HOME IN FOCUS

Abuzz over relocation of bees

Pest control firm offers hive removal service amid rising awareness of insects' importance

 Origin Exterminators' pest control technician Muhammad Nuridzuan Jami (left) and Mr John Chong, founder of Bee Amazed Garden, putting on protective gear before removing a beehive from a tree on the balcony of an apartment in Marine Parade this month
Origin Exterminators' pest control technician Muhammad Nuridzuan Jami (left) and Mr John Chong, founder of Bee Amazed Garden, putting on protective gear before removing a beehive from a tree on the balcony of an apartment in Marine Parade this month. It was the pest control firm's first hive relocation. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
 At Bee Amazed Garden, Mr Chong demonstrates how to reach for hives in tight spaces as Origin's project manager Elric Tan (centre) and employee Maher Gandhi look on. Beehives can be found in places such as false ceilings and even the interior of air-
At Bee Amazed Garden, Mr Chong demonstrates how to reach for hives in tight spaces as Origin's project manager Elric Tan (centre) and employee Maher Gandhi look on. Beehives can be found in places such as false ceilings and even the interior of air-conditioners. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Mr Chong demonstrating how to remove a beehive from a higher spot at Bee Amazed Garden. The 62-year-old, who trained Origin Exterminators’ employees for the company’s new hive relocation service, started the garden in 2017 and conducts educationa
Mr Chong demonstrating how to remove a beehive from a higher spot at Bee Amazed Garden. The 62-year-old, who trained Origin Exterminators’ employees for the company’s new hive relocation service, started the garden in 2017 and conducts educational programmes on beekeeping and the environment. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Origin Exterminators' employees learning how to handle a honeycomb - a structure made by bees for holding their honey and eggs - under the supervision of Mr Chong (right) at Bee Amazed Garden.
Origin Exterminators' employees learning how to handle a honeycomb - a structure made by bees for holding their honey and eggs - under the supervision of Mr Chong (right) at Bee Amazed Garden. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Mr Chong removing the beehive, still attached to a tree branch, from the balcony of the Marine Parade apartment. The hive was removed at night as that is when bees are more docile.
Mr Chong removing the beehive, still attached to a tree branch, from the balcony of the Marine Parade apartment. The hive was removed at night as that is when bees are more docile. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Local honey bees from a colony at Bee Amazed Garden. Mr Chong said: ''Most of the time, you get only female bees... They do all the work... and in honour of them, I gave each hive a female name.''
Local honey bees from a colony at Bee Amazed Garden. Mr Chong said: ''Most of the time, you get only female bees... They do all the work... and in honour of them, I gave each hive a female name.'' ST PHOTS: MARK CHEONG

It was nightfall two weeks ago when the pest controllers arrived at an apartment in Marine Parade, where a beehive awaited them on the balcony.

But the team from Origin Exterminators was not there to exterminate the hive of dwarf honey bees (Apis florea).

Instead, it was to relocate the hive to a bee farm in Yishun, called Bee Amazed Garden.

This was Origin's first hive relocation - a new service that the home-grown pest control company began offering this month.

Its first customer was Dr Nirmal Kishnani, an associate professor who teaches sustainability at the National University of Singapore (NUS), who lives in the Marine Parade apartment.

He had called numerous pest control companies in his search for one that would not kill the insects.

Under the guidance of Bee Amazed Garden's founder John Chong, Origin pest control technician Muhammad Nuridzuan Jami learnt how to remove the hive, which the bees had built on a tree on Dr Nirmal's balcony.

Mr Chong said his preference is for a hive to be removed at night, when bees are more docile.

If a removal is done in the day, when bees are active, they would get agitated and could sting.

Lights on Dr Nirmal's balcony had to be turned off for this reason.

Wearing bee suits, Mr Chong and Mr Muhammad Nuridzuan cut off some of the tree's branches to make it easier to reach the hive.

Then they cut the branch that the hive was attached to.

With each cut, the hive heaved, but the bees seemed otherwise undisturbed.

The hive, still attached to the branch, was then sealed in a box, ready to be carted to Mr Chong's garden within the compound of Ground-Up Initiative in Yishun.

The whole operation took about 15 minutes.

Origin project manager Elric Tan, who co-leads the firm's hive relocation initiative, said: "Bees do not carry diseases and should not be considered pests."

Moreover, these insects are important pollinators that help plants and vegetation in Singapore to flourish, he said.

While there are environmental organisations that may offer hive relocation services, people who want bees removed from their homes, for example, might turn to pest control companies first, Mr Tan added.

This is why it is important for the industry to offer hive relocation services rather than bee extermination so as to safeguard the insects' survival, especially as global bee populations are in decline, he said.

Assistant Professor John Ascher of NUS, who studies bees, said the issue of opting for hive relocation or bee extermination is a nuanced one as it concerns public safety.

For instance, the giant honey bee (Apis dorsata) can be aggressive stingers if disturbed, and some people may be allergic to bee stings.

"Singapore is fortunate in that many in the public as well as policymakers are increasingly well informed about these matters. So I am confident that we can address complex bee-related issues responsibility," Prof Ascher said.

"A 'no-kill' bee removal (option) will likely play a key role in this."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2021, with the headline 'Abuzz over relocation of bees'. Subscribe