Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Pahang Branch, Malaysia embarked on a bee breeding project using a rare species of stingless bees – Tetrigona binghami from Trigona genus which belongs to the family Apidae, or also called as kelulut by the local Malaysians.
This project in UiTM’s own farm in Pahang was initiated way back in February 2017 by Mr. Mohamad Amir Shah Yusop, Head of School of Plantation and Agrotechnology Studies with ten students from the Diploma in Planting Industry Management department.
Production of honey and other products derived from the stingless bees have great potential in the tropical region. Stingless bees are preferred because they are more resistant to diseases and parasites due to their tiny size, and also, their nests consist of propolis (resinous substance collected from various plant buds), which is a natural bactericidal and pest repellent.
The uniqueness of the bee farm, which is still being maintained in UiTM Pahang Branch is that the nests are placed in a starfruit orchard where the flowers needed by the bees are continuously produced throughout the year.
The bees take up nectar from the innermost part of the flower where the concentrated plants’ nutrients are available and keep them in large egg-shaped pots, mixed from various types of propolis. The honey produced is rich and sweet-sour, fruity-scented, less sticky, and sometimes come in different colors compared to the ordinary honey. However, this also depends on the plants that the bees forage from.
There are about 8 logs of this species and they start producing honey every 3 weeks between 500 to 2000 grams per month. Mr. Adam Zakaria, from Adama Global Enterprise, a collaborative industry partner with UiTM Pahang Branch provides expertise on marketing strategies and also ensures sustainable production in the honey industry, to avoid oversupply. “It is a good opportunity for the students involved to generate revenue and market its high-quality honey,” says Adam.
Besides research collaboration and students’ achievement, UiTM Pahang’s main goal is to stimulate an entrepreneurial mindset program for the students to have their own start-up business.
Professor Ts. Dr. Mohd Ilham Adenan, Rector of UiTM Pahang Branch, highlighted that “joint industry-academia initiatives like this will pave a successful journey for all the parties involved because the project can encourage new innovations and development of green nests, and lead to recognition by established bodies”.
He also added, “Honey has always been regarded as a ‘superfood’ due to its nutrient-rich constituents with complementary health benefits”.
This project hopes to increase public access to safe, quality and healthy products which is in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 3 which envisions good health and well-being for all.