"We are going to start beekeeping in Singapore. Please share with us your knowledge."
From time to time, I receive such requests through this website asking me to share what I know about keeping bees in Singapore. Interestingly, some even left their mobile number and suggested that I should contact them so that I can hear about their beekeeping project.
Actually, all that I know about beekeeping in Singapore is recorded and published in this Benefits of Honey website. Here's the page with the links to begin with: Can We Have the Honey Bee Back, Please?.
I've no idea if there are many bee enthusiasts in Singapore, but my hunch (based on the letters received so far) is that more often than not, the real interest is in the bees' honey and not the bees (there's nothing surprising or wrong with this, I too love bees' honey). No doubt, if it's a commercial interest involving the production and sale of honey, you can expect layers of laws and regulations for commercial beekeeping, even if it is to be carried out in some remote island belonging to Singapore.
As for keeping bees as a hobby in Singapore, my first findings from the authorities ended in March 2012 with the conclusion that beekeeping is allowed so long as no complaints about the bees are being lodged to National Environment Agency (NEA). However, subsequently in Feb 2013, much to my surprise, one of my page visitors wrote to me and said the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) told him that bee-keeping in Singapore is only allowed for exhibition purposes and one has to be a member of the Biosecurity Assurance Arrangement (BSAA) with AVA. And on top of that, an exhibition license with the Centre for Animal Welfare, AVA is required. (I thought hearing the long string of names was enough to dampen one's spirit...) Thus, to get the latest updates regarding beekeeping regulations, you will need to contact the authorities directly. And if you have the latest clue on whether keeping bees in your home is lawful here, please do share with us at: Keeping Bees in Singapore. We would be so eager to hear from you.
Even if beekeeping in Singapore is allowed and you could construct or buy hives and understand all the instructions in a backyard keeping bees video, the biggest challenge remains to be looking for a bee colony to start with. Other than the experts from the National Park's wild life team who are able to catch a swarm and a queen bee from the nature reserves or parks, I have no clue who else could do it, so far none have stepped forth. And when the authorities are not open about beekeeping here, we can also forget hiring an expert to help you capture a swarm, let alone buying and importing bees from overseas like in other countries. Another concern is whether the honey produced here is fit for consumption. It's important to know where the bees forage for nectar as there may be too much pollutant and the plants and trees here may be treated with too much chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Not to forget, fumigation activities to support the anti-dengue mosquitos' campaigns in the country are rather prevalent.
Most people here are not too bee-friendly (and again, there's nothing surprising, fear of being stung is perfectly normal). Bee hives spotted are quickly reported to AVA and removed by the so-called pest controllers (such as Rentokil). My gut feel tells me that there are people who keep bees in Singapore but they are all "underground", in other words, they are more than happy to find bees settling themselves in their gardens, but would be hush about it and hope their neighbors would never discover it, because once AVA receive complaints about bees from the public or their neighbors, they will have to have to surrender the bees.
Where everything is so highly organized, clean and sanitized, and public reactions against these buzzing creatures are so negative (especially among the elderly and young children) and overcoming the fear of being stung is challenging, perhaps keeping stingless bees and studying the life of one of the most important pollinators would be a great way to start. And the schools and the policy makers in our education system can and should certainly take the lead by forming groups and clubs to help the children embark on beekeeping. And I earnestly hope the day when anyone can openly share their success in keeping bees in their rooftops and balconies with their neighbours and show off their honey harvest would come very soon.
PS: When we are finally able to start beekeeping in Singapore, I hope the Wildlife Reserves group or animal rights activists here who never seem to have an issue with bee hives being treated like pests and destroyed whenever they are discovered in homes and on the trees would quietly step aside and not raise objections and start preaching on animal/bee cruelty. (By the way, beekeeping doesn't have to be cruel.)
July 2018 (Updated)
1. Can We Start Keeping Bees in Singapore?
2. A Case for Urban Beekeeping in Singapore
3. From the Voice of a Singaporean: Can We Have the Honey Bee Back, Please?
4. Bee Removal in Singapore
5. John Smith's Posting on "Keeping Bees in Singapore"