I guess the little black bees (see photo below) are no strangers to you, as they are so common in Sabah. They seem to nest anywhere that has cavity, like tree hollow, even wooden houses. They usually make a wax-like exit tunnel for the hive. When I was a naughty boy, I just couldn’t help to pinch the tunnel to close the exit, though they are gentle and harmless.
In one occasion, I was told that they are “stingless bees” (Trigona spp).
FYI, Chinese calls it Mi Zai (蜜仔). When stingless bees got agitated,
they don’t sting. Instead, they secrete something sticky and make my
hair sticked together. I didn’t pay much attention to them, because they
are so ordinary and abundant.
One day I passed by a house in Kiau Nuluh Village and saw a few log, each with a small opening.
Another closer look of the log. Actually they are hollow log (usually
coconut trunk) for bee farming. The locals call this empty log
However, to my surprise, they are not farming honey bees, they farm
stingless bees instead. It was early in the morning and most villagers
have gone to work in their plantation, so I could not turn to anyone for
answer. I wonder why they rear such a small bee species. Aren’t larger
honey bees more productive? Later I met a bee expert, Mr. Salim Tingek,
who is one of the authors for the book “Honey Bees of Borneo”. He told
me that the honey produced by stingless bee is sour and even bittern in
taste, but its honey has better medical values, with functions still not
being well-known to most researchers. As stingless bees are a lot
smaller than honey bees, they may have access to smaller flowers such as
herb. His studies are mainly focus on commercial honey bees, so he
advised me to ask the locals for more details.
Searching on the Internet, I found a bit of info from a propolis bee
farm at the Penang Botanical Garden. They breeds stingless bees (in fact
only Malaysia doing this) to get the propolis which can “promote
healing and regeneration of tissues. It has antibacterial,
anti-inflammatory functions and protect the body from oxygen free
radical damage, …useful as healing agent and application for home
remedies such as honey, soap and balm”. That’s all I know at this
moment. Now at least I know stingless bee is an extraordinary bee.
Last month in a jungle trek in Gaya Island, I saw hunderds of
stingless bees gathered on a small tree, which is next to their hive.
It was quite an interesting phenomena, but I have no idea what they were doing. This specie has every big exit tunnel.
Due to the forest fire caused by drought, many bees lose their home.
Above is a photo of stingless bee rebuilding its home on a burnt tree.