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《Journal of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University(Natural Science Edition)》 1983-03
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THE NATURAL BEEKEEPING CONDITIONS AND HONEY BEE RACES IN CHINA

Gong, Yi-fei (Dept.Head of Beekeeping,FAC)  
China has a beekeeping history as long as three thouand years over. The raising of Chinese bee began as early as the fourteenth century when many households started native beekeeping.After liberation,the Chinese beekeeping developed briskly.Up to the present time the bee colonies mounted to as high as six million.Among them Italian bees consisted of (?)bout two third,Chinese bees about one third of the total population, with few Carniolan bees and Caucasian bees.The annual productions of honey amounted to one hundred thousand royal jelly to over three hundred tons. With such a great populated country of one billion heads,the annual honey production of one hundred thousand tons can hardly support 100 g. per capita.This amount of honey is far from enough for medicines,foods, light industries and exports requirements.Our country is an old beekeeping nation,but the science and techniques in beekeeping are far from up to date accommodations,and still we have much to learn from rhe advanced nation in many respects. Ⅰ.The Natural Conditions in Chinese Beekeeping The territory of China covers north temperate,temperate,and tropical zones,The floral species are abundant.The fields,orchards,forests,meadows, and beaches flourish with rich sources of honey.The plants that supply commercial honey amount to over fifty species.Among them,Chinese milk vetch (Astragalus sinicus),locust (Robinia pseudoacacia),linden (Tilia spp.), chaste tree (Vitex negundo var.heterophylla),eurya (Eurya spp.),orange (Citrus spp.),litchi ((?)itchi chinensis),longan (Euphoria longan),and loquat (Eriobotrya japonica),etc.all supply us with honey.The color,aroma and flavor are quite fair.Thus the product is known in the country as well as abroad for its high grade quality.The accessory honey plants are no less than one thousand species.These are quite favorable factors for the development of beekeeping industry. Furthermore,the splendid natural conditions in China also provide us with rich bee species.The native bees (Apis cerana cerana)flourish all over the country.In those provinces such as Guangdong,Guangxi,Yunnan produce both giant and little honey bees (A.dorsata A.florea).According to the classification by species,there are four bee species in the world, among them three species are found in China. The bee colony has stubborn adaptable ability to natural conditions.So, far from the south of Hainan Island,the north of Nei Monggol,Xinjiang and Heilongjiang,the west of Qinghai-Xizang Plateau,the east of coastal provinces,are all good for the development of bee industry.The highly cold regions of the Greater Xing'an Mountains,in spite of their severe conditions,began the development of bee industry on the 60's.The hot blazing Tulufan Basin amazingly established the high production record that ever created by the honey bee. As the honey plants are various,with earlier or later blooming periods, and in addition to the large,broad,complicated landforms with different climates,soils and tillage systems,and specific honey plant may perform different ways in its flowering habits.Thus,in the mainland China,the four seasons,are green and blooming with fragrance all the year.It is so favorable and convenient to migrate the bee colonies from one place to the other to meet the flowering time and collect honey in boosting the yield. Ⅱ.The General Distribution of Bee Races in China For the present time,the bee races distributed in China are separated in three regions,namely,northeast and northwest regions keeping chiefly western honey bees;south and southwest regions chiefly keeping Chinese bees;and central regions mingling both western and Chinese bees. This is developed and formed under the natural existing conditions and practice.In southwest and south China,western honey bees are quite difficult in oversummering and in the utilization of winter honey plants.Thus they are not so adaptable.While the Chinese bees being aboriginal,can well adapt to the natural conditions and flourish comparatively well In northeast, northwest China,the winter is long and severely cold,the grey,dark bee colonies are very resistant to cold,so they are kept well.In the central region,the broad plain with rich honey plants are suited for the well development of Italian bees.So the Italian bees are mostly employed.The mountainous regions with separated growing honey plants require Chinese bees in their production. Ⅲ.The Biological Characteristics of Chinese Bees The Chinese bees in comparison with Italian bees have many different characteristics.These are stated in the followings: (1)The beneficial aspects: 1.The Chinese bees are resistant to Asiatic mites In south Asia,the greater mites (Varroa jacobsoni)that parasitized on the Chinese bees have been recorded long ago,but the destruction is unconspicuous.Under natural conditions,affected bee colonies usualy continue to produce honey and propagate well. In July 1962 we performed an experiment by inserting two frames of Italian bee brood combs affected by the lesser mites (Tropitaelaps clareae) seperately into the central parts of the two different Chinese bee colonies. Three days after,such treatments with the introduction of affected sealed brood were removed entirely by the Chinese bees.Observations were continued up to the next year,and still we found that bee colonies propagated and produced honey regularly. As to the western bees.the problem in the prevention of mite destruction though can be solved,remains required special techniques to be mastered. 2.Tactic avoidance of the wasps The introduction of Italian bees keeping in south China has been recorded for seventy years.Since 1949,Carniolan bees have also been introduced. But the western bees were not so accustomed to the mountainous regions and successfully oversummering there. In the mountainous regions of south China,the wasps waited in front of the hives or among flowers plundering and killing the bees while they could scarcely got enough honey in such unfavorable gathering season.In the mountainous regions of Fujian as many as five species of attacking wasps (Vespa spp.)were found.The western bees,being big in honey stomachs,clumsy in appearance,and flying with low speeds were most susceptible to the attacks of wasps.This was the main reason that affected the oversummering of bees.On the other hand.Chinese bees were active and fast in flying,they could tactically avoided wasps' attacks.Furthermore, they came out from the hives early in the morning and returned late at dusk Such is another good reason that they could easily avoid the attacks of wasps,dragonflies and birds. 3.Endurance of toxic substances from tea nectars Tea (Camellia sinensis)planting is quite popular in the regions south of Yangtse River.The plants develop flowers from autumn to winter with a flowering period as long as over two months.These tea plants are rich in pollens that are nonpoisonous to the eastern or western bees.But on days of warm.humid weathers,feeding larvae of western bees are susceptible to the toxins accumulated in the gathered nectars,As to the Chinese bees, like the tea plants being aboriginal in south Asia,are well adapted to the natural conditions,they are unaffected by such toxic substances or can endure them They thrive and propagate normally as well as produce high quality honey for the bee industry. 4.The individual bees are endurant to cold Individual Chinese bees are endurant to cold in comparison with the Italian,or Carniolan bees.In the cloudy cold days of 9℃,they can actively gather nectars.While the Italian or Carniolan bees require air temperature as high as 13℃ to safeguard their flights.It is not unusual to meet low air temperature below 13℃ in south China at winter time or early spring.The western bees are difficult in foraging at this time when there are blooms of broad beans (Vicia faba)and rapes (Brassica campestris) grown in the field.We can find many western bees frozen to dead outside of their hives,but none of the Chinese bees.The Chinese bees are still quite active at this time.They propagate well,and even develop natural swarming in the winter. 5.Laying eggs under control The Chinese bees propagate and lay eggs according to the change of environmental nectars.The rhythm of brood production is very steep.So in such period of nectars deficiency,we don't have to feed so much sugar as those of Italian bees.This make us more economical in keeping them. 6 Laborious and sensitive The Chinese bees get out to work early in the morning and back late at dusk.They are keen in the detection of sporadic nectar distributions and well utilize them on flights. In short,according to the favorable aspects of Chinese bees stated above they develop and settle excellently in the wide mountainous regions of south China.In spite of the deficient natural nectars supplies,loose management in beekeeping,nevertheless,we are apt to introduce them. They give good economic returns as “bumper returns in big years,profitable returns in average years,and without loss in small years” This reflects very well the stability and incentive encouragement of our beekeeping industry in south China. (2)The defective aspects The defects of Chinese bees are their strong disposition to swarm, susceptible to wax moths,liable to destroy the dark combs,weak nest cleaning activities,habitual robbing activities,aggressive in behavior,weak in egg laying,prompt appearance of laying workers when queenless,and susceptible to some brood diseases. From our investigations,we found that Chinese bees are strongly disposed to swarm in order to adapt to the rigid natural conditions,liable to destroy the dark combs in order to prevent the habitation of wax moths; habitual robbing activities as the results of sensitive and keen reactions. However.with proper managements,we can well adjust these defects and change their habits gradually The Chinese bees.being aggresive in behavior,make them well adapted to the comparative severe natural conditions.By naturalization,we believe they will become domesticated in a period of time to come.For the present time.there are many Chinese bee apiaries well managed in Fujian and Guangdong.We develop to such a way that we make inspection of combs without veils,with the workers remain quiet and the queen laying normally.In order to compensate the defects in weak egg laying. we adopt compartmentation of the hive by two to three small colonies to activate eggs laying and propagation.As to the queenless and the appearance of laying workers,we must prompt in finding them and manage in time,so as to solve such defects quickly and easily. Chinese bees are susceptible to European foulbrood disease,but such can be prevented by application of antibiotics. By the seventies of this century,the sacbrood disease first appeared on the Chinese bees in south China,plaguing and seriously affecting the development of Chinese bee industry.However,by years of selecting resistant bee species,we are able to check the disease.For instance,with such disease put under control,the Nanjing county of Fujian province boosted the production of Chinese bee colonies up to twenty thousand.This example records the highest figures in the local beekeeping industry Moreover.Chinese bees distribute widely with many local geological races developed.Some are very strong in colonies.Some are comparatively resistant to cold.Some are prolific in laying queens.So,with careful selections,we believe that adaptable good local races can be obtained.
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【Co-references】
Chinese Journal Full-text Database 10 Hits
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