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The Second Asian Apiculture Association Conference

26 - 29 July 1994 Yogyakarta, Indonesia 

The eyes of the beekeeping world are focusing on Asia as the great diversity of Asian honeybees is recognised. However it was only relatively recently that regional organisation the Asian Apicultural Association AAA was formed AAA’s first, founding Conference was held in Thailand in 1992. In July this year AAA held its Second Conference, this time at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia it was attended by about 150 delegates from 20 countries.

It is often stated that the honeybee is one of the most researched of all animals. However, all of the fundamental knowledge of honeybee biology elucidated by Karl von Frisch and others has been determined in Apis mellifera of European origin. It is therefore of great interest for scientists to have other honeybee species to study and compare.

Alongside the Asian honeybees are of course their various predators and diseases Industries exploiting honeybees elsewhere in the world are based entirely on Apis mellifera, the only honeybee species not native to Asia. The European race of Apis mellifera is highly susceptible to Asian predators and diseases, and one of these predators, the parasitic mite Varroa jacobsoni, has now been spread by man_.to many regions For this reason apicultural scientists are focusing their research efforts towards understanding the defence mechanisms employed by Asian honeybees.

The possibility for European honeybees to survive in the presence of Asian mites has had another major consequence too it means that, with the right techniques, they can survive in Asia. This has led to Asian industries being established using all the techniques and equipment developed for honeybees of European origin. Because labour costs are relatively low, these large-scale industries based on Apis mellifera can be highly profitable. This has consequences for world honey markets.

From biological point of view, the consequences of these high populations of introduced honeybees upon the survival of native honeybees are not clear. It seems possible that some races of Asian honeybees are already facing extinction.

AAA consequently finds itself with a large subject area to cover - from the pure biology of Asian honeybees, the development of beekeeping in Asia, the analysis and marketing of honey and other products, to the ethnological study of honey gathering in traditional cultures, and the protection and conservation of the bees.

Papers and discussions at the Conference reflected all of these problems. Research scientists presented new information on the biology of recently identified honeybee spec and their distributions. although standard beekeeping texts continue to assert that there are four species of honeybees, the total is seven and rising, with all but Apis mellifera native to Asia. While scientists work to unravel the biology of Asian honeybees, support for beekeeping, particularly beekeepers endeavouring to manage native honeybee species, needs to be strengthened in many ways. Standards need to be defined for local honeys so that their marketing can be developed Research and analysis facilities to assist beekeepers with disease identification and honey analysis are lacking within Asia. The high moisture content of local honey remains a serious problem in most Asian countries. The Conference highlighted some of these areas, and the following are amongst the resolutions endorsed:

With regard to the conservation of different species of Asian honeybees through the promotion and development of better beekeeping techniques, the Conference recognises that:

- The Asian region is the richest in the world in honeybee species and genetic diversity.

- Bees and beekeeping are important components of sustainable agriculture and forest ecosystems.

- The biology and management of Asian honeybee species are poorly understood.

- Asian bee species have many characteristics of biological and economic importance.

- Different Asian bee species are scientifically neglected.

- Major constraints in beekeeping with Apis cerana are: habitat alteration, competition by exotic Apis mellifera, sacbrood virus diseases.

Therefore this Conference resolves to:

- Encourage all concerned institutes and organisations in the region to initiate research in the biology and management of scientifically and economically important species of Asian honeybees. 

- Establish working group on the biology and management of Apis dorsata, and koschevnikovi with Dr Mardan (Universiti Pertanian Malaysia) as co-ordinator.

- Establish working group on biometry, selection and breeding of Apis cerana with Dr Verma (ICIMOD, Nepal) as co- ordinator.

- Encourage research on the role of Asian bees in boosting the productivity of different agricultural crops through their pollination activities and work out the economic values of bee products and pollination.

- Make zones in each country for beekeeping with Apis cerana and Apis mellifera respectively.

- Include honey plant resources as an important component of forest farming and pasture ecosystem development programmes and promote hive products as non-timber products. 

Another important resolution with regard to the future role of AAA was for it to make efforts to establish centre of beekeeping training and research in Asia.

The Conference was truly co-operative effort, the scientific programme being arranged by AAA headquarters in japan, and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry organising the Conference itself, with the utmost attention to detail from start to finish. And it certainly was finish to remember, with exquisitely elegant Indonesians performing ‘honeybee dances’, accompanied by gamelan players. Karl von Frisch would have been delighted!

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