THEY are small and they may sting, but their sweet role in the vast pollination of human food crops, fruits, nuts and vegetables is unparalleled.
Honey bees, according to Greenpeace, perform about 80% of all pollination worldwide.
It said that 70 out of the top 100 human food crops which supply 90% of the world’s nutrition are pollinated by bees.
Unfortunately, honey bees, wild or domestic, often find the homes they make under sheds, in rock crevices, hollow tree trunks or atop trees easily destroyed by humans.
“It takes one phone call to destroy what the bees built over days and months.
“This is what we are trying to change, as humans can easily decide a whole colony’s fate, ” said beekeeper Steve Chor, 44, who runs two apiaries with close to 400 colonies collectively.
Chor said throughout the years, he had saved, transferred and released many hives from being destroyed but had also seen many hives burnt to the ground.
“Bees tend to build their hives under a shed or on a tree and these places often happen to be within a residential area or a community space.
“The torching starts when people call the bomba.
“Due to lack of awareness, many people who see a hive would call the bomba as they do not know there are other alternatives to handling a hive.
“They can always call local beekeepers, who are able to help transfer the colony instead of having the bomba burn the hives, ” he said when met at Lebuh Macallum in Penang recently.
Chor said many people who see a nearby hive would usually assume that it is dangerous and that the bees are going to sting them.
“People in general are afraid of bees, and they think bees like to sting.
“But the truth is, bees die after they sting, so they absolutely do not sting unless they feel threatened or if they feel like someone is going to harm their hive, ” he explained.
Chor, who has attended to over 100 cases around Penang to save hives since he started in 2016, said beekeepers nationwide hope people will be aware of other options.
“Our community, with nearly 146 members who are beekeepers throughout the country and they have registered our NGO - the MyBee Savior Association recently.
“We hope to create awareness among the public to not kill bees and instead help us save them.
“In the near future, we hope to be able to raise enough funds for us to push for a certain standard operating procedure (SOP) to be implemented for beekeepers to be called when hives are reported.
“This way, whenever the public call about hives, beekeepers can be informed and we can attend to cases right away without having to torch these hives or kill the innocent bees.
“There is already a certain awareness in parts of the community, like in Klang Valley, Selangor and here in Penang.
“Some bomba stations are aware of the local beekeepers’ hotlines and would revert calls from the public about bee hives to us but many other communities are unaware of such options.
“As such, we hope to push for a certain SOP to be applied in future where calls about hives could be directed to beekeepers.
“We need to create this awareness among the public, to help us save and transfer the bees and their hives, not kill them.
“Each colony can pollinate up to millions of flowers, vegetables or fruits each day, so their role in the ecosystem is irrefutable, ” he said, adding that depending on the size of the hives, a colony usually has some 500 up to 30,000 bees.
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