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1 of 3 (official) Beekeepers. In the whole of Singapore.

That’s who I met last weekend. John Chong, Founder of BEE aMAZEd Garden, shared his journey into beekeeping at a Skills Future event in Downtown Singapore. I made sure I attended, if anything to hear a bit more about beekeeping in Singapore, especially as the honeybees here are not Apis mellifera.

John shared his journey into beekeeping and even shared a song he has written!

John was very friendly and positive with a big smile always on his face. We spend almost an hour discussing bees, he explained how he has been beekeeping in Singapore for just over a year and loves everything related to them. Singapore has Apis cerana (Apis mellifera’s asian cousin, also a stinger), Apis andreniformis (also known as black and red dwarf bees), Apis trigona (the stingless bee) and Apis dorsata (the giant asian honey bee). John keeps mostly asian honey bees, apart from a single colony of stingless bees, with a great story attached to how he acquired the latter.

Species image
The comparison of the main honeybees in Europe and Asia. Image from http://www.padil.gov.au

We discussed the differences between the European and Asian honeybee, the pests he has to deal with (mostly wax moths and ants – asian bees can coexist with varroa mites!) and the difficulties he faces as a beekeeper in Singapore. Singapore is green, and has the perfect conditions for flowers to grow all year round (no dormant winter periods), however, bee forage is scarce in the urban areas simply because the choice of flora is not pollinator-focused, pollinators are still undesirable “pests” to most locals. Similarly, wax moths don’t allow John’s colonies to survive for longer than a year, making it extremely difficult to grow strong and produce honey for sale.

The most interesting part of chatting to beekeepers in other countries is finding out what how different their bees are and hence their beekeeping practices. John is working very hard to instil his love and hence, influence the Singaporean public by sharing his experiences in other countries where beekeepers have placed hives in urban areas and public parks, by inviting them to visit his hives and experience bees for themselves. I believe it is working: more and more companies and individuals are getting involved and are asking him to place a hive on their site. But how could it not? John has incredible charisma and positive energy that is nothing short of infectious! I now hope to be able to visit his garden and have my first encounter with the Asian honey bee right here in Singapore’s BEE aMAZEd Garden! šŸ˜ƒ

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