Coconut Cultivation and Honey Bees

Coconut production remains very important for many Asian countries because it contributes to their economic growth. But coconut yields are dropping due to some hardly controllable reasons including aging of the trees, poor water supply and poor pollination. As a solution for this matter, coconut specialists explain that replanting can increase the yields by more than 100% within a few years with mature plants producing over 200 nuts per tree a year. Except for that, properly managed field drip irrigation systems can also help to increase yields by timely providing enough water and fertilizers to the roots of the coconut palms, either from above the soil surface or buried below the surface.

Pollination is crucial for the coconut production because the coconut flowers must be properly pollinated to start the development of nuts. Although both wind and insects bring about pollination, insect pollination is more predominant. Improving pollination environment by introducing more insect pollinators like honey bees to the coconut plantations resulted in increased coconut yields up to double within a short period of time in many Asian countries including Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam and Philippines. Moreover, this method benefits small to large scale coconut farmers by creating an additional source of income. Coconut plantations with honey bee colonies can produce substantial amounts of honey under ideal conditions.

Honey Bees

There are different types of crop pollinating honey bees in South and East Asian countries including giant honey bees, stingless honey bees, Asian honey bees and introduced European honey bees. Among all of them, giant honey bees are the most important pollinators of the Asian coconut palms. But it’s quite difficult to domesticate them because of their aggressiveness and frequently absconding behavior. Stingless honey bees don’t produce near the amount of honey that regular honeybees do and because of that, nobody wants to keep them. European honey bees are good honey producers and pollinators, but it’s not easy for them to survive in tough Asian environments with a considerable number of pests and predators. Therefore, native Asian honey bees are the most suitable bee species to pollinate coconut palms in Asia.

Coconut Nectar and Pollen

Coconut flowers are a good source of pollen for honey bees. But it’s not a good source of nectar for them. Therefore, honey bees in coconut plantations need alternative nectar sources to collect enough nectar to sustain their colonies. Planting coral vines in your coconut plantation separately away from the coconut trees can solve this problem. This fast growing plant is a good source of pollen and nectar and its long flowering habit helps honey bees maintain and build their colonies.

Tapped Coconut Nectar

It has long been noticed that honey bees are attracted to the smell and taste of coconut nectar secrete from the tapped coconut trees. As mentioned above, it’s not possible for honey bees to collect large amounts of nectar directly from the coconut flowers to produce a substantial amount of honey. But if you can provide them tapped coconut nectar as a food source, bee colonies will start to grow fast and at the same time, they will produce extra amounts of honey within a very short period of time.

The tapped coconut inflorescent should be allowed to secrete nectar for about 10 hours during the night to feed bees in the morning. The same process can be done during the day time to feed bees in the evening. A well grown coconut tree can produce more than 1 liter of nectar a day and this amount of nectar is well enough to feed two strong Asian honey bee colonies. A colony of this species has the ability to produce more than 15 kg of honey from a single coconut tree.

Feeding Method

It’s quite difficult to safely feed bees directly from the nectar collecting pot hanging beneath the tapped coconut inflorescent. Therefore, collected fresh coconut nectar should be fed to the bees using bee feeders. The excess nectar that can’t be consumed by bees can be processed into vinegar, arrack, treacle, sugar or wine. Too much fermented nectar isn’t suitable for feeding bees.

Conclusion

Coconut production is very important for many Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and India. It’s one of the major plantation crops in these countries. Dropping coconut yields because of aging and poor pollination negatively affect the economies of major coconut producing countries. As a solution for this problem, scientists explain that replanting and introducing honey bees to the coconut cultivated lands can gradually increase the output by more than 100% within just a few years. Except for that, introducing honey bees will allow farmers to have an additional source of income. It’s recommended to feed bees with tapped and collected fresh coconut nectar to increase the honey production.

Interesting Facts

  • Coconut trees can be dwarf and tall. Dwarf coconut trees can reach 10 to 20 feet in height, while tall coconut trees grow to the height of over 80 feet.
  • Fruit of a coconut tree is botanically known as drupe. Fruit becomes fully ripe after one year.
  • Coconut tree develops male and female flowers. They mature at different times to avoid self pollination. Two types of flowers can be distinguished by size. Female flowers are larger.
  • Bees including honey bees and giant honey bees are the main insect pollinators of coconut flowers.
  • Half of the length of coconut spadix can be tapped without having significant effect on its production of nuts.
  • A coconut spadix has thousands of flowers in it, but only 10 to 15 develop into nuts.
  • Sugar content of coconut nectar is composed of 80% sucrose, 10% fructose and 10% glucose. Coconut nectar is full of vitamins and minerals, especially potassium.
  • When bees are present in a coconut cultivated land, inter planting crops like coffee, sunflowers and mangos may have more potential for sustainable economic returns.
  • A strong colony of European honey bees can collect more than 10 kg of tapped coconut nectar in a day.
  • Indonesia, Philippines, India, Brazil and Sri Lanka are the top five coconut producing countries in the world.

You May Also Like