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PRACTICAL BEEKEEPING Bees for Development Journal 67

Simple ways to manage


stingless bees Alejandro C Fa/ardo and
C/eo R Cervanc/a, Philippines

Stingless bees, species of Trigona, The shells are fastened with wires in During the swarming season
are mass produced in the Philippines tree trunks, branches or roof trusses. (February-March) strong colonies are
for pollination and honey production. Leaves of a local fern (Drynaria sp) divided. Brood chambers containing
The honey is used as a food are used to cover the gaps between queen cells are removed along with
supplement and as a medicine for the shell and the tree. Trigona some adult bees and placed
colds, coughs and fevers. The price swarms easily transfer to the 1-2 metres away from the original
of Thgona honey is twice that of improvised nests. Sometimes the colony. These so-called 'starter'
honey from honeybees. shells are primed with propolis to colonies are then allowed to rear
deter ants. their own queen. Drifting of worker
The usual way of harvesting honey bees does occur, but the colonies
a natural nest of Trigona The bees keep their brood near the recover. Two starter colonies can be
disturbs the colony because of the base of the nest and utilise the upper made from a ten-shell colony.
destruction of a large portion of the portion of the shell as food
nest. It takes time and energy for the chambers. During the honey and This method can be used also to
bees to mend the damage. This pollen season the coconut shells are harvest honey and pollen from
problem is minimised by the method removed and replaced with larger colonies established in walls and
described here. ones, and more leaves are piled elsewhere. The top-most shell is
along the sides. lifted at harvest time, leaving the
Halved coconut shells are cleaned brood intact. The technique allows
thoroughly - this prevents ant The colonies expand their brood into for a sufficient honey and pollen
infestation. A one centimetre the areas covered with leaves. As harvest with minimal disturbance to
diameter hole is made at the top of the season progresses more shells the colony. This helps to conserve
the shell to serve as an entrance and are added on the top of the shells, these bees that are vital for
exit point for the bees. Several and are placed in front of the pollination of wild plants and crops.
smaller holes are drilled around the several nest entrances. The bees Colonies can be reared without
rim to accommodate supporting extend their stores into these new transferring or relocating existing
wires. chambers. nests from the wild.

continued overleaf...

Coconut shells are used as nesting chambers for mass The use of a hanging platform is a new innovation.
rearing of stingless bees, species of Trigona. Shells are
attached with wires to roof trusses or tree branches.
Bees for Development Journal 67 SIMPLE WAYS TO MANAGE STINGLESS BEES

New coconut she//s ore added to growing colonies. Fern A strong Trigona colony may need as many as fen shells.
leaves are used to cover gaps behveen the she//s and the
tree.

Swarms take up residence on traps like this one. More Testing for honey. A piece of coconut leaf midrib is used
shells are added as the colony grows. This colony is four to probe the store chamber.
months old. ^^

The honey shell is lifted to check the amount of honey Brood exposed during harvest remains relatively intact.
inside. Honey shells are harvested only when full. The bees immediately clean the nest as soon as the
removed chamber is replaced. Dead brood is thrown out
of the nest and any holes plugged with propolis.
SIMPLE WAYS TO MANAGE STINGLESS BEES Bees for Development Journal 67

Marketable harvest

Strong colonies are divided by transferring some of the


brood and adult workers to another area, at least a metre
the parent colony. Starter colonies are allowed to
their own queen. Brood chambers with queen cells
are usually selected to be used as starters. This colony Honey/ A honey chamber filled to the brim with sealed
division is done during the swarming season. honey pots.

An established starter colony with an extra coconut shell The honey is pressed, strained and bottled for sale or
added for expansion. storage.

7~he propolis coating of the Pollenl Pot filled with


shells is used as an compacted pollen. Trigona
antiseptic or sold to local pollen and honey have a
Trigona sp can be kept in apiaries alongside the Asian processors. sweet and sour taste.
hive bee Apis cerana. Photographs © Alejandro C Fajardo