Singaporeans know very little about bees. We don't think, talk or ask about them because we hardly see them around or encounter them in our urban jungle.
But yes, bees do exist in Singapore. If you ever see them, don't hate them or treat them like adversaries. They are precious pollinators to be protected, not pests to be destroyed.
Xavier Tan, founder of Nutrinest, is an urban beekeeper in Singapore. An ardent educator of local bee conservation, his mission is to spread awareness on the importance of bees. We are so happy to be able to get his help to answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) (about bees and keeping bees in Singapore) that Benefits of Honey receives from time to time.
Thank you, Xavier!
This is a touchy problem for NParks. They know that bees are important to mankind and the environment but at the same time many people have concerns about colonies of bees staying near them. NParks has to make a judgement over public safety and conservation of nature. It is too bad that killing the bees is usually the option.
I heard there are also other people helping to remove bees but I am not sure if they are doing it humanely. To make sure people are removing bees without killing them, one should ask if any fire, smoke or chemical would be used. If these are used, then it is not humanely removing the bees. If they are not used, then by what means are the bees removed? What would they do to the bees and all the baby bees inside the comb after removing them? If they are keeping the bees, where do they keep them and can you go and visit them? Some people think that smoking away the bees is a humane way of removal. Personally, I think it is no good. If the colony is already building comb and the queen bee is already laying eggs, and the bees decide to leave their hive due to smoke, all the baby bees will be left alone to die. This will cause disruption to the normal life cycle of that colony. In order for the bees to leave their beehive, a huge amount of smoke will be required to be used on the colony for a long period of time; many bees will die of suffocation without oxygen.
I would like to visit some bee hives in Singapore and get in touch with a few beekeepers to know more about beekeeping in Singapore. Who can I approach?
There are bees around Singapore like in Botanic Gardens. I know in Sembawang and Kranji, some people are exhibiting their beehives beside my 3 Bee Gardens which are located in Durban Road, Orchard Road, and Jurong. The bees in Sembawang are managing by a former school vice-principal, Mr Chong. Kranji is managed by Mr Wong, a former ST manager. They only keep stingless bees.
I do organize Bee Garden events when I have the time. The objective of my events is to provide an opportunity for interested people to get close to our local bees. If people would like to join in, he or she can Like and Follow my Facebook page, Nutrinest, so that whenever I post an event on Facebook, those who follow will get a notification with a link for registration. As each of these bee garden has thousands to a few hundred thousands of bees, they are not open for walk-in. Before the actual guided tour of the bee garden, I will conduct a briefing and sharing session about our local bees. Visitors will learn how they should behave when visiting the bees in the garden, what they should do in case they get stung accidentally. We have received more than 5 thousand visitors and so far no one has been stung by a bee before. This is a very important point to prove that it is possible to cohabit with our local honey bee as long as we know their habits.
The garden that I am managing had been visited by many well-known people such as our current President Mdm Halimah Yacob, Ms Ho Ching (Wife of Singapore's current Prime Minister), many members of the parliament such as Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Mr Kwah Boon Wan, and Ms Indranee Thurai Rajah. It has also been visited by students from nursery all the way to university researchers. If anyone is interested to organize group visiting to the bee garden, they could contact me at my mobile 91474065 or send an email to [email protected] for inquiry.
I would like to start a program in my school to educate the children about bees and beekeeping. Are there organisations which I can approach for such programmes?
To promote local bee conservation, I do provide excursion and incursion to school, companies, church, temple or any organization that are interested in our local honey bees.
I would like to get one of those beehives with a honey tap from honeyflow.com. Do you think it would work in my garden?
This has been a common question I get too. The flow hive is designed for Apis Mellifera, AKA European bees. It is not suitable for our local honey bees. I do conduct workshops to share in greater detail on the flow hive design and how it functions. People who join the workshop will get to understand why it is not suitable.
I would like to buy some bees to do bee venom therapy, who can I contact?
Bee Venom therapy is also known as Apitherapy. It is not legalized to offer such treatments in Singapore. People can still do this at their own risk. I have helped people who are in need of such help but it is for personal support and not for profit.
I am looking for suppliers of locally sourced honey and beeswax. Are there any shops or beekeepers whom I can contact for these products?
I do have some honey and beeswax, anyone who is interested can contact me. Often you will have to do a preorder as locally sourced honey and beeswax are very limited. You will also expect to pay for a premium.
Is beekeeping in my own garden/back yard allowed? Do I need a license from the authorities?
I am sure many interested people have asked this question before and most likely had approached NEA, AVA, NParks to try to get an answer. I am sure the answer is not certain as this is one of those questions that fall into grey. I am not in the position to answer this for the authority. This would be a case to case decision made by the authority. For my case, I do have an official approval to keep bees in the gardens that I am managing. I am working hard to exhibit to the public that it is possible to cohabit with bees, the bees are important to our environment and we should conserve the bees.
So, now you know, if you wish to start keeping bees as a hobby and would like to find out more about how you could get it started, or if you want to get involved in beekeeping in one way or another and be part of the effort in promoting the well-being of bees, Xavier Tan is the man to call upon!
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"