Beekeeping is a complex profession that requires a lot of hard-won experience and attention, said a Siem Reap apiarist, or beekeeper. Despite the challenges of the industry, it provides invaluable benefits and assists farmers with pollination, improving the yield of many crops.

Suong Noy, a 55-years-old agricultural expert and owner of beekeeping operation Angkor Bee, in Siem Reap’s Angkor Thom area, said that without bees, the cultivation of many plant species would be far less productive.

Noy explained that the insects help to bring female and male pollen into contact with each other, so they are doing far more work than just creating honey – they are benefitting farms and gardens for miles around.

“It is a difficult job, without question – obviously we cannot communicate with our bees, and we have to plan our logistics very carefully – different plants flower at different times, whether kapok or rubber trees, or even different kinds of wild flowers. In addition, transporting the hives must be managed in such a way that the bees survive,” he said.

“They need to be moved at night, and cannot be transported during the day time. Generally, bees return to their hives by 7pm, so they must be moved after that time, but arrive at their new location in time for them to begin exploring in the morning,” he added.

Noy warned that the costs associated with keeping bees could be high, and that the profits were very dependent on the changing of the seasons, rainfall, and other climate change-affected factors.

“For example, in previous years, my 200 hives have produced up to three tonnes of honey, whereas this year – because the weather has changed so quickly – we have harvested just one third of that. One other concern is the use of pesticides by farmers. They do not realise that they are also poisoning the bees,” he said.

“This is a high risk industry, but I intend to keep working at it. I want the industry to grow, and I want the cultivation of fruit crops to increase. Bees can do that,” he went on.

He explained that very specific skills were required to turn a profit, along with a wide range of knowledge of biodiversity.

Generally, once the hives are close to flowering plants it takes about 21 days to harvest honey, but this can vary, and it takes an expert to judge the perfect time to start collecting it.

“Two workers can care for 200 hives, but they must be very experienced, and know exactly what they are doing,” he said.

He added it is essential for the keepers to get to know their bees so they can monitor their health. The hives also needed to be kept clean, and free from other insects.

Thanks to his five years of experience, Noy has established a routine. He believes that even in when the bees are not producing honey, the hives should be inspected regularly.

“If a person is not prepared to commit to this, they should not be raising bees,” he said.