Stingless Bees of Borneo
Honey has always been an essential sweet treat and has been a valued and expensive commodity. None more so than in the rainforests of Brunei, where through history, honey has been collected for its pure enjoyment and the smiles it brings to peoples faces.However, there is a problem as sourcing honey can be a challenging and at times dangerous affair, due to the bees themselves. Bees have evolved through evolution and developed the perfect defence mechanism i.e. their sting. Those of us who have had the misfortune of being stung know that this evolutionary adaptation is very effective. This has meant that harvesting this delicacy, especially in rainforests where the bee species can be very aggressive, or the hives extremely high up in the canopy, can be problematic! As a member of the teaching community the idea of keeping bees hives in school has always been a big NO; that is until I discovered stingless bees. These bees are small, non aggressive and most importantly can’t sting and they produce a unique tasting honey which is very sweet but with a sour limey after taste. It is DELICIOUS!
Bees have been regular features in the news over the last few years as their numbers are in decline. Due to our modern farming techniques, the use of pesticides has had a real detrimental effect on bee populations around the world; in fact the market for bee pollination services is now big business, as there are some areas of the world where there aren’t enough bees to pollinate crops. At school l wanted to develop a program, run by the students where they had to develop a sustainable, environmentally friendly business. The students would be given a budget from which to work and from that they had to source tools, plants and the beehive. The aim of the project was that it had to be sustainable, i.e. had to be a continuous project which could develop over the next few years, it had to earn money so that in the future it became self funding and most importantly it had to have educational value. The project was started in October 2018 with a patch of forest in the school grounds, which over the last 8 months has seen a huge transformation.
Once the benefit and value of the project was successfully negotiated (remember the concerns for keeping beehives in school…), the first stage was to clear the area of elephant grass and prepare the surroundings, making it suitable for the bees. A design had to be agreed, with particular emphasis on researching and sourcing the correct types of plants, as well as a water collection system. This all had to be in place before the first beehive arrived. A team of students worked extremely hard to create the beginnings of garden, fighting the heat, humidity and mosquitoes!
How have we done….?
The students have done an amazing job! We have a garden which over the years will continue to be developed, (there is still a lot of work to do) and have our first beehive. The bees are thriving and producing a good quantity of honey, which we have manage to harvest and get 6 jars from. We WON the ‘Most Sustainable Green Business Award’ in the school Eco competition and managed to make some money by selling our Jungle Honey during Earth Day. Most importantly the students involved in the process have been educating other students and teachers on the importance of bees to the environment and showing them how the bees make their honey and the process that goes into the harvesting of the honey.
When iameko was conceived one of the most important aspects discussed, and what makes the iameko concept so different and unique is that we wanted to educate the next generation. We want them to understand that we share our home with other species and that looking after these species is important to our own survival. We also wanted them to understand that business doesn’t have to be a competition, but can actually work in harmony with nature; after all the next generation will become the businessman and women. This is why we have teamed up with the Borneo Nature Foundation (http://www.borneonaturefoundation.org/en/) and are helping to promote the tremendous work they do, especially with regards to their educational programs for students.