European bees colonize Planet China

Hello little world!

I know it’s been a while. I would have written sooner, but my proxy expired, and I still haven’t figured out how to uninstall my Australian internet program, so there was little hope of my finding out what a proxy is, let alone updating it.

A word on importing bees for development:

Our project manager uses an interactive children’s bee activity to explain, “Beekeeping is always better to do with the local kind of bee. It is always best to try and keep the local animals in their natural home, instead of bringing in animals from other places.”

And yet here I am on planet China keeping western bees in Langstroth hives. Until recently, I did not fully understand why this was, and it made me a little uneasy. You don’t have to take Conservation Biology (though you should) to understand that introducing foreign species is a complicated business.

So it was with great relief that I learned that our bee project is not responsible for introducing Apis mellifera to the Yunnan province. Within the next month, migratory beekeepers will line the roadsides, and their European bees will feast on Asian flowers.

Though traditional beekeepers still keep cerana in log hives around here, most commercial operations work with mellifera. Our project manager is making a bee board game in which players who choose mellifera get two honey tokens for passing ‘go.’ If they choose cerana, they are awarded only one honey token, but they are also immune to the ‘disease’ spaces where mellifera suffers a penalty. This is pretty much how it works in the real world, too.

Ours were the first Europeans honey bees to overwinter in Shangri-la’s high altitude and harsh climate. We wrapped our boxes, and we didn’t pull honey in the fall, and still we pushed sugar water in the spring. Our mission was to determine whether raising honey bees is a viable development project in this area. It was the locals who chose mellifera for the project- they were keen on a honey crop. However, all told, the enterprise proved possible but probably not profitable. Anyway, an interesting experiment.

As far as beekeeping for development (beesfordevelopment.org), there are plenty of complications to consider- spread of disease, competition for floral sources, displacement of traditional beekeeping methods, displacement of native bees, and I have lots more research to do. Will do that. Later.. At the moment I have a city to explore.

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One Response to European bees colonize Planet China

  1. Kailah says:

    Good to hear from you and know you’ve made it the other side of Eurasia. Looking forward to more updates from you when you get the time & internet!

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