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By H Pechhacker and N Juntawong
Improvements in beekeeping must always consider local bee species, races and ecotypes. Observations in the north of Thailand show what happens when an exotic bee is introduced.
The area around Chiang Mai is used for intensive agriculture. Besides rice and vegetables the large orchards growing litchi, longan and mango provide the important crops in this area. Litchi and longan orchards particularly need insect pollination and longan is a very important plant for honey production in this region. A lot of longan honey is exported to Taiwan and Japan.
The table shows the numbers of Apis cerana colonies present in the same apiaries in 1985, 1988 and 1992. The dramatic reduction in the number of Apis cerana colonies can be seen.
Dr W Ritter has informed us that he also found a big reduction of Apis cerana colonies in the north of Thailand between 1985 and 1988. At the same time the number of Apis mellifera colonies has multiplied several times. There is now a highly developed Apis mellifera bee industry in the area, producing royal jelly and pollen.
WHY IS APIS CERANA DECLINING?
Is there economic competition? No, because the local beekeepers are still providing nesting sites for Apis cerana by offering empty traditional hives as they did 1000 years ago. Traditional hives are now never occupied by Apis cerana. A beekeeper of this region said "No swarms come anymore - and if a swarm comes, it will abscond again very soon".
WHAT IS THE EFFECT?
Because of the decline of Apis cerana colonies in many regions of Asia, Apis cerana is an endangered species The smaller the native population of Apis cerana in any area, the higher the danger for this bee because of its mating behaviour
This means that beekeeping for home use in many regions of Asia will be lost According to Professor Verma, "Apis cerana is the bee for the poor man in Asia", and this poor man will be much poorer than before.
When the Apis cerana population is destroyed a native and well-adapted pollinator for both native and agricultural plants will be lost The results for native plant biodiversity and the pollination of agricultural crops cannot be estimated Is Apis mellifera able to pollinate as effectively as Apis cerana?