A Pakistani university team is working to introduce a Chinese method for producing royal jelly in honey bee hives to make beekeeping a profitable venture for the country.
by Misbah Saba Malik
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, June 1 (Xinhua) -- On a sunny morning in Pakistan's east Chakwal district, Ali Raza, an entomology master student, was all eyes on a wooden frame with little off-white plastic cells as bees waggled and hummed around him in the vast research farm of the state-owned Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi.
"I grafted the bee larvae in the cells 72 hours ago, so it is the right time to collect the royal jelly which will be around 20 grams. I will extract it and store it for research," Raza told Xinhua while looking at the bees flitting and darting at Acacia Modesta trees.
Raza is part of his university's team working to introduce the Chinese method for producing royal jelly in honey bee hives to make beekeeping a profitable venture for the local community, increase the country's honey production, and create new opportunities for exporting honey to international markets.
In a conversation with Xinhua, Raza's teacher, Muhammad Asif Aziz, associate professor of the Department of Entomology at the university, said that beekeeping is a floundering business in Pakistan and that the people associated with it suffered huge losses due to climate change.
"Due to soaring temperatures and excessive rains, the honey flow seasons in spring and autumn became short, in some cases recently the beekeepers were not able to produce any honey during the season," he noted.
To help the beekeepers, producing royal jelly with bees in the hives is the most viable alternative, but there is almost no production of the jelly in the country because the existing techniques do not offer substantial profit margins, the professor said.
In 2021, Aziz joined a bee breeding and honey processing and production technology online training course sponsored by China's Hunan Agricultural Group Company Ltd. for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) participating countries, which gave him the hope of producing royal jelly in Pakistan.
"Two years ago, I came across some research papers authored by Chinese scientists which mentioned that the royal jelly can be produced by keeping the queen in the hive, it gave me a lot of hope and I reached out to them, and they told me more about the technique, gave me training and enabled me to introduce it in my university last year," he added.
Showing the hives with the old version and Chinese version technique, Raza said the Chinese-styled hive has two portions: a "root section" carrying the queen for breeding and reproduction, and the other section carrying grafted larvae for royal jelly production.
Raza and his class fellows also trained some beekeepers after last year's experiment, and after more research this year, they will train more people on a large scale and tell them about the potential of the Chinese style of beekeeping.
Zakir Khan, a beekeeper from the country's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has 1,400 hives of bee colonies. He used to extract over 4,000 kg of honey in the past, but during the last three years, he could not extract more than 2,000 kg.
"I was so surprised when Aziz contacted me and told me that I could have a good yield of royal jelly which is 20 times costlier in the market than honey. I have already ordered Chinese plastic cell bars and wooden frames for my hives, and next season I will be producing the royal jelly," Khan told Xinhua.
He said that the price of the Chinese equipment required for producing royal jelly is only about 2,000 to 3,000 rupees (10.52 U.S. dollars) in the local market. By incorporating it into his hive, he will get a good profit.
Aziz said that he is looking forward to visiting China and getting offline training as Pakistan has successfully achieved the first step of producing royal jelly.
"In the next step, we want to enhance the production like Chinese beekeepers who get a yield of two to five kg from one standard-sized hive," he said.