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Many people overlook that fact that bees themselves have additional values beyond producers of honey and beeswax. In many communities bees are traded in a number of ways and beekeepers will sell a nucleus hive, a package of adult bees plus a queen, a new queen, or even a whole colony. A growing beekeeping industry will create a demand for these products. In the northern parts of Ethiopia for example it is common for honey bee colonies to be sold in the markets, just like other livestock. A beekeeper may be able to add value by dividing bees or catching swarms and once they are well established, offering the extra colonies for sale.

In addition, the bees provide a pollination service for farmers and growers. In most developing countries producers enjoy this service freely from the natural populations of honey bees and other pollinators that are in the area. Beekeepers add significantly to this pollinator population and so offer a valuable service to farmers, helping to enhance local food security and boosting the productivity of cash crops. Commercial pollination extends this service more formally to large scale growers whose crops require pollination. This is a feature, particularly, of intensive monoculture agriculture which is an increasingly worldwide phenomenon. In many countries, beekeepers temporarily move their colonies into the crop that needs pollinating and are paid a cash amount for doing this.

Finally, the honey bees themselves can be used as food. Both adult and larvae (brood) are rich in protein and honey bee brood of all ages is frequently consumed by honey hunters and beekeepers throughout Africa and Asia. Brood is usually considered a delicious treat. Bee brood can form a valuable protein supplement in otherwise protein poor diets. The flavour of brood is rich and nutty and they can be consumed fresh, pickled, canned or cooked. They can also be included as part of the food given to other animals to be used for meat production, especially if a colony has died out or has been removed from a place where it was causing a nuisance.  In China and Japan, drone brood larvae are covered in chocolate, while in Israel drone brood, dried and made into tablets, is reported to be used as a cure for male impotence.

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  • Language English
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  • Author Bees for Development
  • Publisher Bees for Development
  • Published Date October 2016
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