Nomadic life of beekeepers

VietNamNet Bridge – Going to the Central Highlands in the coffee flower season, to the central region to wait for the cajuput flower season, to the plain for longan and litchi flowers ... beekeepers travel everywhere and they almost never have Tet holiday.

bee, beekeeper, beehive, flower, honey


On the days before Tet, along the bank of the Lam River that goes through the communes of Nam Tan, Nam Thuong and Nam Loc in Nam Dan district of Nghe An province were fields of corn flowers. Thousands of honey-bee nests were placed in tents along the riverside. Mr. Nguyen Duc Minh, 30, from Chu Pah district, Gia Lai province both watched the bees which were collecting nectar and told stories about his beekeeping life.

Leaving school early, Minh worked for a bee company in the Central Highlands. His task is escorting a truck to take thousands of beehives to flower fields. After a period of time, Minh bought his own beehives, 100 Iatlian honeycomb, and hired a truck to take his bees to flower fields.

The work of a beekeeper like Minh changes according to the season of flowers, unlike nomads chasing meadows and lakes on steppes. In March, when white coffee flowers bloom in the Central Highlands, they take bees to coffee gardens to set up camps. A few months later, when the Acacia flower season comes in the forests of the Truong Son Mountains, they go to the central region. Then they go to the north to follow the longan and litchi seasons in Hung Yen and Bac Giang province.

As a worker of a honey company in Hung Yen, when the company was dissolved, Mr. Mai Van Nam was allocated with some beehives. Nam and his wife hired a car to take the bees everywhere. After selecting a flower field, beekeepers will build a tent and start their days with the bees.

"We call it a tent but it is actually just a tiny canvas that can cover a bed. Nomadic beekeepers live like prehistoric man. They live day and night alone in the wild, without lights at night and cannot make much smoke while cooking because bees fear smoke. We almost do not watch TV," Nam said.

Speaking about their job, beekeepers compare themselves as hard-working mason bees. "The bee is responsible for sucking nectar, we are also bees. We have to take care of the bees carefully. When the bees are safe then the nab cab live," he added.

Nam said beekeeping is very elaborate. First, when they find a suitable flower field, they have to rent a truck, put the entire bee boxes into the car and drive to the flower field. The transport process must be fast and smooth and during the trip the bees must be provided with enough food. If unfortunately a bee box is broken, the whole bee hive is damaged.

If beekeepers find a good flower field, just about half a month, they will get the result. Very quickly, they must mobilize workers to collect honey day and night. This task must be done quickly otherwise the bees will be afraid of and leave away.

With 200 beehives, Nam harvests around 500 kg of honey each time. After that, honey firms will come to buy honey at the prices of VND30,000 to VND50,000 per kilo ($1.5-$2). Each two months the beekeepers harvest honey three times. If they are lucky, beekeepers can earn hundreds of million dong a year.

However, this job is not always smooth. Bees are very sensitive to the environment. They will die if the flower field has pesticide or fruiting drugs. "Look at flowers, watching the weather" is the most important task of the beekeepers. If it is too hot, the bees will leave, if it is too cold the bees will eat its honey and then die. In addition, the beekeepers have to watch out larvae or strange bees or other animals that eat bees as toads, lizards, geckos…

bee, beekeeper, beehive, flower, honey
18 years old but this guy has been a beekeeper for 5 years. His parents gave him 100 beehives.

"This occupation is very risky. You can earn a billion dong within several years or you can also be empty-handed after just a few months," said Nguyen Dinh Nam, a beekeepr from Hung Yen province.

Speaking of Tet, beekeepers just smiled and sighed. Throughout the year they are away from home, even during the lunar New Year because if they go home, they must take their bees home together but without flowers, then bees will die.

20 years living with bees, Mr. Nam and Mrs. Bay occasionally return home to see their children. After collecting honey, the couple come home to give money to their parents to spend for their kids and leave. Understanding the work of their parents, the couple’s kids are dutiful and study well.

Mr. Nam said many people had to quit this job to take care their families. Some people have to take their children with them and these kids also pursue this job because they have no time to go to school.

"Although there is no Tet for us but for beekeepers, every day is spring because our job is to bring bees to flower fields. Where there are flowers, there is spring," Mrs. Bay said.

This Tet holiday, Bay and her husband took their bees to the central region to wait for Acacia flowers.

Compiled by P. Lan
bee, beekeeper, beehive, flower, honey
 
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