Various stingless bee hive houses at Tasbee Meliponiculture Farm. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Harmless, diligent and peaceful are what best described the colonies of stingless bee (kelulut) and their home Tasbee Meliponiculture Farm in Kampung Sungai Kelugos.

Farm owner Hj Mitasbi Hj Mamit first encountered the stingless bee in a forest when he was in the army and that sparked his interest to venture into beekeeping.

Various stingless bee hive houses at Tasbee Meliponiculture Farm. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

He would spend time doing research to learn about the many types of stingless bees over the internet and from his friends who are already familiar with the insect.

Located serenely on a hill, Hj Mitasbi’s house is surrounded with stingless bees, neatly-arranged hives and flowers and fruit trees that serve as food sources for the buzzing creatures.

Making kelulut accessible

The 45-year-old pensioner is as diligent as his colony friends. He never stopped building appealing beehives and beautifying the landscape of his farm home which business started when he was still in the military.

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“I decided to retire after my 21 years of service and solely focus in my stingless bee business. I feel happy waking up each day and have the farm to work on,” he said, adding that the farm was established in 2009.

The humble meliponi entrepreneur has over 100 honey-producing hives in his farm with 18 different species of stingless bees residing around the area.

However, only two types are commercially viable namely; Geniotrigona Thoracica and Heterotrigona Itama, added Hj Mitasbi.

His beekeeping business is not about gaining income as he does not charge an entrance fee to the farm and welcome both local and international visitors with open arms.

The only earning he would receive is from the honey harvesting.

Visitors to the farm are given the chance to extract their own honey from selected nests priced at just $3 per 25ml stored in a small glass jar.

Learning about kelulut

“The aim (of the farm) is to expose to the public about the various species of bees in Brunei and the benefits of the kelulut honey,” said Hj Mitasbi, adding that the farm was a passion turned profession.

Stingless bees flying in and out of an entrance to a hive house at Tasbee Meliponiculture Farm. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

He is always generous with his knowledge with visitors about the stingless bees and their nutritious honey while also teaching them how to sustainably collect honey. 

Stingless bees in a hive house at Tasbee Meliponiculture Farm. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“I knew about the health benefits of the kelulut honey from my elders. The taste of honey also varies depending on the weather or season. If it is the flowering season, the honey will taste sweeter than usual,” said Hj Mitasbi.

He also said that the name of his farm derived from the coincidental match with the end of his name “Tasbi”.    

A visitor harvesting honey produced by stingless bees at Tasbee Meliponiculture Farm. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Visitors can also learn about the bees at Tasbee’s mini-gallery that opened in 2017 where the bee farmer displays information on the various species, pictures and honey derivative products, among others.

For Hj Mitasbi, the farm has been receiving countless of visitors since its inception and in January alone, he catered to over 600 guests. He also said that on average, some 200 jars of honey are harvested in one month.

Sharing about the lack of kelulut knowledge, the entrepreneur said that previously, people would destroy the stingless beehives and the eggs after extracting the honey.

Nowadays, as time passes by, people are more informed and knowledgeable about kelulut farming as well as the benefits.

Oasis of Kelugos

Not only one will leave the farm with a bottle of bought honey but also fond memory of the calming sanctuary of Tasbee farm.

A visitor harvesting honey produced by stingless bees at Tasbee Meliponiculture Farm. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Although it is quite a winding drive to Jalan Bukit Nanas from the capital, it does not stop the influx of visitors either educational or leisure. 

It has become one of the popular tourist attractions of Kampung Sungai Kelugos and the entrepreneur surely knows what he is doing to the farm.

The farm has newly built walkways overlooking the whole garden where the hives are arranged side by side to one another, perfect for some photo opportunities.

What’s even nicer is the pond situated near the entrance of the farm where guests can relax on the hut above it.

Talking about sustaining the business, Hj Mitasbi said that as of now, he is on his own. 

“I am the only person in my family doing this and I don’t think my kids have an interest in beekeeping. But it is not a worry for me as I have my own savings and another source of income to run the farm,” said the farmer.

He also noted that there are other stingless bee farms in the country and for him, it is a good market to develop further while working towards making a self-reliant community in the long run.

This article was first published on February 23, 2020 in our National Day Supplement

The Bruneian | TUTONG

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