By Doyin Oyeniyi
Ding Xijiu sits in his small kitchen, gazing out a window facing the street where seven wooden boxes line the small area in front of his house.
Hundreds of bees quietly fly in and out of the boxes, carrying pollen down from the yellow cole flowers that dot the mountains around Xiejiaqiao, a village near Hangzhou.
Ding, 78, once worked in those mountains as a rice farmer until he began cultivating bees 40 years ago. Now he’s moved down into the village where some of his family lives.
“I cultivated these bees just because I like them,” said Ding.
Others see beekeeping as more of a business. Ding, though, said that beekeeping remains a “daily requirement” for him.
“Some of the honey is for me,” he added.
Ding has 10 boxes in total and produces enough honey for himself and his customers in Xiejiaqiao and nearby Yuxian. Ding and his bees patiently wait for the cole flowers to blossom, limiting his honey harvesting months to April, May, July and August.
On average, he produces 30 kilograms (66 lbs) of honey during those months, if the rain doesn’t ruin it, and sells it for 80 RMB ($13) per kilogram. So far this year, he’s sold 10 kilograms (22 lbs).
He began cultivating bees not only because of his fondness for the creatures, but also because of the health benefits of honey. “If [people] eat this honey regularly,” Ding said, “the people won’t get any cancers.”
Ding’s claims are similar to those of apitherapy, or bee therapy. According to the American Apitherapy Society (AAS), bees and the various products they produce can treat (although not necessarily completely cure) conditions that range from scar pain to malignant tumors.
Ding’s own personal testimony is that of the benefits of bee venom therapy. According to AAS, bee venom has anti-inflammatory compounds such as melittin and adolapin that help with the symptoms of conditions such as multiple sclerosis, tendinitis and rheumatoid arthritis.
“If the bees sting me, it is better for me,” said Ding, who’s been stung an estimated 50 times.
Ding claimed that his own informal version of bee venom therapy cured his arthritis.
“The bees stung me and it thoroughly cured my illness,” he said.
Chen Baiying, a resident of Xiejiaqiao and a regular costumer of Ding’s, isn’t as interested in the potential health benefits of the honey as much as she is in what she claims it does for her face.
“This kind of honey is beneficial to your face, to keep your face beautiful,” Chen, 50, said. “This kind of honey will make you look younger.”