safe for the bees to come out because they’re affected by contact. In foraging, [there]s] very little [danger]  because the bees once they smell insecticide won’t even go near the flower anymore.

Agree on meeting with other beekeepers, especially when everybody has honey. What we do in Iloilo, we have a group and we talk. When we harvest, we talk. We set a price, say here, we sell our honey, the last time it was P385 for the small bottle. Manila, I think it’s P850. What we do, we set a price. Nobody goes lower. You can go higher but not lower. In that way, walang away (no one quarrels). Because if you don’t do that, we’re going to kill each other. That’s what’s going to happen.

Never adulterate your honey. You protect [your] name by always giving [customers] the best. Never be tempted to adulterate just because you harvested a few [gallons]. Never do that because once you break your name, it’s very hard to get it back.