What's the life of a travelling beekeeper like?
The traditional way of beekeeping involves risks of being stung and traveling far away to find the right flowers the bees need. [Photo: vcg]
The traditional job of beekeeping is not an easy way to make a living.
As well as the inevitable risk of being stung, beekeepers often have to travel far away to find the flowers they need.
But one middle-aged man from eastern China’s Zhejiang Province is sticking to the job. And he says he really enjoys it.
Honey made of rapeseed flowers looks like water according to beekeeper Yao Xuefeng. [Photo: vcg]
Yao Xuefeng is a native of Yanguan Town, Haining City. He has been a travelling beekeeper for some 30 years.
Every year, Yao is only at home for a few months as he has to take his 60 beehives to different parts of the country for the flowers.
The forty-nine year old says he usually travels with the bees on a truck.
“I load all these beehives onto a big truck when I set off. You know, the highways across the country are now very good. But in the past, I had to travel by train which wasn’t that easy.”
When Yao gets to a place abundant with flowers, he puts up his tent and shelters there for as long as he needs, looking after his bees.
“I travel to wherever there are flowers. I’ve been to the north of Jiangsu Province, neighboring Shandong Province and to Liaoning Province in the northeast of the country. Sometimes, I stay for a week or ten days along a highway and then go to the next place for the flowers.”
The decades of beekeeping has given Yao a habit—he constantly dangles a burning cigarette from his mouth.
He says it’s the smoke that keeps the bees from stinging him.
“I have often been stung by the bees. I get stung 40 or 50 times a day on average. But it’s ok, I haven’t been ill.”
After his decades’ interactions with the honeybees, Yao has become an expert in the industry and the benefits of honey.
“Honey made of rapeseed flowers looks like water, that made of Japanese pagoda tree flowers is snow-white and doesn’t crystallize. And honey made of other flowers can take the color of soy sauce, red or yellow. ”
Yao says royal jelly is the most precious of the various types of honey. But to collect it needs a lot of skill and additional care.
“First you have to get the right timing. If you come late, say just two hours, all the royal jelly will be eaten by the queen bee. Each of my beehives has some 20,000 bees. But there is only one queen bee in each of them.”
Despite the demanding nature of beekeeping, Yao says he’s happy that people can enjoy good-quality honey—the products of his hard work.
“Royal jelly is good for people who have high-blood pressure, diabetes, or stomach trouble. Honey can also benefit our body by making our skins look better.”