By C Dhammearatchi
Rubber is the most prolific honey-producing tree in Sri-Lanka.. It is the sap from the tender leaves that is collected by bees. Rubber-based honey is of a light-yellow colour and has a very sweet flavour. It may take on a darker tinge if mixed with other nectar sources.
During a good season 10-15 kg of honey can be harvested from a single Apis cerana colony whilst 25-40 colonies could be kept at a single site. The yield is dependent upon prevailing weather conditions and management.
Trees 10-15 years old and undergoing tapping produce the maximum sap. Soil conditions also affect sap output. The sap emanates from the tender leaves as they become the normal size - sap emerges twice during the day (0830-1000 and 1630-1800) over a period of three to five weeks. Trees at different elevations shed their leaves and produce new ones at slightly different times and this extends the sap season to nearly two months. It is important that there is bright sunshine during the day as dark and cloudy days, even without rain, reduce the sap output. Night rain increases secretion but also increases sap water content. Heavy rains, as well as washing away the sap, also further reduce the flow due to fungus infection of the leaves.
Another benefit of rubber is that sap secretion always begins three weeks after the shedding of all leaves. This allows the beekeeper to manage the honey bee colony in preparation for the flow.
[Bees for Development Journal #25]