ECONOMIC IMPACT OF APIS CERANA

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Apis cerana is an important bee to beekeepers in Asia, especially in poor communities. There are initiatives to teach beekeeping as a long-term employment opportunity in these communities. Apis cerana is kept by beekeepers in diverse mountainous areas that can be difficult to reach. Yet Apis cerana can thrive in these areas as they are adapted for the environment. Apis cerana also is managed in other areas within its native range. 

Many beekeepers are transitioning to Apis mellifera management because the average Apis ceranacolony produces less honey than does the average Apis mellifera colony. However, In many parts of Asia, Apis mellifera can survive only under intense care and protection offered by the beekeeper, while the vast majority of Apis cerana colonies still live wild and naturally in balance with a vast array of predators, pest, and parasites (e.g., hornets, sun bears, Varroa). One example of this is that Apis mellifera must be treated with pesticides for Varroa control, whereas Apis cerana is a natural host of Varroa and does not require beekeeper intervention. Therefore, Apis cerana colonies can be used to produce organic honey.

Honey is only one of the many marketable products produced by Apis cerana colonies. Some beekeepers specialize in the production of wax, pollen, and/or provide pollination services. Apis cerana is known to be an excellent pollinator of many crops including: spice crops, fruits, nuts, oilseeds, cauliflower, okra, and onion. In some situations, they are considered to be a superior pollinator compared to Apis mellifera.


Several factors make Apis cerana efficient pollinators, the first being their smaller foraging range. A smaller range means that each worker spends more time with the same plants and has higher floral fidelity than does Apis mellifera. The smaller colony size of Apis cerana is also advantageous, as it makes them easy to transport and manage. Furthermore, Apis cerana has a longer daily foraging period than does Apis melliferaApis cerana starts foraging earlier in the morning and continues to forage later into the evening than does Apis mellifera. Also, Apis cerana will forage at lower temperatures than will Apis mellifera. Unfortunately, there is no current estimate on the economic contribution of Apis cerana as a pollinator.

Photo: Charles Lam