Beekeeping in Thailand: Chiang Mai

After six weeks in New Zealand, I traveled to Thailand to visit a second cousin. Tom has been living in Bangkok for the past twenty years, but he visits the U.S. from time to time, and we met once when I was a kid. We spoke on the phone in November. He almost remembered me.

“Maggie! It’s been a while. We met at Denny’s in 2001, I think. You have red hair? Blue eyes?”

I squinted my green eyes and tugged on my brown hair “. . . no.”

Luckily, we were the only two Irish people in the Bangkok airport at 10 p.m. on March 3rd. We found each other easily and became fast friends. We toured temples, explored markets, and drank coconut juice fresh from the shell. The best part was the motorcycle taxis. The weirdest part was the beekeeping.

After a week in Bangkok, Tom and I head to Chiang Mai. It was a ten-hour trip in a bus that looked like Las Vegas. A big screen TV at the front of the bus blasted a quintuple-feature at top volume. The Thai actors proved versatile. Every movie featured the same cast; only their characters changed. For example, when I dozed off, the main character was selling beef jerky to his soul mate. When I woke up, he was staging a heist in a tropical rainforest.

We reached Chiang Mai around 8 a.m. The city was draped in an early morning fog that lasted all week long. In fact, the city had been stuck in a haze for a month. The common farming practice of burning crops to prepare fields for planting usually results in a week of smoke. This season, unfortunate weather patterns trapped the air pollution so that it lingered over the city for months. The haze was mystical and hard to breathe.

On our second day in Chiang Mai, we ventured outside the city to meet Tom’s friend, a beekeeper. P’Gaew (pronounced Pea Gay-ow) met us in his pickup truck and showed us to a small yard of hives. The colonies were kept in single deeps. Our translator explained that due to the tropical climate, bees in Thailand are unable to regulate temperature in multi-story hives. I spent last summer working Minnesota bees in one hundred degrees and high humidity, and those bees handled the heat just fine, so I was a little skeptical of this statement. Maybe it was a mis-translation? Or maybe there is something to this claim? My mind is happy to be changed, so feel free to share insight if you can.

I was also surprised to learn about the harvesting regimen. P’Gaew pulls honey off his hives every six days. Some people do five, but five-day honey is high-moisture, low-quality stuff. If P’Gaew waits six days, he can get moisture levels down to 21%. At this stage, the cells have not been capped, so the honeycomb goes directly to the centrifuge, a portable hand-crank machine that allows him to extract on the spot. P’Gaew explains that this is less hassle.

P’Gaew sends his crop to a nearby packer where a processor mechanically dehydrates the honey, heating it to 55-75 degrees Celsius (131-167° F) to separate off the steam (exact figures may have been lost in translation).

The packer is Taiwanese, and I gather that he is working here because beekeeping is small-scale in Taiwan, and labor is cheap in Thailand. For an even lower labor cost, P’Gaew interjects, commercial beekeepers outsource to the neighboring countries of Laos and Myanmar.

P’Gaew does not need to outsource because he runs this small operation himself. His numbers oscillate between 70 and 200 hives, and he has only been at it for four years now. He learns from manuals, friends, and classes put on by the government agricultural association, which provides considerable resources for beekeepers. We spend twenty minutes in the pickup flipping through a government-issued beekeeping pamphlet, and then we head back into town for the local specialty: eggs fermented in horse urine.

Actually, the weirdest part was the lunch.

Maggie
HoneyBeeSuite

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Comments

Pat
Reply

Love that story, ‘Maggie’!

Actually the ‘P’ part of his name means ‘Uncle’. It is a form of address
showing respect for an elder.

Don’t they have bees there that are resistant to Varroa?

Lee Mike
Reply

How much can you tell me about Taiwanese beekeeping? I am here in Taiwan; I even have a 4 hive now. But there are no honey supers that I know of, so I am trying to figure out how it all works. I have a Taiwanese beekeeper trying to help me but he doesn’t speak English. So it is a lot of hand waving things get done. I have to figure out what he was teaching later. I was a beekeeper in America so I have some knowledge but this style has me totally lost. Oh, by the way they do have second deeps, but they only use them in royal jelly production. If you can help me out with what you know I would be grateful.

Regards,
Mike

Roy
Reply

I live in Fang in the Chiang Mai province. I would like to see this fellow’s bee hives. We are in the process of buying land and I am considering raising bees. Can you give me contact information? You are welcome to write my email.

Pee is a sign of respect to an older person, no matter the relationship. Thus I can be called Pee Roy. Ah is the term for uncle. I am Ah Roy to my nieces.

Rusty
Reply

Roy,

I will send your message on to Maggie. She was the one who was there.

Johannie Hanker
Reply

My Husband and I will be in ChaingMai on the 7 th of July 2013…I would love to let my husband see how Thailand does beekeeping…as Douglas is one here in South Africa…Is there anyway that I can come in contact with a Beekeeper in ChiangMai or the otherwise in Bangkok…prefer ChiangMai…Thank you very much!

Rusty
Reply

Johannie,

I will forward this message on to Maggie.

Elle
Reply

My name is Elle. I live in Chiang Mai (Sarapee District). Last week I just took a beekeeping class. I’m really interested doing top-bar beehive here, since I’ve never seen anybody here in Chiang Mai have TBH. I have an uncle who’s a beekeeper and he also haven’t seen TBH in Chiang Mai. I wonder if you ever seen anybody in Thailand doing top-bar hive?

PS. I’m thinking to start my backyard beekeeping in May (if possible).

Lee Mike
Reply

Hello Elle,

I know a person in Chiang mai that uses top-bar hives. He is the manager at North-Chiang Mai University his name is Ruangyot Jaiwang. You can use his name and find him on Facebook..

Regards,
Lee Mika

Elle
Reply

Thank you ^__^

John McCormick
Reply

Right now I’min Chiang mai and will be here for about another week or so and would really like to take a beekeeping class. I bought some local honey last night at the Sunday market and think that’s some of the best I’ve ever had. I’m also thinking about getting a hive or two as a side project this summer! Any info on the classes would be great! Thanks!

Elle
Reply

Hi John, I took a beekeeping class provided by Thai department of agriculture, Agricultural Extension and Development Center Chiangmai province (Bee Keeping) I took it in March 27-30. It was a free class. Limited only 30 persons.
I don’t think they’ll open more class in this month.
But if you’d like to check out here’s the web site of the department.
http://www.aopdb04.doae.go.th/

Sorry, They don’t have english version on that website.

PS. My uncle sale honey at Sunday market. You probably met him?
His has a bee farm name’s Jarapabee farm
https://www.facebook.com/jirapabeefarm.cm

Meng Chap
Reply

I am a beekeeper in Cambodia, Banteay Meanchey province opposite to Arahgabrathet Thailand, I am very happy to meet you in your website, I want to buy 2 complete colonies of bee. Could you please contact me my e-mail: mengchap@yahoo.com

With best regards and very thank you if you contact me; I can speak Thai.

Rusty
Reply

I forwarded your message to Maggie.

Joey Lee
Reply

Hi

I am an American living in Tanzania Africa right now hanging out with some people that are in the Bee Biz making honey. I keep raving about how i love Thailand and want to move back.They asked me to find out what the possiblities are of startiing a honey bee farm operation in Thailand. Any info would be helpful. Does the goverment and locals have it all locked up or can we come over and invest and start one up?

Jan Dekker
Reply

I live in Chiangrai and would like to buy a bee hive from her in CR or Chiang Mai, Anyone know an address?

Thanks in advance!

Rob
Reply

Do you know anyone doing bees in Khon Kaen area? I would like to start up a few. It is mostly rice farms here so I am not sure how well it will do… But worth the try I think. I had bees in the States so its not a new subject for me but learning the ways of Thai bees.

Michael
Reply

I work at the Big Bee Farm in Pattaya, the largest bee farm in Thailand. We have started beekeeping courses, if anyone is interested. CONTACT birt_192@hotmail.com for details.

nick
Reply

hello.
I am NICK BEE & GARDEN, from Kota Bharu Kelantan, MALAYSIA ,would like to enquire from your goodselves the followings:
1. Price per hive(box) 10 frames with bees
2. Price of 100 sheets wax
3. Retail price of 1 frame of bee
4. Minimum amount of hive to purchase
5. When is the time available to purchase
Kindly also let us know regarding the transport from your warehouse to border in SG. KOLOK Thailand(Malaysian border Rantau Panjang).
Thank you.

Rusty
Reply

Nick,

I do not sell bees or beekeeping equipment.

Terry
Reply

A couple of points from comments above. This paper http://labs.biology.ucsd.edu/nieh/papers/ThaiHoneybeesPageProofs.pdf indicates that back in the 1980s the Thai government invited Taiwanese beekeepers to pass on their knowledge in order to develop a beekeeping industry, hence the presence of Taiwanese.

Secondly the Varroa mite originated from South East Asia but the local bees like Apis Cerana have adapted better hygiene practices of daily grooming to remove the mite and therefore reduce the damage of the mite. Apis Mellifera, the European Honeybee, is an introduced species which has not fully adapted to this parasite so has problems.

I note from the blog that the harvesting cycle is extremely short compared to Australia as uncapped honey, with its higher water content will tend to ferment. I have opened bottles of Thai “wild” honey with has a noticeable sour smell (like vinegar) indicating that fermentation has taken place. Wild honey collecting destroys the colony and they place a plastic bag over the comb to collect the nectar and honey, effectively solarising everything at high temperatures destroying the enzymes and nutrients contained in raw honey (any temperature above 40 degrees Celsius.

Shaun Miller
Reply

Hi there, I am an Englishman living in Kanchanaburi. I am really interested in keeping bees and would like to know where I can purchase bee hives and bees in Thailand, in fact any information would be very much appreciated.

Thanks Shaun

Rusty
Reply

Shaun,

Sorry, I no longer have a contact in that part of the world.

Terry Avery
Reply

Hi Shaun,

I have recently obtained some hives in Bangkok. I currently have two in the urban area of Min Buri and three are located about 1/2 an hour out of Kanchanburi and they have been excellent to work with. I obtained my bees (with hives) from a honey supplier: https://www.facebook.com/LUNGSAARD and purchased an additional hive from a bee farmers co-operative in Chiang Rai: http://www.thaweechokebees.com who also sell a range of beekeeping equipment.

My bee supplier has indicated that she is experiencing a lot of bee deaths at the moment; the reasons are not clear but there is a dearth of flowers in the area where they are located or it could also be pesticide related. Anyway she has indicated that it would be November before she could confidently provide a healthy hive.

There is a bee farm in Kanchanaburi’s Sai Yok: Pornthep Farm. Contact: Khun Jumnian at 084 319 0838.

Back in Australia I have a Langstroth hive in my backyard so the Taiwanese style of beekeeping is a bit different to what I am used to.

Shaun Miller
Reply

Hi Terry, first of all thanks for the reply, just the info I needed. I’m going to go on a beekeeping course in Thailand so I can get the basics. I have been looking at the Honeyflow hives from Australia but not too sure about those. Can’t wait to get started, Iwill definitely be going up to Sai Yok as that is very near me.

Again thanks Shaun.

Tanya
Reply

Dear Terry and Shaun,

We just moved to Bangkok and I am hoping that I’ll finally be able to realize being a backyard beekeeper.

-We were one of the Kickstarter Honeyflow funders so have a hive due in a few months time.
– We have a garden and are soon planing to start adding in nectar producing plants — any suggestions welcome. We are near some of the parks, so hoping there will be enough forage around.

Meanwhile I would love to take a beekeeping course and wonder if you could recommend one? (I don’t speak Thai.)

Grateful for any and all advice,
Tanya

Ray
Reply

Hello to everyone.

Thanks alot for made this website. I’m specialist on insemination on honey bee. We would like open some company about beekeeping and teach this technique in Thailand. I’m very interesting for get in touch with beekeepers and any people knows about that in Thailand. Please if everyone knows about that, guide me, our company from Germany and this website about us:

http://www.talghihe-malekeh.com
My email : m.reza_ghaderi@yahoo.com
Very Beast Regards
Ray

Michael Birt
Reply

Hello, I could be interested in what you are doing. I am in Thailand at the moment but am going back to the UK in 3 days, coming back to Thailand in December where I will be until April 2016. If you want to meet up when I am back let me know.

Regards

Dr Michael Birt

FRANK
Reply

Hi, do you know or have any contacts in the Chonburi area that is selling bees. I have 2 hives that require bees.
Regards
Frank

Rusty
Reply

Does anyone know?

liz
Reply

Where can I buy those equipments?

maji
Reply

hello
glade meet you
pls i want 1-2 beekeeper for teach us in iran_mashhad city
can you help us?

Rusty
Reply

Maji,

No, I know no one there.

Michael birt
Reply

Just taught some beginners basic beekeeping in Thailand and one person came from Iran.

Majid
Reply

Do you think i sucseeful for this project in chiang mai??

Terry
Reply

There are a number of beekeepers in Chiang Mai so you should be able to keep them. The problems they have is with the cold weather there.

I have lost my two hives in suburban Bangkok because the government sprayed for Dengue fever mosquitoes during the day and killed all insects in the area including my bees.

I have had my hives near Kanchanburi reduced because the local farmers spray with herbicide, fungicide and insecticide. It is making it very hard to keep bees in Thailand.

AJ
Reply

Hi,

I live in Thailand and will to start my own business of beekeeping, is it possible to have a look at the bee farms in Chiang mai, can you help me with the approx. investment cost and returns?

Rusty
Reply

AJ,

Even if I lived close by, I know nothing about the economy within Thailand.

Praveen Kumar
Reply

I am an Indian beekeeper. I want to see the Thailand beekeeping and want to meet the beekeepers.

Rusty
Reply

Praveen,

Sorry, but I no longer have any contacts in Thailand.

Avram
Reply

I am a backyard beekeeper from southern California. I came last year to see the Big Bee farm in Ban Chang. Impressive. But they were not helpful in showing me their operation. I too am considering doing beekeeping in Thailand but there seems to be many obstacles. Farmers and the government spraying insecticides being a big one. What bees are being raised, Asian or European? If I come I would raise varroa hygiene Europeans (if I can import them). It seems farmers do no want to pay for pollination services. Is that true? Anyway, I welcome any dialog.

Rusty
Reply

Avram,

I sorry but I cannot help you. I used to have an associate observing beekeeping in Thailand, but she is no longer there so I have no current information.

Terry
Reply

Avram, like you I am a backyard beekeeper in Australia but spend a lot of time in Thailand at my wife’s house. You are correct that spraying programs are done without regard to the consequences to animal, bird or insect life. In a post above I mentioned I lost two hives in Bangkok due to spraying for Dengue fever mosquitoes. There was no notice from the government of their intentions to do so. There was no insect life or birds for months in that area.

I have four hives in central Thailand and they have sprayed four times in three months, such is the fear of dengue and no one seems to be thinking of the long term consequences of that level of exposure to humans or the environment. My friend has managed to keep the bees alive by locking them up the night before spraying and keeping them locked up for a few days.

Unfortunately farmers here do not understand the value of pollination services or do not wish to pay for it. The only return for the beekeeper is the honey they collect so it is a very low profit operation. Also there are no protocols for not placing bees on land until after the witholding period for the various chemicals used.

European bees are used and are readily available. Importing bees may be a problem but I don’t know all the details of the requirements.

Michael
Reply

Do you mean the Big Bee Farm in Pattaya Avram?

Modabber
Reply

Hi dear
Thank you for reply
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Said any thing to them
New i think about jelly royal prodution in iran
I thinked they are helpful to me😢😢😢😢in junary i will go to chiangmai
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FRANK
Reply

Avram,
I had a contact that let me down with supply of hives in Thailand. This happened after I set up my operation and now I have all the equipment but no bees.

I contacted customs and they said it was not possible to import bees from Australia as they classed them as a threat to crops! I was a bit shocked and arguing the point in Thailand gets you nowhere.

I had a senior contact at the university in Chaing Mai who was helping me but she is spending more time overseas. The Big Bee farm in pattya was of no help as all they wanted me to do was take a tour.

I thought the hard part of the process was setting up the equipment but it seams the hard part is getting bees! My next idea is to find a swarm and capture it and try and introduce them to my hive. I have nothing to lose unless someone who reads this can help.

I am located in Chonburi.
Good luck with your plans.

Michael
Reply

Hi Frank,

As far as importing bees from OZ or anywhere else it is right that the Thai forbids it. And arguing the point like you say will get you nowhere and rightly so too. The problem when you import bees is that you bring along all the problems. That was how Varroa, Small hive Beetle. Foulbrood etc was brought into Europe causing all the problems that are now raging throughout.the place. Also when You bring in another strain of bees and you get them crossing with the bees already here which again causes problems. its a well known fact that if you cross say and Italian bee with a English bee or any other strain you will end up with nasty bees which are very hard to handle. So leaving the strain here alone which are Italian is a correct way of going about things and anyone who wants to argue the point with the Thai Government either knows little about beekeeping or is stupid. It not difficult to get bees if you have a contact as its very easy to rear queens from a good strain of bees and put them them into Nucs and let you have them. If you are ever in Pattaya and want to call into The Big bee Farm give us a call on my email at birt_192@hotmail.com and I will show you around and not give you the tour. I am leaving for the Uk in a week and will be back in Thailand in early December.

Best wishes

Michael

FRANK
Reply

Terry,

You mentioned in your comment that European bees are used and are readily available. Can you tell me where to get them? I too am from Australia and I have a property in Chonburi and would like to set up backyard hives. I have all the equipment but no bees.

Seams the Thai government agricultural departments are not interested or are powerless as I made inquiry to import and they said it was not possible. They even said imported bees are classed as threat! Try and work that out.
Any assistance would be appreciated.

Terry
Reply

Hi Frank,

There are many beekeepers around that sell queens, you will just need a Thai to talk to them. Generally they won’t be interested in selling to you until after the fruiting season because that is where they make there money. I bought my first four hives from an operation in Bangkok in April and they came with no stores so had to be fed syrup for six months until the season was suitable for them.

I agree with Frank that the Thais are strict about the biosecurity of the bees and that is one area I would not mess around with under any circumstances. The results can be catastrophic.

Frank has offered to show you around so he might also be a contact for obtaining bees as you are near each other.

Regards,
Terry

FRANK
Reply

Michael,

Not sure if you got my email but I sent you my phone number so we may be able to catch up before you leave.

Regards
Frank

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