Honey is one treat that is both healthy and delectable. Honey is a food created by bees for their own consumption come seasons when they are unable to gather nectar from flowers around. Honey is the source of energy for the workers, larvae, and queen bee alike as it is made up of simple sugars that can be converted quickly into fuel. With the domestication of the honeybee, it has also become food for humans.

Beekeeping

Apart from its unique taste and flavor, honey is known for its energy boosting capabilities that increase endurance of the physically active such as athletes, and is even known to prevent muscle fatigue as the simple sugars are easily absorbed by the body. Used also as a natural sweetener, honey is also believed to be a remedy for sore throat and cough. Modern uses of honey include its use in cooking dishes and in baking some variants of cakes and bread.

Honeybees create honey by sucking nectar from flowers and storing them in their abdomens in what is called as the honey stomach. Protein molecules in the honey stomach combine with the nectar to break down the sugar into fructose and glucose. These worker bees, always females, then proceed to their colonies and either deposit the gathered nectar into cells (the hexagon-shaped compartments inside their hives) or go directly to feed the larvae or the queen through regurgitation.

Product Development Projects

Beekeeping, technically termed “apiculture”, is a fairly simple technology that begins with selecting the proper apiary site -places closest to nectar sources. The hives can be made with wood, pottery, or straw. Some of the basic equipment include fume boards, entrance reducers, bee feeders, smokers, hive tools, and of course, coveralls for the protection of honey gatherers. Throughout the process of honeybee management, the need for supplementary feeding and medicating should be monitored to ensure maximum productivity of bees and to produce top quality honey for harvest.

Apart from honey, beeswax is also another produce from commercial beekeeping. Beeswax is produced in the bee hive by the worker bees to build the honeycomb where the honey is stored and the nursery for the developing larvae. Beeswax is an important ingredient in some food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products such as candles, lip balm, and shoe polish, among others.

Royal jelly is another honeybee by-product that can be harvested during beekeeping. Created for the nutrition of larvae and the queen, and even the drones (male bees), this substance produced by the worker bees is now being used as a dietary supplement for humans. Believed to be highly beneficial to health, royal jelly contains B-complex vitamins and other minerals and enzymes that are antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial. Bee pollen, another known product from beekeeping which has high nutritional and medicinal value, is also harvested in the process.

Potentials of Apiculture

In Sorsogon, beekeeping, is gaining ground as an additional source of income as it is an ideal alternative livelihood with its simple technology requirements, minimal processing, ready market, and suitability to rural settings. Commercial beekeeping is a good source of income with the harvesting and selling of honey and its products, as well as breeding of bees for beginning colonies. There is also potential in the leasing of bees for crop pollination. There is much to learn in managing this agro-based industry, thus, a project titled, “Promotion of Beekeeping in the Province of Sorsogon”, implemented by the Sorsogon State College, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Agricultural Research, was launched in order to boost the beekeeping industry and to increase its livelihood potential.

Bee colonies are abundant and common in municipalities around and near Sorsogon. This already presents a huge potential in commercializing honeybee products. However, as little local studies have been done to develop this enterprise, issues on pests and disease control continue to hinder honeybee production in the province. The benchmarking research performed in the region aimed at establishing database information on the status of native and European breeds of honeybees. This project created further knowledge on the capabilities of the honeybees and the limitations to which the species can be subjected to with regard to pests such as moths. Such data will enable beekeepers to gather information on the proper handling and care for these little hard workers and create improvements in the harvesting of honey and other honeybee by-product.

It has been said that in order to create one teaspoon of honey, 5,000 flower visits by the honeybees are required. Surely this presents a huge amount of work, not just for the bees, but also for the apiculturist waiting for the entire process to complete after he/she has invested time and money in the hives and other expenses in terms of the industry itself. It is true that fairly little human contribution is required in order to create this nutritious product. There is only so much we can do to ensure that honeybees are provided with the proper environment. With this benchmarking research project by the Sorsogon State College and the DA-BAR, the results can be used to bring improvements to honeybee production and management practices in the region and this will, in the near future, bring more buzz to an already busy hive.

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This article is based on the project proposal entitled, “Promotion of Beekeeping in the Province of Sorsogon”, led by the Sorsogon State College, with DA-BAR as a funding agency.
References
1. Barrett, Stephen. 1999. Bee Pollen, Royal Jelly, and Propolis. Retrieved from http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/bee.html
2. Honey for Health. 2010. Retrieved from http://www.honey-for-health.com/index.html
3. Honey Bees and Beekeeping. Retrieved from http://www.i4at.org/lib2/bees.htm

By: Zuellen B. Reynoso, Bar Digest April-June 2011 Issue (Vol. 13 No. 2)