MEET A LADY who is a pioneer in researching on stingless bees and promoting the culture of the same as a source of income, especially among poor farmers in Bicol.
She is Dr. Maria Dulce J. Mostoles, the director of the Regional Apiculture Center based at the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) in Pili, Camarines Sur.
Her passion has been duly recognized. At the recent national scientific conference of the Pest Management Council of the Philippines in Cebu City last May 6-9, her presentation won the “Best Paper Award.”
Stingless bees are native bees that are little known to many people. They produce less honey than the conventional Italian bees that are cultured worldwide but Dr. Mostoles has observed a number of good reasons why they should be propagated by more people.
For one, they are not as expensive to culture. They don’t need very sophisticated housing like the Italian bees. In fact discarded boxes of different shapes and sizes as well as coconut shells are suitable for culturing stingless bees.
Although they produce less honey, the honey of stingless bees fetches a higher price than those currently produced in commercial bee farms. A colony with 5,000 or more workers can yield about 300 ml honey in three months which is worth P300. Stingless bees also produce a lot of propolis which commands a price of P800 to P1,000 per kilo. Buyers are makers of wellness products because propolis is said to have anti-fungal properties.
Stingless bees also produce a lot of wax which is also utilized in making cosmetic and wellness products.
The bees also gather a lot of pollen which is a nutritious food supplement that sells for P1,500 to P2,000 per kilo, according to Dr. Mostoles. And the bees are also efficient pollinators of fruit-bearing plants including vegetables and fruit trees.
As early as 1995, Dr. Mostoles who is an entomology graduate from Los Baños began working on honey bees, starting with the laywan or the native bee. She remembers helping an investor who raised the Aphis mellifera. He was at first successful but the project died a natural death due to greed.
She pointed out that the owner collected all the pollen that the bees gathered from the wild which he sold to buyers from Manila. He didn’t leave any of the pollen for the bees to feed on.
Anyway, in 2001, she happened to see a couple of stingless bee colonies in the home of Rodolfo Palconitin in Guinobatan, Albay. That triggered her interest in stingless bees and encouraged Mr. Palconitin to culture the bees commercially, which he did. Today, Palconitin is about the biggest supplier of stingless bee colonies to interested raisers not only in Bicol but also from other parts of the country.
Dr. Mostoles is proud to say that many stingless bee raisers have been encouraged by her. And she has observed that many of them have developed their own housing systems. One of them is a Japanese who came up with a double layer box as housing for his bees.
Many of them, however, simply use coconut shell as their main housing. That is just right for many families who can’t afford to buy sophisticated housing. Some just perch their housing on trees, including coconut trees. Others perch their housing on wooden posts.
Dr. Mostoles mentioned Eriberto Abad of Goa, Camarines Sur as one of those who trained under her. He and his son trained in 2001. They now have about 200 colonies and are selling honey and nucleus colonies. Nucleus colonies sell for more than a thousand pesos each.
Dr. Mostoles has also encouraged her husband Joseph to combine dragon fruit and stingless bees. Starting with 25 colonies in 2010, he now has 400 colonies.
She also mentions Marito T. Bernales, a former president of CBSUA, who placed 40 colonies in his coconut plantation in Pamplona, Camarines Sur. He has observed that the yield of his coconuts has increased by 30 to 40 percent because of better pollination.
Students have also been encouraged to go into stingless bee culture. One of them is Raymond Villadares of Milaor, Camarines Sur. Starting with 6 colonies in August 2013, he has 18 colonies today.
Other stingless bee culturists who were encouraged by Dr. Mostoles include Rufino Quiapo, a retired navy captain; Reydel Riorizo and Peter Pontillas, students who started their own project after their practicum; Johnny Monforte who has two bee farms in Pili and in Daet, Camarines Norte. There are several more.