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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Rafter methodology

The tending of Apis dorsata nests using 'rafters' became an intermediate form of keeping bees in swampy regions of South East Asia and was first recorded in 1851. It appears to be particularly associated with Vietnam although there are records of a similar method being used in other Asian countries.

The rafters are artificial nests sites consisting of a sloping, slightly hollowed half pole made of odourless wood, such as Melaleuca leucadendron, about 1.5-2.5 metres long which is fixed in a slanting position between two tree branches or specially erected uprights. The poles are left in place permanently in the expectation that an incoming swarm would settle on it and find it suitable for constructing their single honeycomb. These poles could also denote ownership of the colony and provide an easier knowledge of colony location and may have value in areas where suitable nesting sites are limited.

The honey is harvested by subduing the bees with smoke and cutting the comb into large baskets and several harvests are normally possible in between migration periods.

Colonies of Apis dorsata do not lend themselves to management in the ways that might be used with the multiple comb building species of Apis.  However, Crane (1999) describes a hinged clip system that holds a whole comb cut from a natural nest site and hung from an attraction plank allowing the exploitation of Apis dorsata in a manner similar to a rafter system. The clip and plank system could be lowered using a pulley arrangement for harvesting.


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