All About the Honeybees in the UAE
There are 2 types of honeybees in the UAE, the native wild honeybees and the imported honeybees.
The Wild honeybees
Apis florea, also called the Arabian or Asian dwarf honeybee is a tiny red-brown bee that typically measures between 7 and 10 mm, a small size compared to other honeybees. A colony contains around 5,000 individual bees and builds a characteristic single, exposed open-air comb usually on tree branches or shrubs, which makes it vulnerable to predators.
Several attempts at domesticating Apis Florea were unsuccessful. 'Their typical practice of open-air nesting, prevents their being kept in man-made hives for reasonably long periods, while hiving colonies in specially-constructed containers is essential in that it enables the colonies to be manipulated" [source: FAO-Beekeeping in Asia]
Due to the extensive urbanization of the UAE, these wild honeybees are subject to the loss of their natural habitat. During swarming seasons, dwarf honeybees will most often land on someone's gardens or balcony. Sadly, the 1st reflex of the majority of these un-expecting hosts is to call pest control, which means inevitable killing of the colony. This behavior is a direct consequence of the lack of awareness and information on the importance of these fragile native bees as the primary pollinator in the country.
The Beekeepers Association endeavors to raise the status of Apis Florea to protected species, in coordination with Government bodies and environmental entities.
The Dometicated Honeybees
Apis Mallifera, this is the species that is used by UAE commercial and hobby beekeepers alike. The UAE imports over 95% of the queens required to produce honey - which represents about 500,000 packaged bee colonies every year - mostly from Egypt but also from Oman and Yemen. The varieties brought in are Buckfast, Carniolan, Italian and Australian. Saskatraz Bees are also just about to be introduced. If possible we suggest this breed for novice beekeepers as they are known for their gentle disposition and honey yields.
Unfortunately, these bees are not equipped to survive UAE's harsh climate. Indeed, the local summer, where temperatures often reach 50°C, combined with pests, parasites, shortage of foraging plants and poor hive management generally leads heavy hive losses every summer. For most beekeepers this is a sad fact of life. Some keepers move their bees to the high altitudes of Hatta Mountains and with careful management they can survive.
The good news is that there is a new queen rearing initiative in Hatta. One of its main goals is to create a new bee breed - 'The Dubai Breed'. This honeybee will have unique traits that facilitate the production of high quality/high yield honey and be more suitable to local temperatures.
Predators, Pests and Parasites
Bee Eaters, Beautiful, yet lethal to our lovely ladies, these winged warriors enjoy nothing more than feasting on insects and have a sweet tooth for honeybees. Attempts to limit their damage include the use of nets (with limited success), Falcons (they out maneuvered them), and scarecrows - which didn't scare.
Any new ideas are welcome!
Ants, this is a very common problem here in the UAE. These little sneak thieves like to up and rob the hive of honey, pollen and brood. This problem will most likely occur with a weak hive, so if you see this happening check your ladies for other underlying issues. Be very cautious if you have a small young colony, they could decimate it in no time. Local solutions that seem to work include placing the hive on legs and placing those legs into cups generously smeared with Vaseline or filled with oil, and make sure you remove anything that bridges between the ground and the hive. We also recommend that you get into the habit of placing hive debris from your inspections directly into a bucket, otherwise you’re basically sending out an invitation to other animals and insects that there’s a free ‘Dubai Bee Brunch’ to be had.
Death-Head Hawkmoths Once again these are beautiful to look at but not good news for your hive. These bandits hide in plain sight by producing an odour similar to that of the honeybee. This allows them to slip into the hive incognito and once there, they feast on the honey. Should you see them lingering nearby or gaining access, we recommend reducing the opening of the hive. Weak colonies are particularly prone to this little thief.
Check out one of our member's awesome video of a death-head hawkmoth robbing a hive, here.
Geckos love nothing more than a free supply of honey and bees. They often creep in via a loose lid or an opening that’s too big. To eliminate this problem, simply reduce the opening on your hive so your ladies are more protected. The poor construction of some locally built hives make it easy for geckos to sneak in from the loosely closed lid, so make sure you tightly close your lid once you finish your inspection and double check the inside of the lid to make sure that there are no stowaways before you replace it.
Varroa Destructor, This is the mite that is most talked about in the press as being the super-villain of the honey bee world. Their spread is a direct consequence of the importation of commercial honeybee stocks and the gradual spread of the pest through Asia. There are a number of remedies against Varroa but we have found that the most effective and simple-to-use solution are the Varroa Strips. This is because other methods involve precise measurement, dosage and hive knowledge which many hobby beekeepers may not have.
Wax Moths If Varroa are the super-villains of the bee world then the wax moth isn’t far behind. These pests can reduce a seemingly healthy hive in double quick time to a complete mess of webs and wax debris. Weak hives are especially susceptible to the wax moth. With this pest, prevention is better than cure. We recommend preventative treatment to control wax moths called B-401, used after the honey harvest, just before the frames are stored. It is a safe and environmentally friendly product that is sprayed onto the frames.
In cases of minor infestation you can cut out the affected areas and freeze the frames for at least a week to kill of any larvae. For bad infestation there is no solution but to burn the entire frame and also the hive (if it’s wooden). Honey smelling campfire in the desert anyone?
More information coming soon!
More information coming soon!
American Foulbrood / European Foulbrood
More information coming soon!