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Apis cerana provides a living in the Yunnan Mountain Area of China

Tan Ken, Zhou Danyin, He Shaoyu, Eastern Bee Research Institute, Yunnan Agricultural University

Yunnan Province is a mountainous area in the south west of China, with a population of about 42 million, and 24 ethnic groups. The Province has a high degree of botanical and zoological diversity due to its various geographical features and different climate zones. These range from tropical, seasonal and low altitude subtropical evergreen broadleaved forest, to the fringe of cold, high meadows and steppe region. There are dry and rainy seasons; from May to October there is an annual rainfall of 600-2000 mm. Mr Zhi (34 years old) lives in a Jiro ethnic village in the south Yunnan mountain area. Traditionally this ethnic group lives by simple farming and hunting, but since animal hunting has been forbidden, like other villagers, Mr Zhi began to learn how to grow some economic crops and how to keep the local Apis cerana honeybees to earn a living for his family. Mr Zhi has two daughters, six and eight years old. His wife left them two years before they became so poor, and his yearly income is about 800 Yuan (equa! to US$100).

Apis cerana beekeeping has a long history in this local region. Originally colonies of Apis cerana were kept in logs or caves in the wall, and honey harvest was about 3 kg a year. In 2003 with the co-operation of Yunnan Provincial Beekeeping Administrative Station, Yunnan Beekeeping Research Institute and the Eastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan Agricultural University, a new style of hive was introduced to the village. The hive consists of several moveable boxes, and during the honey yield season the boxes can be put on or taken off as supers.

In this way Mr Zhi's honey production has increased from 3 kg per colony to 20 kg per colony. His five colonies produced about 100 kg of honey last year, and he earned more than 1,000 Yuan from his beekeeping. With this money he could support his two daughters to go to school.