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A Snapshot of Meliponiculture in Malaysia

An Industry in Infancy
July, 2014
Prof. Dr. Joseph A. Resnick, Ph.D.
Principal Research Fellow and Lecturer
University of Malaysia Terengganu
Institute of Marine Biotechnology
Terengganu, Darul Iman, Malaysia

Commercial beekeeping in Malaysia began with the import of the European Honeybee, Apis
melifera, in the early 1980s. Since then few advancements have been made toward
strengthening bee farming infrastructure and the industry in Malaysia as a whole. This fact
continues to present obstacles and barriers to sustainable beekeeping as an industry, a hobby, and
as an educational opportunity for persons of all ages. Most noticeably-absent is the presence of
knowledge, by both small and large bee farmers, in the proper methods related to apiculture and
bee management methods in general. This is due to the fact that such programs have not been
implemented despite attempts by some stakeholders to foster the industry in Malaysia. Other
setbacks include absence of tax and other economic incentives, creation of educational programs
at both grass-roots and institutional levels, and the lack of knowledge of basic beekeeping
methods by both small and large bee farmers. Such programs could bolster the economy and
lead to production of more/better honey and higher quality honey production on a national level.
Creation of a better informed and more highly-qualified bee farming population and beekeeping
culture is highly desirable.

Trigona itama

Demand for honey on a global scale remains robust with China rapidly increasing its economic
hold on the burgeoning industry. This is due to several factors with the greatest of these being
implementation of multiple state-supported economic incentive and educational programs. Even
in absence of few state-supported incentives in Malaysia at this time, small and commercial
beekeeping continues to garner interest among the peoples with this being directly attributable to
the longstanding desire for honey and related consumable products. Factors that present
problematic and recalcitrant as setbacks that hamper advancement of the beekeeping industry in
Malaysia are: Insufficient knowledge in proper bee management; Low-use of beneficial
technology applications; Inadequate support in terms of knowledge-transfer from local research
bodies to sustain the industry. Despite these issues there is much interest in the native, Malaysian
stingless bee (Apis Trigona, in the same family as the European Honeybee) by many locals who
reside in the more rural regions of the Malay countryside. Even though meliponiculture, or
stingless bee rearing is quite new and just started to be embraced by the locals, it is rapidly
advancing in both curiosity and consideration as a potentially-viable source of secondary income
streams. Perhaps this is due to the unique character and nature of the melopine bee hive, which,
in Nature, occurs in the trunk of a diseased tree (tree-trunk) and is easily accessible by persons
with fewer disposable resources or funds used to culture other bee species requiring speciallybuilt, expensive bee hives. Thus, meliponicultre could result in advancements in SocioEconomic status for many stakeholders.
An Industry in Infancy
Meliponiculture is a potential source of income revenue that is readily accessible to the majority
of the Malay population irrespective of regional factors or income levels. Another attractive

feature of meliponiculture is that the meliponine bees are stingless. Unlike the situation in
keeping the European Honeybee, Beekeepers need not purchase expensive, protective clothing in
order to manage and handle hives or to harvest and collect products (honey, propolis, beebread)
with melipona. Thus meliponiculture can be viewed as both a compliment and advancement of
the honey bee industry (Apiculture) in Malaysia. Malaysia has about 33 species of stingless bee,
several of which could be domesticated for honey, propolis and other bee bread production. This
activity could be exploited by and enjoyed by the vast majority of the population leading to
creation of infrastructure, new jobs, new products, increased tax revenue, and a dramatic increase
in educational and cultural levels in Malaysia. It is envisioned that many new products could be
developed from research finding garnered from study of this species of indigenous pollinator.
One such new product has already been invented and reduced to practice by Dr. Joseph A.
Resnick, that being a formulation to make a popular snack food called, Fish Chips. A new
formulation of Barbecue Sauce has also been developed . The new products contain
microencapsulated stevia compounds as a component in the respective formulations.

New Fish Chips and Barbecue Sauce with Microencapsulated Stevia

In Malaysia, research in honeybee farming has been carried out sparsely. In review of the
literature published documents were found and even fewer directed to study of the meliponine
(stingless bee) species. The potential benefit from Api-Meliponiculture (honey bee and stingless
bee) can be tapped if a concerted effort is moved toward developing a sustainable approach to
beekeeping in Malaysia. Several ways in which this could be accomplished is through
attainment of a proper understanding of the meloponine life cycle, development of bee calendar,
discovery of new ways to increase honey yield improvement and through better bee management
practices. Secondary benefits from bee products, proteomic and genomic studies to support the
taxonomy of stingless bee, bee microcosm and interaction with new or selected environment as
well as control of pests and diseases could be gained. A non-destructive approach in breeding,
propagating and relocating of bees using pheromone technology will ensure environmental
sustainability. For Malaysia a food security objective is translated into a self-sufficiency target
at 65% under the Ninth Malaysia Plant (2006-2010) and 70% under Tenth Malaysia Plan (20112015), Agro-Food Policy (2011-2020). The inclusion of honey as a new Agro-resource and
service in RMK10 indicates the importance of beekeeping and its related activities in Malaysias
national agenda.

Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) has taken the initiative to spearhead Apimeliponiculture research and to has developed a long term research scheme aiming at
establishing the foundation for national food security. This research program will address issues
on availability and socioeconomic sustainability, potential product diversification, product

quality and knowledge-transfer activity in the context of food security. An aggressive,

comprehensive research program geared toward establishment of a national long term Apimeliponiculture research program (1MADU) should be designed. This should include strategic
plans and realistic action plans that would include local and international researchers enabling
contribution to the knowledge base through sharing of their expertise while supporting the
government policy and to meet designated milestones.

Stevia Cultivars at facility in Jebi, Malaysia in the Setiu Wetlands

Typical Hive Structure of the Trigona itama

Dr. Resnick inspects the Kelulut at a bee farm in Gong Bris

Dr. Resnick of UMT and Ms. Joy Mann of RMANNCO, Inc. sample raw honey from the Honey pot in the Kelulut at Gong Bris

Dr. Resnick places a roof-covering on experimental Kelulut at UMTs Bukit Kor Agricultural Center in Marang

Dr. Resnicks Experimental Kelulut Colony at University of Malaysia Terengganu with Trigona miniata

New Uses for Kelulut ByProducts

A byproduct of honey production with both Apis Mellifera and Apis Mellipona is a natural, resinsubstance called, propilis. Propolis (CAS No. 9009-62-5) is a complex resinous mixture
collected by honeybees from plant exudates or secretions. Honeybees use propilis for
construction, protection and adaptation of their nests (Garcia-Viguera, et al., 1992; Marcucci,
1995). In the Melipona, foraging for food substances, e.g., plant exudates that eventually
become propolis, is secondary in comparison to foraging for nectar or pollen (Resnick, et al,
April, 2013, NC State Beekeepers Assn. Meeting). The amount of propolis used in construction
and maintenance of the hive may differ considerably among bee colonies (Valcic et al., 1999)
and variant species. For example, the differences between propolis produced by Apis Mellifera
(1European Honeybee) compared with propolis produced by Apis Trigona (Kelulut, Malaysian
stingless bee) is not well understood (Resnick, et al, 2012). MARDI, of Malaysia, has conducted
research and found that there may be as many as 30 different species of Kelulut bees in
Malaysia. Of these, Dr. Resnick, et al, believe that only three species may be well suited to
utilization as domesticated honey producers, with these being: Heterotrigona itama,
Geniotrigona thoracia and Lepidotriona terminata. Resnick, et al, found that use of propolis
product of Apis Mellifera functioned well as a novel delivery system wherein propolis from the
Apis melifera was used to create microspheres containing an adjuvant (mellaluca extract) to
configure a new, low toxicity integrated pest management product called, LTIP
(,. This new use was found to be
effective in treatment for a range of predators and bee pests (trachea mites, varroa mites, wax


moths, hive beetles, AFB, etc.) in studies conducted in North America (North Carolina,
California, Pennsylvania, Florida).
A present study in progress at The University of Malaysia, Institute of Marine Biotechnology
and the Department of Food Technology and Agriculture, includes investigation of the chemical
and molecular characterization of varieties of propolis produced by Heterotrigona itama,
Lepidotriona terminata, and Geniotrigona thoracia. The studies include examination of these
substances with High-temperature high-resolution gas chromatography (HT-HRGC) and HTHRGC coupled to mass spectrometry (HT-HRGC-MS) analysis. It is believed that several new
products can be developed, similar in nature to LTIP, but more effective and less-costly to
produce due to plentiful supply and availability of natural propolis in Malaysia. Without
question, a vast supply of natural propolis is available but the assumption that it can be used in
better ways can only be confirmed once comparative analyses determine that the propolis
collected from the various species of Apis mellipona contains higher concentrations of propolis
in the Malaysian propolis when compared with propolis produced in North America by the Apis
Mellifera, for examle. If test confirm the assumption, then, most certainly, this will lead to
development of a new arsenal of products for use in the bee keeping industry. Analysis for
amino acids and erytrose/erythritol content is anticipated to be similar.

New Products Under Development

New products are targeted for development comprising a low toxicity, all-natural, integrated pest
management product (LTIP II). One of the goals should be to eliminate the use of expensive
honeybee by-products and substances used in prior formulations. It is believed that these
embodiments can be eliminated thereby reducing product cost while improving bioavailability of
compounds beneficial to Malaysian Apis species.

Targeted outcomes of research programs should attempt to produce:

A. At least three (3) patentably-new formulations; two (2) method-of use patents; three (3)
method-of-manufacture patents.
B. Three (3) new apiculture products enabling improved integrated pest control management
for sales to global markets.
C. Total New IP Letters Patent Applications= 11.

Eco-friendly, Sustainable Oil Spill Cleanup Products Comprising Nano-Capsules Made

With Kelulut Propilis
Eco-Friendly Oil Spill Cleanup Products
New classes and formulations of filtered beeswax, for use in bioremediation, solid waste and oil
spill cleanup clean up products and scenarios, were 2demonstrated effective by Dr. Resnick in
the early 1990s in US Patent # 35,807,724 entitled, Degradation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons
with Organisms Encapsulated in Wax. Later efforts have resulted in development of better
bioremediation and oil spill cleanup products, e.g., 4KONTAK, KontakPhyto-Boom,
KontakPhyto-Sok, Kontak-WellBoy, in which, like predecessors, beeswax is the
operant component.

In recent years feral bee populations throughout Europe and North America have experienced
extreme decline due to onset of disease, pollution, over-use of chemical fertilizers (Mullin, et al).
And most recently some researchers believe that combinations of all of the above conditions can


now be grouped into a phenomenological category termed, Colony Collapse Disorder (ARS,
May/June, 2008). These collective incidents, along with shifts in weather patterns, climate
change and environmental factors, have led to occasional shortages of beeswax produced by Apis
Melifera on a global scale. Consequently, it has becoming increasingly more cost prohibitive to
use natural filtered beeswax in the class of environmental bioremediation products cited above.

In view of the healthy and robust condition of feral bee populations in Malaysia it is anticipated
that availability of plentiful supplies of natural propolis will be available throughout Malaysia for
many years to come. Further it is anticipated that through establishment of new and better
beekeeping practices, as well as educational programs, that the beekeeping industry and
underlying infrastructure in Malaysia will lead to creation of many new products requiring
employment of skilled, semi-skilled and highly-skilled workers and thousands of new jobs.

Studies in progress are designed to investigate the use of Propolis produced in Malaysia by three
endemic, indigenous species of Apis Mellipona, specifically , Heterotrigona itama, Lepidotriona
terminata, and Geniotrigona thoracia, for use as a new component in oil spill cleanup clean up
products, waste water treatment scenarios and contaminated soil beds. Ideally, the presence of
elevated levels of Propolis are anticipated to have a positive impact on the result of this aspect of
the project.

Anticipated New Products

D. A new family of products branded as Propi-Kleen Oil Spill Clean up Brand.

E. A family of new environmental cleanup products with enriched propolis (PropiKleen ) as the operant component, being configured as manufactures having a size of
< 1 micrometer, or nano-capsules.
F. New products configured to comprise 1) absorbent booms; 2) absorbent barrier boom; 3)
absorbent pads impregnated with Propi-Kleen nano-capsules; 4) Shaker-bottle, easy
use/dispense oil spill clean up products using Propi-Kleen nano-capsules as the main
G. At least three (3) patentably-new formulations; two (3) methods-of use patents; three (3)
method-of-manufacture patents.
H. Total New IP Letters Patent Applications= 9.

New Bee Food (Bee Cakes, Wafers, Nano-Microcapsules, Nano-Tubers, Nano-string )

The present commercial marketers supplying products for feeding bees are limited to a few
commercial products that, for the most part, dominate the beekeeping industry. General food
requirements of honey bees, Apis mellifera L., and present formulas for supplementary diets and
methods for feeding such foods to bee colonies, are comprised chiefly of formulated nectars with
some containing vitamins and pharmaceuticals. In early spring, before pollen and nectar are
available or at other times of the year when these materials are not available for bees in the field
or in the hive, supplementary feeding may help the colony survive or sustain brood rearing and
colony development. None of the protein supplemental foods fed to honey bees is a complete
replacement for natural pollen; however, several brewers yeast products, Wheat, and soybean
flour, fed singly or in combination, can be used to improve the nutrition of colonies when natural

pollen is scarce. Cane or beet sugar and isomerized corn syrup can be used to supplement the
bees diet of nectar or honey.

The Malaysian Kelulut

My studies are geared toward creation and configuration of new kinds of bee food designed to be
easier and lighter to carry back to the hive, contain higher-grade nutrients, e.g., phytochemicals
derived from algae and microalgae, steviocides <Rebuadisol A-X>, and be more economical for
use by small, larger and commercial bee farmers alike.

The basic bee food component shall be microscopic in size, with ranges between <1um to 150um
and shall be produced at the University of Malaysia Terengganu, in collaboration with
RMANNCO, Inc. (USA) and RMANNCO-Malaysia, Bhd., Kuala Terennganu, and Ageno Zone,
International, Bhd., Dungun, Malaysia.
Other New Products Under Development
I. New Bee Food Product Branded as ProPi-Cake; ProP-Bar,
ProPi-Shake , ProPiStrings, Nano-Tubers, and Nano-String.
Products will be formulated to improve bioavailability of compounds beneficial to
Malaysian Apis.
J. New snack foods designed for human consumption.
K. At least three (3) patentably-new formulations; three (3) methods-of use patents; three (3)
method-of-manufacture patents. At least 5 new Trademarks;
L. Educational Books:
1. Kelulut Beekeepers Handbook
2. Practical Beekeeping in Malaysia
3. The Kelulut Master Beekeepers Manual (Malaysia)
4. Kelulut Beekeepers Training Guide
5. Theres Money In Honey: Get Loot From Your Kelulut
6. Pictorial Guide to Beekeeping in Malaysia
M. Total New IP Letters Patent Applications= 9; Trademarks=5 .

Pictorial Compilation To Date

Video showing setup of experimental hives in Tok Jembal, Terengganu at Dr. Resnicks

Dr. Resnick inspects a Kelulut at a small bee farm in Jebi, Terengganu state in Malaysia

Meliponine Bee Hive of the Trigona itama, Jebi, Malaysia

Meliponine Bee Hive Structure of the Trigona minima Jebi, Malaysia

Typical Meliponine Bee Hive in Malaysia. Experimental Kelulut at UMT

Hive Located Among Stevia rebuadiana (bertoni) Cultivars ~ Research Station

Bukit Kor

Experimental Kelulut with Feeding Tray with 1 gram Microencapsulated Steviocide Nectar

Trigona itama on Stevia Cultivar

Kelulut Entrance on Experimental Bee Hive in Malaysia

Entrance and Feeding Tray on Experimental Kelulut in Malaysia

Experimental Kelulut Station Tok Jembal, Terengganu, Malaysia

1. Marcucci M.C. (1995) Propolis: chemical composition, biological properties and therapeutic
activity, Apidologie 26, 8399.
2. Garcia-Viguera C., Greenaway W., Whatley F.R. (1992) Composition of propolis from two
different Spanish regions, Z. Naturforsch. 47c, 634637.
3. Resnick, J.A., NASA Spinoff, May, 2013, Saving the Honeybee,
4. Valcic S., Montenegro G., Mujica A.M., Avila G.,Franzblau S., Singjh M.P., Maiese W.M.,
Timmermann B.N. (1999) Phytochemical, morphological and biological investigations from
central Chile, Z. Naturforsch. 54C, 406416.
5. Colony Collapse Disorder: A Complex Buzz, Agricultural Research magazine May/June 2008.
6. High Levels of Miticides and Agrochemicals in North American Apiaries: Implications for
Honey Bee Health, Mullin, C., et al, published March 19, 2010, DOI:
Special Thanks/Acknowledgments Co-Authors and Contributors
Associate Professor Dr. Shamsul Bahri Abd Razak, University Malaysia Terengganu
Professor Dr. Abdullah Md Zain, University Malaysia Terengganu
Professor Dr. Effendy Mohd Wahid, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation,
University Malaysia Terengganu
Joyce M. Mann, Chairman and CEO, RMANNCO, Inc.
Submitted by:
Prof. Dr. Joseph A. Resnick, Ph.D.
Principal Research Fellow
Institute of Marine Biotechnology
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
21030 Kuala Terengganu
Terengganu Darul Iman

09-668-3103 Ext. 3881


Joyce M. Mann, Chairman & CEO