Hunting for honey in Vietnam’s jungles

By Vo Thanh   August 24, 2018 | 02:26 pm GMT+7

65-year-old Pham Van Tiem has been following the honeybee trail for the last four decades in Thua Thien - Hue.

Tiem is an ethnic Katu whose cultural history dated back 3000 years. Katu is an ethnic minority among 52 other ethnic groups in Vietnam. The 40 years-old career takes place in the jungle as a mean to feed his family. To find bee hives, Tiem has to go on long and strenuous hiking.

Tiem is an ethnic Katu. He lives in Thuong Quang Commune, Nam Dong District, the central province of Thua Thien - Hue. Tiem has been collecting honey in the jungle for 40 years to earn a living and to feed his family. To find bee hives, Tiem has to go on long and strenuous treks.

Jungle bees usually form hives on big trees of great heights. Once he has located a bee hive, he breaks a tree branch and leaves it at the root as a marker. It is a way of marking ones territory or property, according to Katus customs, meaning later comers should not take over his spot.

Jungle bees usually build their hives on huge trees at great heights. Once he has located a hive, he breaks a branch and leaves it at the bottom of the tree as a marker. It is a Katu way of marking one’s territory or property.

Katu used to burning the bees to obtain honey in the past. However, Tiem and other bee hunters have shifted to a different method in recent years. They chop down dry banana leaves and burn them, causing smokes to shoo the bees away. By using smoke to remove the bees, they will continue to live and form more hives later on, Tiem said.

Ethnic group Katu used to burn the bees to obtain honey in the past. However, Tiem and other bee hunters have shifted to a different method in recent years. They chop down dry banana leaves and burn them, and the smoke drives the bees away. “Since we use smoke and only chase away the bees, they will continue to live and build more hives,” he said.

Honey hunters use rattan trees wrapped around a hive house tree to climb up and reach the hive.

Honey hunters use rattan vines to climb up trees and reach the hives.

It takes more than an hour for them to arrive where the hive is using rattan trees as steps.

It often takes them more than an hour to climb up to the hive.

After the smoke scene and the bees are gone, the workers use a machete with a long handle to extract honey and put it in a sack. They do not take everything but leave some wax behind. Tiem explained that the bees will come back if the bee wax is still there and he can come by next year to extract more honey at the same tree.

After the smoke chases the bees away, the men use a machete with a long handle to extract the honey and put it in a sack. They do not take away everything and leave some wax behind. Tiem explained that the bees would come back if there is wax in the hive, and he would return next year to extract more honey from it.

A big bee hive can have up to 30 liters of honey, while small ones offer 5 liters. Buyers pay at the rate of VND500,000 ($21) a liter for jungle honey.

A large hive could have up to 30 liters of honey and smaller ones, 5 liters. People pay VND500,000 ($21) for a liter of jungle honey.

 
 
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