Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Life in Malaysia: When Bees Attack

Seeing we were talking about life in Malaysia, and how different it is from my home in Spain, Scotland and Holland (yes, my family is a bit mixed up) I thought you'd like to hear about my bee problem and a very remarkable man called Saiful.

As I said last time, we live in Subang Jaya, a posh neighbourhood just outside of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.

People here love living in condos. This is the view when I look up the street.

Me, I like to be a bit more private, so we live in a house. That red car is mine, and the truck is Sam's our neighbour.

As you can see, our home is very private, thanks to our tree.

Many people here cut down their trees and cement over everything. They don't like 'mess'. Me, I love the tree because it's home to lots of wildlife.

For example, we have tree shrews, called tupai in Malay.

These little creatures act a lot like squirrels. They run around the tree, shoving each other off branches as they quarrel over seeds. They also raid the cat biscuit bowl that belongs to the kitchen cats, the strays who live in the back lane.

This intrepid fellow came inside to steal, got caught in our bathroom and had to be escorted off the premises.

Luckily for them, our cats and the strays completely ignore them.

Our tree also attracts bats, and while they swoop through the living room on some nights, I've never been able to capture it on camera.

And we have birds. Loads of them. This one built a nest off our wall, which promptly collapsed when the monsoon rain hit. However, he was luckier next time round when he set up in our big tree.

We get all of this wildlife because we live almost on the equator. It's a balmy 34C/94F all year round and as we're tropical, we have tonnes of rainforest.

We also get some amazing bugs. Two years ago, we had termites. That took some effort to deal with and one of our neighbours actually lost a part of his house.

For us, the big problem was bees. They decided that our roof was the perfect place to build a hive.

In Europe, you'd call the council and they'd come and get the bees for you. Everyone back there is super protective of bees.

Here in Malaysia, we have loads of them and they're considered a pest. When I called our council, they were baffled. "Just set them on fire," the lady said. "We'll send the bomba.  (fire brigade)"

I called friends in the national wildlife department, the zoo, and even found the national bee keeper association, and got nothing. Zip, zero, zilch.

I tried lighting incense under the nest, hoping to drive them away. They liked the perfumed smoke. 

At this point, we had several hundred bees flying into the house every morning and evening. I got stung a couple of times, and so something had to be done. In short, the bomba came and set fire to the nest. While I was totally impressed by their bravery, it was sad.

The bees just came back and rebuilt. I went through all the motions again, and still couldn't find a proper way to deal with them. When my neighbour said she was fighting them off in the morning, I called Rentokill. That was a sad day.

Anyway, the bees came back again. And as they swarmed in the roof again, I got lucky. A totally random old blog post introduced me to Saiful Hizam, who runs Carambola Bee Farm. I emailed him, and the man called me back immediately.

It turns out they were wild tropical honey bees, and as that's Saiful's business, he said he'd like to have them. talk about happy!

Saiful lifted up some roof tiles and wafted some smoke into the gap, quieting them. And then he leaned in and picked out the queen. He put her in a box, set the box on the roof by the gap, and then we had a cup of tea while the hive packed up and got into the box with their leader.

This was the nest. It was about two shoe boxes in size.
The bees are crowding into the box, keen to be with their queen.


The whole thing took about an hour, and then Saiful closed the box up and toted the hive off to his farm.

Happily ever after, right? The thing is, the Saifuls of this world are few and far between.

Saiful is a walking encyclopedia about everything bee. He produces honey, goes trapping wild bees in the rainforest - it's absolutely fascinating. He's also doing bee sting therapy, which is not my cup of tea but I'm sure it's huge with the alternative crowd. (Please be super careful, and consult with your family doctor before you do anything like this.)

This is him, Saiful, the bee man from Carambola Bee Farm.

If I were back home in Spain, my local council would have him on speed dial. Or at least, they'd look up their contact list and find him for me.

In Malaysia, information is very hard to find. Councils, police stations, and services you'd think would be connected over super efficient networks, just aren't. You have to be jacked in to the local network to get things done.  It makes life very interesting, and I just love living here. However, it can also be infuriating, sad, and wasteful.

Anyway, should you be interested in bees, here's how to find Saiful.

Carambola Bee Farm No. 8-2 Jalan Wangsa Delima 11. D'wangsa, Wangsa Melawati 53300 Kuala Lumpur. Also, please visit him on his facebook page and check out his blog.

Also, if you are a bee wrangler in Malaysia, do let me know your name, your contact number and where you are. Then when people ask me for help, I can send them your way. You can find me here on Facebook. Or you can leave a note with your web site address in the comments below.

Also, please, please, please tell someone about my books.

The Zeta Cartel series

The Prydain series

Hugs and talk soon! PS If you want to be sure to catch every post, drop your email in the follow box, top right of this page.

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