Lao Jungle Honey

HivesBeekeeping in a foreign country has its challenges.  Following are the notes I have taken on the status of the 10 hives I purchased from Thailand and the 8 starter hives I split off of them two weeks after their arrival:
End of November I purchased 10 hives of apis mellifera from Chiangmai Healthy Inc. and the bees were quarantined and inspected prior to shipment.  Shipping time was one full day and they arrived in good health.  The hives consisted of a feeder and 8 frames of brood and bees.  I opened 5-6 drone cells and found no sign of mites.  The hive itself is Taiwanese style.

I inspected these 10 hives as well and found no sign of tropilaelaps mite but am medicating with a medication called Mitte-Bomb, used by the Thai.  According to them, this is the only medication they give their bees. I placed the hives on stands in a eucalyptus plantation.  The hive boxes are made from a combination of eucalyptus and acacia wood.  I have made arrangements to fly to Hanoi to meet with the Bee Research Center there and spend 1-2 days learning Asian style beekeeping-—hopefully finding out why my hives are loosing their queens and how to make my hives stronger.  I am also planning a trip to northern Laos to see about putting them in the rubber plantations there.

On February 12th I flew to Hanoi and took a room at the Hao Linh House in Hanoi's Old Town.  On Monday morning at 7:50 AM.  I arrived by taxi at the Bee Research Center and had tea with the guard at the front gate.  Shortly after 8:00 AM Dr. Chinh Xuyen Tong, Head of the Department of Bee Biology, greeted me and he outlined the days activities.  He had also analyzed the assessment of the 10 colonies from Chiang Mai and the 8 splits I had made from them.  The results are reproduced below:

Dr. Chinh thinks that my mistake was to have the starter hives next to the strong mated hives.
The workers would then vacate the queenless starts and try to return to their original hives, probably being rejected by the hives.  Bees would swarm around the queen to protect her from what the hive perceives as an invasion and the increase in heat would eventually kill the queen. A distance of 2-3 kilometers is desirable to prevent the new hives from finding their way back to their original hives. 
My experience in Oregon has always been that the starts would not vacate the brood and the bees quickly made a new queen, if fed and given pollen copiously.
Havea Brasiliensis:  February, March, April in Dong Nai Province near Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).
Schefflera Octorphylla:  April, May.
Rambutan (Nephelium Lappaceum):  March, April, May.
Acacia Mangium:  April, May, June, July.  The nectar forms on the leaves.
Zysiphus Mauritiana:  September, October.
Bidens Pilosa (grass):  All year. Very good honey and pollen.
Coffee Robusta Lindens:  November to February.
Coffee Arabica:  November to March.

Currently, Lao Jungle Honey Co., Ltd has hives in four locations in Laos, primarliy to establish if and when these areas are suitable for honey production. The locations are: Houay Xai, located in the Golden Triangle, on the Lao side of the Mekong River, across from Chiang Kong, Thailand. Seven hives are here, recently with the addition of 20 purchased by the German NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) called GTZ. The second location is Luang Namtha, in Northern Central Lao PDR, where there are numerous rubber plantations. The third location is in Hat Xiao on the Nam Nueng River, about 50 km north of Vientiane. The fourth location is Nabong, 30 km southeast of Vientiane.

Houay XaHouay Xai  is a delightful city located on the eastern bank of the Mekong River. I had 7 hives placed here intially later adding temporarily the 10 destined for Luang Namtha (Image 608). Thus far, only 2 of the 7 have produced honey and I suspect that the reason for the lack of productivity for the remaining 5 was because of poor queens. I will re-vist the hive on the 15th of this month, and, if they have not performed better by then, requeen the five unproductive ones.




Houay XaThere was copious honey under the lids of 2 of the hives, which I scraped it off and, with the help of two of GTZ's staff members, we extracted by hand over 5 liters.







Houay XaThe two staff member each received 1.5 liters, and Mr. Bernhard Mohns, Senior Consultant for GTZ received 1 liter and I received one liter. I mailed most of my honey to Dr. Yongyoot Waikakul, Director of the Laboratory Center for Food and Agricultrural Rpoducts Co., Ltd, located in Khon Kaen, Thailand. The analysis should be completed soon clarifying the quality of the honey from our very first, though spontaneous, extraction.





Hat Xiao
On February 6, 2006, all 22 of the Nabong hives were placed in Hat Xiao. Nabong is almost exclusively eucalyptus plantations and they will not bloom until at least May, so this location is currently devoid of pollen and nectar. Hat Xiao, on the other hand, conists of numerous small farms producing a variety of crops and a plethora of fruit trees, not to mention the Nam Nueng River, which supplies both bees and flora with water. There have been 14 hives in Hat Xiao for 2 months now and they are producing honey and the hives all seem healthy. Unfortunately, I have not been present since early November and the hives have swarmed during my absence. Suk does an excellant job of maintaining the hives, but his training has been limited and he does not yet have the skill to prevent swarming.

making honeyOn February 10, 2006, we had our first formal honey extraction. From the 14 productive hives at Hat Xiao, we extracted from 10 of them. The other 4 had honey, but not enough to warrent an extraction. In Thailand, the beekeepers extract every hive, regardless of the amount of honey, but I think that the extractions are deleterious to the bee brood and eggs and will extract only when enough capped honey is available to justify the risk of potential damage to them. In all, we extracted 30 kilo (66 lbs) and the honey had a water content of about 19%. The honey has a beautiful golden color and a pleasantly mild taste. Suk and I were able to extract the honey in 3 hours, despite number of initial setbacks. This photo shows Suk extracting honey in our Vietnames six-frame crank extractor.

making honeyThe villagers were interested in the novelty of honey extraction and many helped.








making honey

This boy, though a bit timid yet, will make a great beekeeper someday. He displayed genuine interest and was eager to learn and assist.








bee keepingAfter the honey extraction, we all sat down on a veranda overlooking the Nam Nueng River and enjoyed a sumptous and relaxing Lao lunch. I supplied the Lao Beer, which enhances any meal!




Luang Namtha is home to about 3000 hectars of rubber plantations. Some 600 hectars of plantations have been in production for a number of years, but the recent spate of plantings have their impetus in the growing Chinese economy, which is expected to consume almost all of the rubber harvested in Lao PDR. Again, the purpose of placing bees in the rubber plantations is to extablish exactly when the trees bloom, how much honey the trees produce and the palatability of the honey. Due to the late monsoon period, the trees will bloom in middle to late February, instead of late December.

Bounthone, Sounthone
In early December 2005 the exact location for the hives was established with the help of Bounthone (on the left) and Sounthone, cousins, are who are employees of PAFO (Provincial agricultural and forestry Office) in Luang Namtha. They were instrumental in introducing me to Mr. Lao Ma, chief of the Hmong village of Ban Hat Nyao. He kindly extended permission to me for the period of 1 year to place bees in his village's rubber plantation. After that, I will be expected to hire one or more villagers to assist in the beekeeping.



Lao MaThe village chief, Mr. Lao Ma, accepts my gift of 3 rubber cutting knives and he kindly gives me permission to place my hives in his village's plantation. (Image 0500) Here Bounthone demonstrates how to use this knew Thai knife. It is drawn toward the user instead of pushed away, as has been typically the case.





bee keeping

What a beekeeper won't do for a quart of honey!









bridgeThis suspension bridge is on the footpath to the rubber plantation with children playing in the river below.








grandmother Life is hard for the poor, as evidenced by this elderly woman carrying firewood back to her hut. Three Cheers for globalization!










making honey In late January 2006, I purchased 10 hives from CM Healthy Products in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The GTZ, a German aid organization that is helping the villagers in Bokeo provence, was kind enough to transport them to Houay Xai for me. After arriving at Chiang Kong, Thailand, in the Golden Triangle, boats transported the hives and us across the Mekong River to Houay Xai. 2 days later, the GTZ assisted me again by transporting the bee hives and me to Luang Namtha and then on to the rubber plantation.




bee keeping The road between these 2 small cities is difficult. I failed to secure the frames in the hive boxes and many of them shifted during transport, causing damage to the bees.







bee keepingIndeed, one hive lost its queen during this stressful and arduous drive.








bee keepingThere is always time for a delicious Lao lunch and the driver of the pick-up and I stopped on our way to Luang Namtha at this wayside restaurant for a meal and a beer. Here, the kitchen in full action!







bee keepingFinally, in late January 2006 we have hives on the ground in the rubber plantation. . For the most part they arrived in good shape. There will be a further report on the status of the hives in the middle of February 2006. The monsoon season was unusually long this year, extending well into November. This means that the rubber trees, which normally bloom in late December, will this year bloom in the middle of February or so.





bee keeping Children are adorable the world round! But these children, living near my guest house in Luang Namtha, were especially loveable. With winter upon them and the temperatures dipping into the 70's, they are bundled up well!






bee keepingA local primary school near the village of Hat Nyao. Abraham Lincoln went to a primary school not much better than this as did Henry wordsworth Longfellow, who later in life translated the Dante's Divine Comedy from medieval Italian to English.





bee keeping Glorious nature, in all its regal beauty, as evidenced by these beautiful flowers in the garden of the GTZ in Houay Xai.








The People's Republic of Lao is home to numerous species of butterflies as evidenced by this beauty photographed in Nathongchong Village, Samneua District.

Lao Jungel Honey Lao Jungel Honey