19 August 2015

Beekeeping in Arabia – mainly Taif, Baha, and Asir mountain regions

Following on from yesterdays post I found a very interesting paper on Beekeeping in Saudi Arabia - Alqarni, A.S, Hannan, M.A, Owayss, A.A & Engel, M.S (2011). The indigenous honey bees of Saudi Arabia (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Apis mellifera jemenitica Ruttner): Their natural history and role in beekeeping. The below information is taken directly from this paper that is frrely available on the internet for download. Early Arabic literature reveals that Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula recognized and kept bees for honey production. They called beehives “kawarah”, which means a habitation made of stalks, mud, or a wooden cavity. They also named apiaries as “masane’a”, meaning “factories”, which were kept at isolated sites away from human habitation. The Arabs also recognized the individual castes of the colony such as the queen (termed “the prince”) and drones (“the biggest and darkest ones that stay in the nest, eat honey, and not produce it”. In addition, they made detailed descriptions of swarming behavior and the various developmental stages such as eggs and larvae as well as recognizing bee plants such as Schanginia hortensis, Blepharis ciliaris, Lavandula spp., Ziziphus spp. and Acacia asak. Faith and interest in honey and honey bees increased greatly in the Arabian Peninsula after one chapter in The Holy Quran was entitled “Al-Nahl – The Bees”, in which honey was mentioned as “a curative for mankind”. Since this time there have been many advances in bee-keeping that are employed widely in Saudi Arabia, although many traditional and often ancient bee-keeping practices are simultaneously in widespread use. Beekeeping in Saudi Arabia is a growing industry. The estimated numbers of beekeepers and bee hives are 4000 and 700,000, respectively, and they produce collectively about 3500 tons of honey per year, or about 26% of the required demand. Taif, Baha, and Asir mountain regions in the Southwest of the Kingdom are the most suitable areas for keeping bees in Saudi Arabia. These areas comprise 762,474 acres of forests with an altitude of 900–3700 metres. Temperatures in summer and winter in these regions range from 20°–28° C and 9°–14° C, respectively. During winter, beekeepers take their bees down to Tihama, a warm coastal region harbouring several rich pollen plants that help beekeepers to increase the number of their hives through uncontrolled swarming. Since beekeepers follow traditional beekeeping methods, swarming is allowed to occur freely and more than one swarm normally leaves the hive. Unfilled traditional hives (hollow logs) marked with beeswax are distributed in the vicinity to attract swarms. Other swarms are captured from trees and placed in empty hives. Most beekeepers in the Southwest perform traditional beekeeping methods, whereas Langstroth hives are used in other parts of the country.
Honey Bee
Honey Bee - Photo by Viv Wilson