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For centuries, honey-hunters in NW Cambodia—and indeed throughout the entire country—harvested Giant Honeybee colonies in a way that was simply not sustainable.
One could argue that removing the entire comb ‘didn’t matter’ generations ago, when forests were intact, human population minimal, bees abundant, honey-hunters few in number, and chemical pesticides non-existent. But if that argument held some water back then, it certainly holds no water today.
The forests now are all but gone, and human 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 toxic 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; but the entire comb—honey and larvae—is removed, leaving colonies no choice but to regroup, move elsewhere, and attempt to re-establish themselves.
The consumption of honeybee larvae is a major stumbling block in the road to promoting sustainable harvesting of bee colonies in Cambodia…
Although not the sole culprit—habitat loss and indiscriminate use of pesticides, being among the others—the unabated consumption of this delicacy is, without a doubt, a major contributor to the declining honeybee population in the country.
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 sold separately, by the kilo.
Men consume the juicy white larvae together with alcohol; women—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 for sale, join Bees Unlimited--Your Temple Tour Alternative on a Market Tour.
Featured below is a pictorial essay on Cambodia’s love affair with Apis dorsata larvae… and it's not pretty!
Unauthorized use of any or all of these photos without consent of the author is prohibited. Dani Jump©.