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Cambodia's Honey Harvest Traditions...in Action November 18 2016

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Photo courtesy of thousandwonders.net

The epicenter for honeybees in Cambodia overlaps with its historical center.  

Angkor Wat, the region’s iconic temple complex reminds us of the sophistication of a society that was.  From roughly 800 to 1400 A.D., the region thrived (before a devastating invasion by Thai warriors) and residents of this ancient metropolis relied on honey from the forest.  “In 2007, satellite photographs of the area showed that it may have been the largest pre-industrial city in the world. It had an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of 1,000+ kilometers, and a complicated water management network. It is estimated that it could have supported up to a million people.” - reported by honeyarchives.com

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Photo courtesy of livescience.com

Photo courtesy of uniprot.org

The native honeybees of SE Asian jungles are the Giant Asian Honeybee, or Apis dorsata.  

Unlike many other species that seek out protected cavities to form a hive, these bees create otherworldly curtains of wax that droop attractively high on canopy limbs.  Containing 50,000-100,000 bees and weighing up to 115 pounds, these oversized blades of buzzing cooperation appear like giant droplets of golden honey oozing with anticipation, clinging atop airy titans of the rainforest.

Photos courtesy of zoochat.com & indnaturewatch.com

Apis dorsata are a good choice to harvest and cultivate as they’re not overly aggressive or reactive and can safely be approached within a few meters.  These bees build homes high in the canopy to avoid honey-scavenging attackers and monitor the mild tropical breezes for any hint of blooming nectar.  Since these bees cling to the hive’s exterior, they famously utilize a mesmerizing proactive defense technique known as “The Wave”, shown here by David Attenborough.

Honey-harvesting traditions in Cambodia are twofold:

Honey Hunters: “Early in the season honey hunters search the forest for bee colonies and mark occupied trees, so that other honey collectors can see that the colony is already ‘taken’.  Later they return to harvest the honey. The harvesting season varies across the country.  For example, on the Tonle Sap Great Lake honey is harvested during the rainy season when the floodwaters allow access to the flooded forests. Honey hunters are adept at climbing and can reach even the seemingly most inaccessible colonies high up in the outer branches of tall trees.” - as described by the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, ACCB

 

Photos courtesy of lakadpilipinas.com & iaszoology.com

For millennia (no one knows how long) Cambodians intrepidly discovered, then bravely scaled up to 15 stories from the forest floor to win a sweet harvest.  Either free-climbing barefoot or with only plant-fiber cords, they ascended with a bundled tuft of grass to smoke the honey bees into a less angry swarm.  Marvel at this must-see clip of the courage and fortitude this requires.

Rafter Beekeepers:  The bravery of tree-climbing foragers evolved into the practice of rafter beekeeping, basically clever placement of poles that mimic the diameter and angle (roughly 30 degrees upward) of high tree limbs. Beekeepers carry familial knowledge about locating their rafters carefully for habitation by a swarming colony.  Adjacency to water and good nectar forage are clearly important, but read these more subtle details that guide rafter placement.  “The absence of weaver ants is of paramount importance when determining the location for rafters…. Rafters are usually well-protected by the surrounding vegetation on all but one side. The resulting opening at the upper end of the rafter serves as flight path for the bees. Once a swarm settles on a rafter, this rafter tends to get occupied year after year. Therefore, the rafters are not removed at the end of harvest season, but simply replaced every three years.” - ACCB

 

Photo courtesy of beekeepingstuff.com

As human beings we are hard-wired to care for whom we love and what we need.  

We’re social creatures that tend to and improve conditions for our beloved. Since our emergence from Ice Age wilderness, ancestral family, clan and tribal bonds bolstered our ability to survive in groups.  Our survival and progress has always depended on this.

Yet, what truly unlocked the growth for human societies was the extension of care to other species.  For humanity to thrive, we cared for crops in cultivation and creatures in our stables.  In exchange, a consistent source of grain, vitamins, furs, milk, meat and power was available for us. Due to love and care for other species; by setting the stage for them to thrive, we radically augmented our ability to survive.

Apis Dorsata, Giant Asian Honeybee

In Cambodia, the status of the Giant Asian Honeybee and its home forest is in question. Once, when humans were fewer, simply scraping off the bounty of the forest by harvesting the whole hive was feasible.  But, as human population and forest clearing for cultivation swelled, the wild swarms that would’ve re-stocked any patch of habitat have dwindled.  

As the dominant species on earth, we must continually adapt our techniques of care to steward all species.  Adaptation is underway in the Angkor Wat region: Humans Grow Kinder to Honeybees.

A window flower box, a backyard wildflower patch, a few Seedles and some water... it's all care.  And your care matters.

 Courtesy of Graham Owen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Humans Grow Kinder to Honeybeees - Traditions Transform in Cambodia November 18 2016

Traditional honey harvesting techniques evolved to meet the preferences of the Giant Asian honeybee and the desires of humans.

Dani Jump, founder of Bees Unlimited, believes that human desire goes too far and shares this story to illustrate:

 "I was out in a village one day with a friend when I heard the villagers explaining, in Khmer, what sounded like ‘rafter beekeeping’; a tradition, they said, that was being practiced in a community some distance away. I was privileged one day to join a team of community foresters working for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in this very village, where residents manage a community forest. One of them just happened to be the most respected honey-hunter/rafter beekeeper in the region. He showed me some of his Apis dorsata colonies, and how he harvested them.  I was shocked! He was cutting away the entire comb. That’s when I realized the rafter beekeepers here needed help.  Cutting off the hand that fed him—and his family—made no sense to me at all. This one-cut-take-all traditional method of harvesting Apis dorsata colonies just had to go. I would make sure of that."

Dani Jump, founder of Bees Unlimited, at Cambodian street market. Photo courtesy of Damian Magista

Dani’s story isn’t isolated either.  “Traditionally, the honey is harvested in a non-sustainable way, on a one-cut-take-all basis, where the entire comb is cut off, the honey is squeezed out and the larvae are sold to be cooked and consumed. The bees lose their offspring and if the colonies survive, they subsequently leave the area.”

- per the Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB)

For both honey hunters and rafter beekeepers, old approaches have proven too destructive.  Across Cambodia, honey hunting provides household calories and income, but bee populations are dwindling due to deforestation, destructive harvest practices and cultural desire for a certain delicacy from the hives.  

Photo courtesy of Damian Magista

Bee brood is the name for the grilled delicacy of bee larvae encased in the hive's comb. Local people enthusiastically flock to enjoy it, which pressures hive viability in the region. Wild honey harvesters push further into forest habitat, hunting hives and cashing in on bee brood demand to support their families.  “Deforestation is just one of the problems facing Apis dorsata. Cambodia’s burgeoning population, with an insatiable appetite for bee brood, is equally responsible for the decline; and, ‘one-cut-take-all’ harvesting has, over the years, had a negative impact on the bees. Deforestation and bee brood consumption must stop, if the bees are to stand a chance of recovering.” - Dani Jump

Positive change is now underway, led by efforts from Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity, World Wildlife Fund, the Non-timber Forest Products Exchange Programme, and Bees Unlimited.  These organizations value intact rainforest that's utilized for sustainable harvest and valued as a complete ecosystem that’s crucially pollinated by native bees.  

Bees Unlimited trains local people for sustainable rafter beekeeping. There are three main principles:

Placement - Finding a strategic, attractive spot for the rafter to attract a colony.  Think of this like a bird house or osprey platform that enhances nesting habitat.

Protection - Raising awareness and organizing villagers and land owners to spare swaths of forest from clearing.

Harvest - The sustainable choice to cut out only the “honey head” from the hive. This is the most honey-rich portion of a rafter hive and spares the larvae (brood) and queen.  Below is a summary from ACCB, and here’s an up-close video of the technique.

Photo courtesy of ACCB

“During a sustainable harvest only the so-called ‘honey head’ is removed, an area at the upper end of the comb that contains almost all the honey. The rest of the comb is left intact, and the bees soon replace the honey head. This technique allows for earlier and multiple harvests, and also helps to protect the bees and restore their population in a given area. Having been deterred by smoke, within minutes after the sustainable harvest the bees are back on their comb. Once the bees start to migrate, the empty and abandoned comb is removed and processed to wax for sale. The bees return to the same place in the next season.”

In Cambodia, we are lucky to witness a full arc of techniques from tree-scaling wild honey harvest alongside careful arrangement of rafters in bee-friendly habitat, to ever kinder and wiser methods that spare the hive’s honey head.  With the guidance of trainers like Pieng Chhoin and Soeun Bun Som, local practices are adapting toward a sustainable honey harvest and beekeeping that promotes healthier forests with adequate hive densities.  

Over time, Cambodians adapted to accommodate bees’ needs by mimicking the limbs of the canopy trees.  Can they now adapt to the needs of the forest, caring for its pollinators?  The reach of wiser techniques, from Bees Unlimited, is surely part of the answer.

In our communities, the challenge to care is similar.  Can we adapt to provide our bees and key pollinators the habitat they need?  Let us bee the answer and grow the wildflower habitat of tomorrow!   

 Courtesy of pinterest.com

 

 

 


Seedles recipient of Burt's Bees Natural Launchpad program July 20 2016

We're happy to share we've been selected to participate in the first Burt’s Bees Natural Launchpad program! This annual grant program is for creators energized by an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our planet and everyone on it.

Our connection with Burt's Bees starts even before the founding of our organization. It begins with a dear family friend of ours, in fact ... she was one of of the first team members at Burt's Bees. Her and her husband both overwhelmingly supported Seedles when it was just a far-flung idea being shared amongst our closest friends. With their enthusiastic vote of confidence we set on the journey to build Seedles, and they've been cheering us along each step of the way. It's serendipitous to be involved with Burt's Bees at this stage in our growth. They represent a company just like ours, started from humble beginnings with a deep commitment to creating natural and environmentally sound products. This is why we have continued to power our business operations with sun-power and have designed a product Seedles which sprouts into wildflowers to leave the world a more beautiful and colorful place. We're not just interested in doing less bad, but in doing much more good. Leaving a positive trace is possible ... we believe this partnership will help us advance those goals and much more.

As one of the grant program recipients, we will receive a $10,000 grant, a day of company mentorship, continued professional guidance and community support from other award winners.

We express deep gratitude to Burt's Bees for this unique opportunity.  We will do our best to make the first group of Burt's Bees Natural Launchpad recipients one of the best.

Thank you, thank you, thank you ...

Sincerely,
Chris, Ei Ei, Orion, Peter, Martín, Andrea, and Bryan

 


Bombs Away - 100,000 Wildflowers For Our Future (Giveaway) April 18 2016

Seedles - Seed Bombs Giveaway

Sow it forward for future generations ...

Hiya beautiful! It's Earth Week, and we're aiming to create a buzz. 100,000 of them.

At Seedles, one of our goals is to sprout a future generation of curious and creative kiddos. This week only, we are giving away 100 classroom kits to teachers all over the US. Each kit has everything a class of giggling and adorable kids would need to grow wildflowers while learning about biology and bees.

Why? ... Bees across the globe are experiencing a cocktail of obstacles causing their health to be jeopardized with each flower they smooch. Whether it be pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or genetically modified crops ... they need our help to enjoy more clean food. They pollinate one in every three bites of our food, why not give back a little? By planting native wildflowers we're given them a fresh buffet of bee food, an action that feels good to do and supports their health too!

Apply by this Friday April 22nd to be entered to win one of our 100 Classroom Superhero Kits.

If you are a teacher and would like to be entered into our recipient pool to receive your very own classroom supero kit, please fill out the following Google Form - http://bit.ly/seedles-classroom-kit-request

Our Kit Includes

  1. 33 Wildflower Seedles - Some people call them "Nature's gumballs" ... we call them play with an impact. Enough for each student to have 1-2 seed balls to sprout and grow. What are seed balls?
  2. 30 Eco-Friendly Pots - They'll need something to grow their wildflower in, we help provide that too.
  3. Compost -  A yummy mixture of three types of compost perfect for sprouting the Seedles. (Did he just say yummy about dirt? Yes!)
  4. Classroom Instructions & Activities - Fun, playful, and educational activities that engage the students hearts and minds about the plight of the bee, what kids can do about it, and how to become a bee superhero.

 

If you are a teacher and would like to be entered into our recipient pool to receive your very own classroom supero kit, please fill out the following Google Form - http://bit.ly/seedles-classroom-kit-request

Thank you!

Sincerely,
Team Seedles - Chris, Ei Ei, Peter, Martín, Andrea & Orion


Seedles and Cascadian Farm partner to Bring Back The Bees February 08 2016

Seedles Flower Bombing Video


Pesticides Create Same Effect On Bees As Binge Drinking Does On Humans May 26 2015

Research proves pesticides  disrupt brain function, bee learning,  and the ability to forage for food.

"We can now be confident that at these levels, neonicotinoids disrupt brain function, bee learning and the ability to forage for food and so limit colony growth." - Dr Connolly,  Dundee’s School of Medicine

It's been many years since pesticides have been suspected to be involved in bee colony collapse. Now the proof finally exists, in concrete, non-negotiable, definitive terms. 

Research at the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews has confirmed that levels of neonicotinoid insecticides accepted to exist in agriculture cause both impairment of bumblebees’ brain cells and subsequent poor performance by bee colonies.

The contribution of the neonicotinoids to the global decline of insect pollinators is controversial and contested by many in the agriculture industry. However, the new research, published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, demonstrates for the first time that the low levels found in the nectar and pollen of plants is sufficient to deliver neuroactive levels to their site of action, the bee brain.

“Our research demonstrates beyond doubt that the level of neonicotinoids generally accepted as the average level present in the wild causes brain dysfunction and colonies to perform poorly when consumed by bumblebees,” he said. “In fact, our research showed that the ability to perturb brain cells can be found at 1/5 to 1/10 of the levels that people think are present in the wild.

“This is not surprising as pesticides are designed to affect brains of insects so it is doing what it is supposed to do but on a bumblebee as well as the pest species. The bumblebees don’t die due to exposure to neonicotinoids but their brains cells don’t perform well as a result and this causes adverse outcomes for individual bees and colonies.

“This is not proof that neonicotinoids are solely responsible for the decline in insect pollinators, but a clear linear relationship is now established. We can now be confident that at these levels, neonicotinoids disrupt brain function, bee learning and the ability to forage for food and so limit colony growth.

“It may be possible to help bees if more food (bee-friendly plants) were available to bees in the countryside and in our gardens. We suggest that the neonicotinoids are no longer used on any bee-friendly garden plants, or on land that is, or will be, used by crops visited by bees or other insect pollinators.”

 

Take Action

Plant native wildflower seed balls in a fun an easy way with Seedles.

 

Sources:

[1] http://www.dundee.ac.uk/news/2015/bee-brains-and-colony-health-jeopardised-by-pesticide-exposure.php

[2] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmenvaud/writev/668/668.pdf


Why Grow Wildflowers With Seed Balls September 25 2014

Are Flowers The Solution?

Opinions about what is causing the decline in the honey bee population are rampant. Almost every month there is new research showing a different perspective on the causes. The causes range from pesticide usage, to diseases, to mite or moth infestations, to decline in biodiversity.

One piece of research indicated the decline of honeybees seen in many countries may be caused by reduced plant diversity. Bees need a varied diet full of diverse foods just like human do. Imagine eating the same meal containing meat and potatoes for the rest of your life, you just might get sick. Research indicates the same is true for bees, they need a well-rounded food supply featuring a diverse set of plants and flowers to maintain a healthy immune system.

We advocate growing native perennial wildflowers for several reasons

Suggestions below are wonderful, but buying organic, growing organic, and petitioning local stores is much more time consuming than most people are willing to invest.

  1. Easy – Growing wildflowers is easy and fun.
  2. Increases Food Diversity – Wildflowers increase the diversity of food supply for pollinators (this includes honey bees).
  3. Sustainable – Wildflowers provide lasting, sustainable biodiversity to our homes, neighborhoods, and cities.
  4. Joy and Color – Wildflowers provide color, joy and inspiration where we live.

We found the easiest solution, and made it easier with Seedles. Help us grow wildflower seed balls and support the honey bees.

 

5 Things You Can Do To Help Honey Bees

  1. Plant organic bee friendly plants and grow wildflowers with Seedles seed balls.
  2. Don’t use toxic chemicals in your home or your garden.
  3. Support local sustainable agriculture, which promotes habitat for 50% more bees.
  4. Purchase raw organic honey from local sustainable bee keepers.
  5. Tell your local garden store to stop selling bee killing insecticides, pesticides, and chemicals.
Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.

- Luther Burbank


How To Make Seed Balls / Seed Bombs August 01 2014

How To Quickly Make Seed Balls

Fun Fact: Bees have 5 eyes – 3 simple eyes on top of the head, and 2 compound eyes, with numerous hexagonal facets.

 

Ingredients

  • Seeds - Can be wildflowers, herbs, vegetables (lettuces do well), or native grasses
  • Clay - Dig it from a creek bed, buy it in powdered form, or purchase wet clay. Any clay is fine, but powdered clay is easiest to work with.
  • Compost - Either make your own or purchase a bag of good quality organic compost. Worm Castings also help, but don't use them more than 10% of your compost portion.
  • Water
  • Big Bowl - and Some Helper Hands

Instructions for How To Make Seed Balls

 

  1. Do a dance, this activity is fun, so celebrate and jump around for a minute!
  2. Mix 1 parts dry powdered clay with 7 parts compost by weight in a big bowl. Mix these together first. If using wet clay, you will want to mix the compost into it bit by bit using a heavy spoon or strong hands.
  3. Mix in 1 part seeds by weight into the clay and compost. If the seeds are very small (like california poppies, yarrow, tidy tips, etc) you can use less, because sometimes 1 cup of seeds can be 250,000 seeds, which would be overkill for a batch.
  4. Mix in 1-2 parts water slowly, usually the 1st part can be added quickly, but the second part needs to be added until you get a thick, dough like consistency.
  5. Break small pieces off and roll them between your two hands into seed balls or seed bombs, whichever you like to call them. The optimal size for making seed balls by hand is between the size of a dime and a nickel.
  6. Let them dry for 24-48 hours before tossing them. Putting them in direct sunlight speeds up the drying process

Ideas for Planting The Wildflower Seed Balls

  • Toss them in your backyard!
  • Go Hansel Gift them as party favors at your
  • Go Hansel and drop them along your route to work then enjoy them everyday. You deserve it.
  • Make a kitchen window garden by adding herb seeds and turning your seed bombs into Thyme Bombs.
  • Reverse egg hunting - Truly celebrate spring by letting kids add color and life to your backyard.
  • Make (Big) Kids Smile - Order a bunch for your wedding, school garden project baby shower, corporate event, birthday, or anniversary party.

Proportions

Many people across the internet recommend a 5 parts clay to 3 parts compost ratio. I also used this for a short while until it became evident the seeds were having challenges in breaking out of the seed ball, and the seed ball was not disintegrating as quickly as I would have liked. I recommend making the mixture as high in compost as you can make it, while still using the clay to hold things together. My experiments have shown to produce success seed balls with 1:1 ratio of clay to compost and even higher ratios of 2 parts compost to 1 part clay. Some of the higher compost seed balls do not have as much strength though, so beware they might need to be stored or transported gently.

 


What are Seedles Seed Balls? May 17 2014

What are Seedles?

Seed balls are a method for distributing seeds by encasing them in nutrient rich mixture of clay and compost. This protects the seeds by preventing them from over drying, being blown away by wind or eaten by birds and rodents.

Seedballs don’t have to be started indoors. The added protection from the clay and nutrients allows for better germination and higher success rates when planting outside. Because they are encased in clay and soil, your seeds don’t get eaten by bugs, birds, or other creatures. Instead they are protected and supported as they grow up big and tall.

Why our Seedles rock … and roll.

  • Red Clay – A special red clay that feeds the seeds minerals and protects the seeds from insects and birds.
  • Compost – Three types of compost are used including worm castings, sifted compost, and beneficial bacteria infused compost.
  • Seeds – Filled with regionally appropriate native wildflower seeds, they can grow up to 5-10 flowers. You will get high germination rate seeds, which ensures your Seedles will sprout without a doubt.
  • Size – The seedballs you will get are about the size of a nickel. Many other seedballs are too big, and have too many seeds inside causing wasted seeds and too much competition between the young seedlings.
  • Hot Peppers – We use hot pepper powder to prevent ants, slugs and other insects from trying to eat the seeds before they sprout. This isn’t in the coating so it’s safe for you to touch.