Kelulut Stingless Bee Farming In Malaysia & Its Honey Production

For most of us, consuming honey is something we would welcome with open arms, but approaching beehives to cultivate it? Not enough.

While the bee stings only as a last resort in self-defense, not everyone would have the confidence to enter bee colonies, even with this knowledge. You might be happy to know that in Malaysia we are able to keep stingless bees.

Locally, they are known as the kelulut bees, and it is actually an industry that has harvested 33.6 million RM in the country as of 2020, but has the potential to grow to 3, 03 billion RM in annual sales if developed. Therefore, we interviewed 2 kelulut farms in West Malaysia (Bayu Kelulut, Kedah) and East Malaysia (RH Bee Farms, Sarawak) to learn more about the current industry.

A wealth of local fauna

“Kelulut bees are native to Malaysia and have been around here for thousands of years, but were only marketed in 2015,” Amira from Bayu Kelulut told Vulcan Post.

Beehives at the farms of Bayu Kelulut / Image credit: Bayu Kelulut

“In 2014, there was a big buzz about the scientific findings on kelulut honey. If honey has been consumed regularly, it can be of great health benefit, ”she explained.

While honey bees are available all over the world, kelulut bees can only be found in countries with tropical and subtropical climates, with Southeast Asia being one of them, said RH’s Joe. Bee Farms.

Bee hives in RH Bee Farms / Image credit: RH Bee Farms

To the untrained eye, kelulut bees may share a resemblance to a house fly due to the lack of a striped body and its smaller size (3mm to 10mm) compared to honey bees (12mm to 25mm). mm), according to Joe.

On the taste side, the honey they produce is also different. Honey harvested from kelulut bees has a tangy, sweet and sour taste paired with an earthy scent.

It doesn’t sting but it bites

Now every living thing will have all kinds of tusks, and the Kelulut Bee is no different. When threatened, they will bite you but that won’t cause a bump or itch, according to Amira.

Although bees prefer to make their hives on the branches and walls of trees, kelulut bees much prefer hollow trunks, underground cavities and wall cavities.

One advantage they have over bees is that they are more resistant to diseases and pests. They are harmless to native species and are also excellent pollinators, according to Joe.

Where a bee eats and lives its days / Image credit: RH Bee Farms

“Kelulut bees are more informative than bees. According to this research, kelulut bees will also be [explore] but do not fully exploit the current floral resources. Bees, on the other hand, will exploit floral resources until they are empty and [do] exploring new floral resources, ”said Amira.

This is because kelulut bees only feed up to 800 m, while honey bees feed up to 3 km, Joe added.

A lucrative but expensive bee

The size of a Kelulut bee’s body compared to that of a bee isn’t the only thing that’s smaller, in fact. They can grow a colony up to 10,000, which is the smallest colony size for honey bees.

As a result, their yield is relatively lower than that of bees. And because of its weakness, the operating costs are also higher than those of bee keeping, resulting in a higher retail price.

While it is a blessing that kelulut bees can thrive in a tropical climate like ours, one downside is that during the rainy season they are unable to collect nectar due to their smaller physique and foraging distance, resulting in even lower production. .

Collecting honey from bees (left) and inside their beehives (right) / Image credit: Bayu Kelulut

However, Joe shared that the reason they would always pursue this is because they find the current bee market too competitive. Kelulut bee honey, on the other hand, appears to be a more premium product besides having a more unique taste.

Amira rang the bell, sharing that their incentive was also in its medicinal value, as kelulut bee honey is richer in antioxidants than honey from their bee counterparts.

Extract the honey / Image credit: RH Bee Farms

Currently, RH Bee Farms has less than 20 beekeepers with more than 7,000 beehives, while Bayu Kelulut has 4,000. These two farms are supported respectively by MARDI and MATRADE in R&D and penetration of foreign markets.

As of now, these two farms export to Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.

Stingless but tolerates Better predators

Honey is not the only thing that attracts intruders to these beekeeping farms, as the kelulut bees themselves fall prey to frogs, lizards, spiders, etc. insects and cobwebs.

Monthly beehive audit / Image credit: RH Bee Farms

“To ward off intruders like honey-loving monkeys and bears, we installed an electric fence system in 2020 on our farms,” Joe said. However, kelulut bees are generally more tolerant of pests and diseases.

Commercially, Amira shared that she was initially challenged by the fact that kelulut honey did not meet the standards of the International Honey Commission (IHC) / CODEX) and the Malaysia Food Act 1983. because the standards they have are measured on the basis of normal traditional honey.

“Therefore, Bayu Kelulut and Gabungan Persatuan Usahawan Kelulut Malaysia (GPUKM) pushed the government to establish new rules and parameters for kelulut honey. In 2017, the Malaysian Kelulut Honey Standard (MS2683: 2017) was established with the help of SIRIM, MARDI and the Department of Malaysia Standard to overcome this problem, ”she told Vulcan Post.

With all of the information Amira and Joe shared about the kelulut bees and the industry, here is a chart Joe shared that sums up some of the biggest differences between bees and our kelulut bees.

Stingless beesStinging bees
Common name– Kelulut
– Trigona
– Bee
– Apis
– Italian bee
DistributionTropical and subtropical countriesWorldwide
Hive– Hollow trunk
– Underground cavities
– Wall cavities
– Tree branch
– Wall
Body size3 to 10 mm12 to 25 mm
Colony size1,000 – 10,00010,000 – 60,000
LifetimeAbout. 60 days (drone / worker) and 3 years (queen)About. 120 days (drone / worker) and 5 years (queen)
Foraging distanceUp to 800mUp to 3 km
Anatomy of the beehiveBuilt horizontallyBuilt vertically
Honey production300g to 1kg / month per colonyUp to 5 kg / month per colony
Defense– Propolis strike
– Bites sometimes
Bites
ProductHoney, propolis, pollenHoney, pollen, honeycomb, royal jelly
AdvantageHigh tolerance to pests and diseases– High efficiency of honey production
– Longer life expectancy
Disadvantage– Low yield of honey production
– Shorter lifespan
Vulnerable to diseases
  • You can read more about RH Bee Farms here and Bayu Kelulut here.
  • You can read more about other startups we’ve covered here.

Featured Image Credit: RH Bee Farms

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Jothi Venkat

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