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For centuries, honey-hunters in Cambodia have harvested wild bee colonies in a way, that now, is simply not sustainable.
Removing the entire comb didn't seem to matter much, generations ago, when forests were intact, human population minimal, bees abundant, honey-hunters few in number, and chemical pesticides non-existent; but that is simply not true today.
With deforestation in Cambodia second only to that of Brazil, the forests are now all but gone. The population has exploded in recent years. Human encroachment into prime bee foraging areas, and the subsequent loss of habitat have all but assured the decline of honeybees in the country. Honey-hunters, too—particularly those with an opportunistic bent—have multiplied; and, rampant, indiscriminate use of pesticides is commonplace in the ever-expanding agricultural sector.
Sadly, non-sustainable harvesting continues unabated. Insect spray is sometimes used; fire is an oft-used means of killing the bees in order to access the honey and larvae without getting stung; shooting arrows with cotton swabs dipped in agricultural pesticides is not uncommon, either. But by far the most wide-spread and traditional practice is the ‘one-cut-take-all’ method, where colonies are smoked and the adult bees spared; the entire comb—honey and larvae—is removed, leaving the bees no choice but to regroup, abscond, and attempt to re-establish themselves elsewhere... something that is well-nigh impossible these days, with money-hungry honey-hunters (currently getting $25/kg for Apis dorsata brood, and a whopping $30/li for wild honey), constantly scouring the forest cover for new colonies to exploit.
The consumption of bee brood is a major stumbling block in the road to promoting sustainable harvesting of bee colonies in Cambodia…. Unabated consumption of bee brood is also a major contributing factor in the rapid decline of honeybees here.
Dwarf Honeybee (Apis florea) larvae--brood comb--is often sold together with the honey.
Brood comb of the Giant Honeybee (Apis dorsata) is cut up in slabs and generally sold separately, by the kilo.
Men consume the juicy white larvae together with alcohol.
Women—and particularly pregnant women—can’t seem to get enough of the stuff, and eat it raw, cooked, fried, roasted—a craving that continues to fuel the non-sustainable use of this invaluable natural resource.
For a great opportunity to observe bee brood and honey for sale, join Bees Unlimited on a Market Tour.
Featured below is a pictorial essay on Cambodia’s love affair with dorsata larvae… and it's not pretty!
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