Visit Bee projects RP 2010

Visit to various bee projects in the Philippines , January 2010


Visit to UPLB

We started our trip at UPLB.  Prof. Cervancia and her team showed us various places and arranged meetings with different people active in beekeeping. We discussed mellifera, cerana, trigona, dorsata and even bumble bees.  Not much is known about bumble bees in the Philippines. Often they are mistaken for the Xylocopas but those are carpenter bees. According to the literature, bumble bees can be found in several mountaines areas . Four species have been described in the past.  A visit to the Natural History museum hopefully was giving more information. Unfortunately we could not identify which one was the bumble bee. 
The visit to Ilog Maria was impressive . However, I was mostly impressed to visit a cooperative in Batangas that is working with the local bee apis cerana for the past 20 years. It proved my conclusion in the study I did 25 years ago . 


Larger operations can be found on Mindanao though. Beekeepers with up to 100 colonies do exist. Mindanao is being described as the best place in the country for beekeeping by many different reports. Still, this is not reflected  in reality, You should think that you would come acros more projects and see more local honey on the market. Initiatives from local governments now and then only stimulates a few close to the fundings to initiate a project, later to be abondant because of  lack of material, disappointment or better ways of income.


In Cebu I came across 2 organisations that intend to organise trainings and get beekeepers involved  to participate in selling their harvest to them. At the moment it is estimated that about 100 beekeepers are on Cebu and some neighbouring Islands who keep between 5 and 12 colonies each. Large scale beekeeping is not reported in this area. Plans do exist however to expand to some 3000 colonies in the years to come.  This will be with mellifera.The means for expansion is mainly by purchasing queens from Australia or Hawaii thru importation via the UPLB. This is quiet expensive. A way to avoid this is by practicing local queen production. With mellifera being a non local species, the risk for inbreeding is likely to be present. Efforts for artificial insemination has yet to be developed.  A new contact I have just arrived in the Philippines with over 20 years of practice in AI. Hopefully this will open a way for improved and less expensive mellifera production. 

I also did visit the Ministry of Agriculture in Cebu because they have, I was told, a beefarm. That was a while ago. The caretaker showed us one colony. The other 70 were moved alledgedly  to a mango plantation .   

The organisation IGNG started last year with trainings and other activities in Cebu. A visit to their office however showed that they are no longer active.


As part of my stay in the Philippines during the month of january, I took the opportunity to visit some beekeeping projects. The trip took us to UPLB , where we started, Laguna, Batangas, Lucena, Palawan, Malaybalay Bukidnon, Iligan and Cebu. 
I was interested in the present situation , state of research , future opportunities of beekeeping in rural areas.
When I compare this trip and the impression gathered with a similar kind of trip I did in 1987 it can be said that in some aspects a postive development is pushing beekeeping to a further level. There are more professional beekeepers with A. mellifera, they seem to be more organized, queen rearing is taking of in different parts of the country, hopefully making the country less dependent on the importation of mated queens from Hawii and Australie. 
I was also very pleased to see that beekeeping with the local species, A. cerana can be succesfull, especially in cooperative efforts. This was one of the conclusions made of the feasibility study in 1987. The succes of this project will hopefully stimulate other organisations to start with cerana as well. That was the other objective of my visit, to promote cerena as an integrated part of existing farmer projects.
Observing both A.mellifera and cerana, still the same arguments count as 25 years ago :
1)Beekeeping with A mellifera demands relatively high input investments, depends on external factors and support for continuation , demands higher desease control.
2)A.cerana beekeeping , on the other hand, has fairly low external input factors, except for the technical knowhow and continuous support . Compared to other Asian countries where there exists a tradition in beekeeping, this is non existant in most part of the country. However, honeyhunting is still being practiced a lot in different parts of the country.

There is one great development creating advantages for beekeeping and that is the presence of internet. 25 years ago, it took sometimes up to 3 weeks before you get a reply on a telegram . Now there is instant exchange of information, also benefitting the bee industry. 

So mellifera is kept by middleclass hobbyists and some serious profesionals, mostly individually motivated but somehow connected as well through some network like Beenet or CHAI. They maintain contact to order queens together or purchase material like wax foundation. 


After reading the following article , I was curious how the project had developed after 4 years.


MANILA,September 1, 2005 (STAR) The city government of Puerto Princesa sponsored recently a three-day bee keeping seminar workshop in line with the city’s latest livelihood project on honey production. Mayor Edward Hagedorn said he hopes to make the city one of the best honey producers in the country. Hagedorn invited the University of the Philippines Los Baños bee program pioneers led by Dr. Cleofas Cervancia and her team as trainors of the program.
Long time friend of the mayor, Willy Ong was appointed honey production project director. He said prior to the seminar, "we already pinpointed 20 beneficiaries of the program. These recipients are the pilot who will be the ‘nursemaids’ for the nucleus colonies that we have. Their task is to be able to reproduce the colony which will in turn be given to the next batch of beneficiaries."
The Apis Andredeformis is the type of the bee endemic to the island. According to Dr. Cervancia "Palawan as a whole is a good area for bee culture and bee keeping. We welcome the move of the city government in pursuing this as a livelihood project. Our involvement with it does not end after the seminar; we are on call to assist all starting beekeepers. For it is also our goal to make beekeeping as a viable industry."
The seminar gathered 50 participants from private and government institutions, entrepreneurs and farmers. The group expressed their enthusiasm and interest in pursuing bee keeping as an alternative business opportunity.

I had a change to visit Palawan between 6 and 11 january. The person we stayed with brought us to the “ beehouse “ where we were met by a very enthusiastic staffmember. She showed us the teaching material, the beegarden and some of the colonies. According to her, the program has 45 members at the moment with a total of 50 colonies. Which means that most members have one colony while a few have 2 colonies. No progress after 4 years, unfortunately.

On the contrary , another program involved in beekeeping , Natripal , could report more success with activities. NATRIPAL , Nagkakaisang Mga Tribu ng Palawan., Inc.   
NATRIPAL started selling pure wild honey in 1995.