By Vina Medenilla
Hardin sa Parang is a one-hectare bee yard sitting in forested land in Barangay San Juan, Antipolo City.
It is owned by Lonadel Jade Bolongaita, 35, a former OFW who also works as a freelance makeup artist.
Prior to becoming a full-time beekeeper, she raised chickens and hogs on the same site where her meliponary now stands.
The main reason for the switch, according to Bolongaita, is the difficulty in obtaining animal feeds such as darak and soya pulp from their suppliers.
Bolongaita has been involved in animal husbandry since 2015, and after caring for a few types of livestock, she finally found what is meant for her—stingless bees.
She learned beekeeping through various sets of training, seminars, and conferences at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).
“My staff and I continuously educate ourselves and hone our skills in taking care of our bees by interacting with other beekeepers, watching videos, reading books, and studying online materials.”
Bolongaita concentrates on promoting Philippine native bees, particularly stingless bees (Trigona Biroi) that are often called lukot or kiwot.
“I wanted to somehow raise awareness about ecological preservation and make a positive impact on Mother Nature through beekeeping.”
Bolongaita adds that they strongly support and advocate the organic methods in growing food as well as the employment of crop pollinators such as stingless bees to ensure the conservation of our diverse flora and fauna.
Compared to other livestock, stingless bees are very low maintenance, said the beekeeper. There is no regular feeding and chemical input required for bees to thrive, only frequent monitoring to prevent intruders and predators like spiders, lizards, toads, and ants.
Raising stingless bees
The bee farm is home to about 300-600 colonies of stingless bees.
Unlike the Western honeybee or Apis Mellifera, tending to stingless bees does not involve requeening or replacing a queen since each colony has several virgin queens ready to take over if the laying queen begins to fail.
Hardin sa Parang propagates colonies by splitting their hives after harvesting honey or during the honey flow season that coincides with summer.
Stingless beekeeping, if managed well, can be a lucrative venture. Bolongaita’s farm earns up to P160,000 a month during the peak season and around P10,000 per month during the off-season.
Beehives, honey, pollen, propolis, as well as beekeeping supplies and equipment are her major sources of revenue.
Hardin sa Parang also offers consultation on stingless bee cultivation where they assist clients in setting up a meliponary and in producing their own honey, pollen, and propolis.
Bolongaita said that force splitting and opening the hives at all times must be avoided. Instead, observe, inspect beehives periodically, then let the bees do the work for you. Also, make sure not to overpopulate the bees to prevent them from swarming—an act where bees clump together to leave an established colony and move to another place.
Bolongaita provides a home for bees, and in turn, bees provide her with a source of income. Both of which contribute to a healthy and diverse ecosystem.
Photos courtesy of Lonadel Jade Bolongaita.
For more information, visit Hardin sa Parang