West Borneo Forest Honey

Ark of taste
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West Borneo forest honey is used for special culinary and medical purposes. It is consumed by the young and old to prevent influenza and is particularly eaten by pregnant Dayak women as a maternal supplement. For culinary use, it is part of many special typical dishes. It is served with boiled sweet potatoes, used as a topping for certain sweets, and mixed with lemon or cinnamon to make a drink. It is not, however, used with the frequency of other types of honey.   This forest honey produced by a species of Apis dorsata, the giant rock bee. It is the biggest bee in the world at about 2.5 cm long. This wild bee cannot be domesticated like other honeybees. The multi-floral honey they produce contains a high amount of enzymes and anti-oxidants. It is mainly harvested from December to March, with a short secondary season in June and July. Honey harvested in December will be more sweet and fruity or sour in taste, while that harvested in June and July is more bittersweet in flavor. About 25 tons are collected per year.   In West Borneo, locally called Kalimantan, indigenous people still harvest this honey from tall tree called pohon lalau. Along with fishing, honey harvesting is one of their main sources of income. The honey is harvested from these tallest trees because some hives are lost from flooding in the rainy season, while others lower to the ground are eaten by bears and local wildlife during the dry season. They also use a newer technique learned from neighboring southeastern Asian peoples of creating an artificial trunk, or tikung, from local woods, to invite the bees to nest there. The tikung is hung 5-12 meters off the ground, but during the rainy season this area will covered by water, and so the honey collectors will harvest by boat.   Harvesting the honey is an occasion of religious celebration in West Borneo, where a song (timang lalau) is chanted, which asks permission from the mother queen bee to harvest the honey, in exchange for protecting the forest, making the bees and humans brothers in life. When the honey is brought back to the village, another ceremony of thanks is held. After it is processed, initially it is only given to women who have just given birth or ill elderly members of the community. Excess honey can also be found sold in local markets.   Treats to the rainforest of West Borneo is directly affecting the local honey industry. Logging, mining and conversion of forests to palm oil plantations threaten the survival of the local giant rock bee, responsible for the West Borneo honey production. Furthermore, climate change is making the flooding of the rainy season increasingly unpredictable and more extreme, negatively affecting the honey harvesting method.

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Indigenous community:Malay, Dayak Iban, Dayak Kantuh and Dayak Embaloh.