Maximilian Spiegelberg, FEEAST Project researcher, joined “Asian Apicultural Association Conference: Bees, Environment and Sustainability” which took place in Jakarta, Indonesia from Oct 22nd to 25th. This conference brought together researchers, beekeeper, and trader from across Asia. A lot of the sessions focused on natural science aspects and did include all kinds of honeybees present in Asia. He presented on his Japanese case studies entitled “The new force of beekeeping is an old one: about hobby beekeepers in Japan”.
The new force of beekeeping is an old one – About hobby beekeepers in Japan
Beekeeping in Japan can be divided into hobby, semi-professional, and professional practice. While professional beekeepers use the domesticated A. mellifera to make a living and their activities are fairly well documented, most hobby beekeepers keep the feral or semi-domesticated A. cerana japonica. The literature contains few insights on the latters’ present situation, motivations, challenges, views, as well as policy concerns, despite their important role in connecting landscape ecology and food production. The total number of beekeepers and hives has decreased in Japan to a low point of about 5,000 persons and 170,000 colonies respectively by 2009 (MAFF 2016), less than half of the 1980’s figures. Increases in the statistics since 2013 are largely due to mandating hobby beekeepers nation-wide to also register their hives with prefectural veterinary departments. Here we examine the question whether there might be a positive effect on beekeeper numbers as a result of the growing number of retirees in Japan’s super-aging society.
Data was collected using 1) seven detailed, semi-structured interviews in the larger Kyoto area with beekeepers, honey-shopkeepers, bee-scientists and beekeeping project organizers, and 2) 237 hobby beekeepers were surveyed at the three main national and one local beekeepers’ events using a structured survey based on the initial interview findings.
We found that hobby beekeepers
1) start after retirement, often fulfilling themselves a childhood dream,
2) share their knowledge personally and online,
3) began planting themselves nectar plants, and
4) often share honey informally with neighbors, friends and family members.