Beekeeper Yip Ki-hok makes use of naked palms to take away a honey-filled nest of swarming bees
High up within the hills above Hong Kong, Yip Ki-hok makes use of nothing however his naked palms to take away a honey-filled nest of swarming bees – a exceptional ability he discovered after the hardship of China’s famine years.
While most new beekeepers purchase bugs from these with already established colonies, Yip prefers a extra natural technique, trekking into the hills and catching wild bees utilizing abilities he developed by means of trial and error from the age of seven.
The 62-year-old effortlessly strikes by means of bush and dense thickets, removed from the official mountaineering trails, and pauses at a gap within the hillside he is aware of will include a bee colony.
Lighting 5 incense sticks to placate the bees, he waits for the smoke to take impact after which reaches into the outlet, eradicating chunks of the hive together with handfuls of bees.
Remarkably he’s solely stung twice. The trick, he explains, is to take away as a lot of the hive as doable with out killing or dropping the very important queen.
“If you wear gloves, then you don’t know how much strength you’re using,” he tells information company AFP. “If you use too much strength and accidentally kill the queen, it’s very troublesome, it’ll be very hard to take the hive back.”
Moving slowly and punctiliously, he blows on the hive to herd the bees right into a wire cage lined with a white drawstring bag.
He searches for the queen as stragglers buzz round him – an important a part of the operation as the opposite bees within the hive are fiercely interested in her.
“Without the queen, they will get angry and go looking for her everywhere. If they can’t find her they will fly right back out of the cage. They’ll fly around everywhere to find her and start stinging like crazy,” he mentioned.
Although he was as soon as stung greater than 200 instances when he misplaced the queen throughout an extraction, Yip says he has no want for gloves or different protecting gear.
“Why would I need those things? I know their nature like I know my own hand. No matter how mean they are I still have a way to tame them,” he defined.
Back at his farm, Yip makes use of wire to connect the honeycomb to picket frames, that are then slotted into picket crates. Then he pulls out handfuls of bees from the drawstring bag and locations them gently of their new dwelling.
Yip typically collects honey 3 times a 12 months from over 200 hives, extracting the golden liquid by spinning every body in a metallic drum.
It was on the Chinese mainland Yip discovered his abilities, within the wake of Mao’s famine when hundreds of thousands starved and folks took no matter steps they might to outlive.
Yip labored as a trainer in Guangdong province, supplementing his meagre earnings by buying and selling honey for meals coupons.
He switched to full-time beekeeping after financial reforms underneath Deng Xiaoping within the late 1970s allowed personal companies to flourish.
After his spouse’s household efficiently relocated to Hong Kong in 1983, Yip adopted — though it took him some 5 years as he was caught every time he tried to smuggle himself throughout the border earlier than ultimately making it by means of legally.
He needed to begin his beekeeping from scratch, constructing bins for the colonies out of scraps of discarded wooden.
Within a 12 months he had 150 wholesome hives, laying the foundations of a business which has since grown into one of many metropolis’s greatest native honey producers.
But as the worldwide local weather warms and fuels larger storms, his livelihood – and Hong Kong’s bee inhabitants – face rising challenges to their survival.
Ever increasing city developments within the densely populated metropolis already threaten wild bees and their meals provide. And ever stronger tropical storms are exacerbating the harm.
Last 12 months Typhoon Mangkhut – essentially the most intense storm on file in Hong Kong – tore by means of the town, pulling down tens of hundreds of bushes and flattening enormous swathes of pollinating flowers.
“Last year this hole was full to bursting, but it wasn’t like that this year,” he mentioned, referencing the hillside the place he had simply plucked out the hive.
Another colony he visited earlier that day had additionally fared badly.
“That first hive I picked up has not recovered at all,” he lamented. “Typhoon Mangkhut was too strong, it felled over half of the trees and flowers… without the plants, the bees naturally reproduced more slowly.”
Scientists warn rising temperatures will enhance the frequency of extra highly effective storms like Mangkhut.
While Yip plans to proceed trekking into the hills so long as he can, he hopes the typhoons of the long run will give Hong Kong and his favorite bee colonies a miss.
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