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Picture taken from the National Apiary Centre. These are the apis cerana species which I find myself more inclined to as opposed to the apis mellifera even though the former is less "docile" 

My love for bees came very suddenly. It developed during a week-long conference held in Kota Bharu, Kelantan which I had attended in January 2010. The 2nd International Conference on the Medicinal Use of Honey was attended by university professors and lecturers from both local and universities abroad and experts in this field from all over the world. Among the local universities involved were USM, the organizers of the conference, UM and UPM; I was so pleased, ecstatic actually, to discover that a lot of emphasis and effort had been put into research on an academic level, on a natural healing product these last two years especially.

 Posing with Dr. Hani "Honey" at the 2nd International Conference on the Medicinal Use of Honey, a renowned cosmetic surgeon and almost a celebrity , who incidentally lives on Jalan Tualang, a road named after a tree in which the Apis dorsata wild bees make hives in and produce the infamous "Madu Tualang" or Tualang Honey.

Research on bees, beekeeping and bee products had also been, and still is very extensively so, conducted by various government agencies in Malaysia in the likes of FAMA, Mardi, the Agricultural Department and SIRIM. It was here that I discovered that we had a National Apiary Centre, situated in Air Itam, Johor which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Then there were the alternative medical practitioners like me, traders and the beekeepers who came from as far as Australia and Romania.

As a practitioner in natural healing, to equip myself with the latest information and findings from the research conducted by the relevant organizations and authority is crucial in my line of work. I practice prescription with knowledge in my clinic; this is crucial in holistic healing. Knowledge and understanding bring faith, and faith is one of the major factors in ensuring the efficacy of the healing process.

Also, when allopathic doctors are unable to diagnose a particular illness or condition, and are unable to prescribe medication and/or treatment, alternative and/or natural medicine becomes an important consideration in the choice of treatment.

At this conference, it was generally agreed upon that the most important characteristic of honey is not the vitamin or mineral content but rather the antioxidant and polyphenol content. This means honey possesses exceptionally high anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-cancer properties, thus the role of this agent for sustainable health is becoming increasingly significant.

Among the diseases and conditions treated with honey being studied are diabetes, various types of cancer namely breast and prostate cancer, HIV, menopausal symptoms, treatment of diabetic, burn and sternal wounds.

I was amazed at the very positive results of all the clinical tests done and my perception of honey and the healing benefits rocketed sky high. All the evidence provided by the tests had proven my belief that honey is a very, very potent natural medicine and it should be highly regarded and respected as one, not just as a food supplement.
Cutting the comb from the natural hive. Don't try to do this  at home!
Of course, that honey is a medicine, and a very precious gift meant for humans was already told to us by The Almighty in the grand Holy Book, but how many of us really believe this and reach out for it during an illness, instead of the paracetamol or the synthetic drug-based antibiotic when one is suffering from a headache, stomachache or an impending flu? Who would know better than God Himself who created us on what is the best cure for us?
Fixing the comb to a frame. The bees will eventually build the comb to fit the frame then the appointed Queen will start to mate with about five fittest drones in mid-air (a once in a lifetime rendezvous), and lay her eggs in each capsule. The production of honey and royal jelly start simultaneously.

I understand that many are perturbed by the influx of “synthetic” honey and even worse, adulterated honey sold in the market which totally discourages them from taking honey regularly. There are also many brands sold cheap; this is usually honey made by bees which are fed with sugar, resulting in honey with a high sucrose content. What's quite frightening is that, it is almost impossible to test, outside a laboratory, if the honey is pure or not. The fact is, most tests including the match, egg and honeycomb pattern in a saucer test, is not foolproof.

The comb is soft and need to be handled very gently 
and quickly at the same time.

But it doesn't really take much effort to search for honey that is really pure. And let it be known that the best honey for us is the honey that is made in our own country, the one which was made from the nectar of flowers and plants grown in our country, and which content of nutrients and medicinal value is just perfect for our genetic make up.

In fact it is the hope of the USM team that some time in the future there would be a beehive in each home so we can all enjoy pure, fresh, localised honey everyday!

If there is enough nectar in the surrounding, 
the frame would be filled with the honeycomb 
within just a few days.
Learning about the outstanding characteristics, uses and benefits of honey, my thoughts went to the beings that produced it, and I instantly developed a deep, stirring affection for them right there in the conference chair. They work so hard and are extremely multi talented; they don’t only produce honey but also other equally important and beneficial substances such as royal jelly which is food for the Queen bee (thus the name), bee pollen, propolis, honey dew, beeswax, beebread, apilarnil and bee venom. These are all used as medicine in apitherapy, the practice of using bee and bee products in healing.
At the National Apiary Centre

During the conference, I didn’t hesitate to sign-up for a beekeeping course that was offered and to be conducted by the National Apiary Centre scheduled for the following month. And as fate had it, I was called-up to register for this course which apparently was in high demand and had a waiting list.

This new found love for bees was realized when I was actually with them, amongst them. The two most wonderful and exhilarating experience I had was when I learnt to transfer honeycombs from their natural hive to a manmade one. The natural hive was in a box and I had to dive my bare hands (I had chosen not to wear gloves) right into the swarm of angry, loudly buzzing bees which have a natural instinct to fiercely protect their Queen and her eggs. I had to very neatly slice pieces of the comb with a sharp knife off the box and quickly transfer and attach them onto wooden frames that would be put into the new hive later. All this done with the bees swarming all over me, but as I was so excited and focused on the task, I didn't really worry about getting stung. They had been slightly disoriented after being smoked and losing their "connection" amongst each other but still considered very aggressive.
This hive will be the bees' new home. Hopefully they will continue to construct honeycombs on each frame and eventually build a hive and develop into a colony. The biggest fear of a beekeeper is the absconding of bees from their hives.

The other moment came when I applied apipuncture , the practice of using a live bee to sting and inject venom into the human body. The first time, I had applied the procedure on a volunteer who was involved in a car accident and had a shoulder pain which didn't go away despite treatment at the hospital. I then asked Professor Mappatoba, the visiting professor and expert in apitherapy from Indonesia if I could administer the bee sting on myself. He was surprised but allowed me to proceed and since then I became more at ease with the prospect of getting stung.

On most occasions, I was handling the apis cerana bees, a species that is bigger and wilder than their sister the apis mellifera. I now find myself more inclined towards them. 

Inspecting the colony; we had to learn 
to identify the Queen, the drones (male bees which 
are very few in number because they do
not have any function other than to  inseminate
the Queen, and the worker bees.
Bees are very sensitive creatures and the slightest aggravation will make them attack. But if we are gentle, emit loving energies and maintain a calm disposition, the chances of being stung is less. Yes, there is no certainty that we won’t get stung. Beekeepers get stung too, a lot of times.

But the bee venom is actually an antidote, and is very effective especially in the treatment of pain caused by arthritis, gout and migraine. So a bee sting, or stings are quite welcomed, actually. I recently had three, only, thankfully, for disturbing them when trying to transfer a beehive in a nephew’s garden.

Apitherapy is still very much unheard of in Malaysia but with the newly formed Malaysian Apitherapy Society, of which yours truly would be a founding committee member and spearheaded by USM, it will be very significant and become an integral part of not only alternative or complementary medicine but also a part of modern medicine.

It is with much hope and desire to start practicing, very soon in the future, beekeeping on a large scale and apitherapy in my clinic. That, I think, could just be the highlight of my healing career and the ultimate profession of love for these amazing creatures.

Aiman shares my love for bees, not quite so passionately but enough to help me make beehives!

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