Beekeeping in UAE
During a festive break to Dubai I was amazed to see Madagascan, Swiss and Turkish Honey available at breakfast but not a hint of home grown honey anywhere. So I thought I'd investigate why this was. My findings surprised me.
UAE does produce honey on a commercial scale of about 800 tonnes/year. There are very few hobby beekeepers, in fact The Beekeepers Association of the United Arab Emirates was formed just a year ago to provide knowledge and raise public awareness on the importance of bees. They currently do not provide beginner courses and advise potential hobbyists to read, read and read some more, as well as try and befriend a more experienced beekeeper. They can offer some practical experience and support thanks to the input of an English beekeeper, Jonathon Dfrench.
The native dwarf honeybee is impossible to keep in a hive and therefore extract honey from as they insist on making their colonies outdoors and abscond if placed in a hive. Therefore UAE beekeepers import honey bees from Egypt, Oman and Yemen but these bees still struggle with the intense 50 degree (Celsius) heat of the UAE summer time. Therefore beekeepers have to move their hives to a shady spot under tree cover or up to the mountains between June and September to give the bees a chance of survival.
Bees in UAE also face threats from predators different to those in the West. Bee Eaters, Ants and Death-Head Hawkmoths are the most problematic followed by Geckos, Varroa and Wax Moth - the latter two being challenges faced throughout the beekeeping world. If hives survive long enough to produce an excess of honey their minder can expect to be rewarded with about 5kg. This is a good two-thirds less than a UK beekeeper would expect to achieve in an average year. Therefore a lot of work for not a lot of reward, if you're in it for the honey!
The obvious difficulties faced by beekeepers and therefore subsequent lack of beekeeping in the UAE certainly surprised me but also explained the lack of national honey at breakfast in the plush hotel I was staying in. Too much sun, too intense a heat was not a reason I expected to uncover when we all think of bees as sun loving. I guess you can have too much of a good thing!