The Bee’s Knees

By December 30, 20162016, Asia

I’m a fan of bees. So naturally, I was ecstatic to come across forest beehives and signs of honey collection during one of our hikes through the forests of Ban Huay Hin Lad Nai Village in Northern Thailand. This Karen community in particular has been recognized as a model for self-sufficiency, responsible forest management, and sustainable living. Seriously– they’ve won awards and everything.

Some of that success can be credited to their forest beekeeping. Ban Huay Hin Lad Nai began harvesting honey around 10 years ago, when the then-dwindled bee population finally started to pick up again thanks to their reforestation efforts. Now, with their thriving, fertile, and natural forest ecosystem and the HOSTBEEHIVE initiative that partners with the community to turn their resource management efforts into a profitable practice by producing and selling pure wild honey, it is one of the three main commercial forestry products (alongside bamboo and wild tea) that provides household income for many of Ban Huay Hin Lad Nai’s families. Not only does a portion of every honey sale through HOSTBEEHIVE go right back to the community members and preservation of the forest, but a strong interdependence with nature is fostered. To summarize, though this is a fairly small-scale project, it has tremendous effects.

Anyway, back to these sweet hives. I almost didn’t see them because they were just chilling among the rocks and brush, blending in with their surroundings. They have a very simple design, but evidently get the job done. Each hive is basically a chunk of hollowed out dead tree trunk with a lid and an entrance that is just big enough for one little bee at a time. This is probably the closest a man-made hive can get to mimicking how the honeybees would do their thing on their own in the wild.

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A nice looking hive – blending into the forest.

In nature, they tend to choose spaces such as dead trunks for their homes due to the thermal properties and sufficient vertical space they offer that allows them to build and shape their comb as they deem necessary. In these trunks, they are not restricted to a man-designated frame to create their comb that goes against their every natural instinct of being a bee. Here the bees are given creative freedom and a comfortable studio space to do what they do best. Forest beekeeping is also great in that it doesn’t completely relocate the bees from their natural habitat. It brings the human side of things to meet the bees where they are already living. While urban beekeeping has its benefits, I feel like it’s always a good thing to keep wilderness as wild as possible and limit human intervention– the bees know best.

So, yeah. I just thought the hives were really neat.

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A natural beehive coming out of a tree trunk.

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