Space is a luxury that not everyone has. However, there is an option that one can take to temporarily use an area that’s not theirs, and that’s through rental.
Wilfredo Obrador, 39, is a pastor and licensed teacher who rents a 1000 sqm lot in Sto. Tomas, Batangas to practice beekeeping. He calls his apiary Mt. Manabu Honey Bee Farm.
This pastor didn’t engage in beekeeping until November 2017, when a churchmate encouraged him to raise bees so they can produce honey for consumption.
Obrador attended training sessions and seminars where he became familiar with the maintenance of various bees like stingless bees (Trigona Biroi) and European honey bees (Apis mellifera).
After weeks of reading up on it and attending beekeeping events, Orbador started renting a lot to cultivate 10 colonies of native honey bees.
When the pastor saw the possibility of earning from this endeavor, he began offering honey, bee colonies, and beekeeping seminars to potential clients.
Mt. Manabu Honey Bee Farm is more than just a business as it supports volunteer teachers, workers, and missionaries from Obrador’s church.
He currently keeps five colonies of Apis Cerana, popularly known as laywan, two colonies of European honey bees, and around 300 colonies of stingless bees. Since Mt. Manabu Honey Bee Farm cannot accommodate such a large number of colonies, Obrador distributed some of the beehives to about 10 farms owned by his friends.
“I just ask them if I can place my bees on their land for foraging and in return, the bees will pollinate their crops,” he said.
Obrador produces four kinds of honey from Apis Cerana or laywan, giant honey bees (Apis dorsata), stingless bees or lukot, and European honey bees, which vary in taste, color, and texture.
Different bees, different abuzz
Obrador noted that while these bees may look the same in the public’s eyes, they require different methods and levels of management. Here’s how he usually manages bees based on their requirements:
Apis Mellifera. This is a high-maintenance domesticated bee species. Based on Obrador’s experience, it takes seven to 10 days of careful observation to check for any presence of mites or if the queen, which usually lays 500-1500 eggs a day, needs treatment.
Splitting of colonies is performed at least two to three times a year for propagation, but he said that when splitting, new queens are necessary for the nucs, or nucleus colonies, which refers to small colonies derived from larger bee colonies.
He adds, “This is also the kind of bees that produces more honey if managed right. Harvesting season is only during the summer season.”
Apis Cerana or laywan. Obrador tends to this wild species that is also called Eastern or Asian honey bees. According to him, laywan are “more aggressive and have the tendency to go back to the wild, especially when they are disturbed during harvesting.”
Stingless bees. Locally known as lukot (Trigona Biroi), stingless bees are another native species that Obrador raises in his apiary.
“We only visit them at least once a month or two. We split or harvest them every summer. They are very rare to swarm and [we do] not need to replace a queen because they will produce their own queen if needed.”
Obrador added that stingless bees are “the easiest and cheapest colony to keep. They are also the best pollinators of crops because they have the largest number of bees in a colony.”
When cultivating any bee species, Obrador emphasizes the need for a good foraging site, which means there must be plenty of trees and flowers around the area. It must be coupled with proper management that will keep the bees healthy and productive.
When the pastor cannot attend to his duties as a beekeeper, he looks for an assistant to maintain the apiary.
At this point, Obrador does not just sell honey, but he and his wife Theresa, also processes the honey into products like honey cider vinegar, salabat powder with bee pollen, soap with honey, beeswax, and more.
Their next goal is to acquire a lot where they can permanently set their bee farm.
Mt. Manabu Honey Bee Farm, which only began as a hobby that provides the family and church community with pure honey, has evolved into a livelihood that can earn up to P20,000 to P30,000 a month.
Photos from Wilfredo Obrador unless indicated
For more information, visit Mt. Manabu Honey Bee Farm
This article appeared in Agriculture Magazine’s March to April 2022 issue.