Beekeeping in the US is mainly done for recreational reasons. It is nice to be able to eat your own honey or make a small profit from selling it on but producing it is very rarely done in order to earn enough to survive. The same cannot be said of Brazil, where nearly half of the population lives in poverty and one in ten people survives on the equivalent of seventy six dollars a month. Residents of the town of Itatira in the northeastern part of the country rely on beekeeping as their main source of income. An estimated one in fifteen people there are beekeepers, making it the largest honey producer in its state despite the fact that it only has a population of a mere two thousand and eighty one people. Not all of the beekeepers in Itatira fall under the bracket of ‘people’ though because it holds the prestigious title of the home place of the world’s first beekeeping donkey.
No Ordinary Donkey
Eccentric Brazilian beekeeper Manuel Juraci is one of the most successful beekeepers in Itatira, partly due to his helper Boneco, who accompanies him to the hives and helps him to transport the honey that he collects to the local market. Boneco is a donkey but he is no ordinary donkey. He wears a custom-made beekeeping costume that his owner has made for him and enables Manuel to sell far more honey than he would be able to do if he had to carry it all himself. Manuel was the first beekeeper to think of kitting a donkey out in a beekeeping costume to prevent it from being stung and has consequently become the most productive beekeeper in the area, gaining a reputation for earning significantly more than his peers.
Demand for Donkey Beekeeping Suits
The competitive edge that Boneco provides Manuel with is so great that the Brazillian Association for Honey Producers got in touch with him after hearing his story and asked him if he would be interested in making suits aimed at protecting other animals. Manuel is still considering the offer but has expressed the fact that it is not just Boneco’s ability to carry large loads that makes him the ideal beekeeping companion. He says that he has developed a genuine bond with the creature and that the companionship that Boneco offers has made his job a great deal easier. People say that a dog is a man’s best friend but in the case of Manuel, it is a donkey.
No Laughing Matter
Hilarious as a donkey-shaped beekeeping outfit might seem, Manuel’s invention could be hugely beneficial to beekeepers in poor countries, as it has the potential to significantly increase their productivity. Taffline Laylin of the environmentalist news website Green Prophet suggests that the innovation could be of great use to beekeepers in Turkey and Lebanon, who are responsible for keeping the vulnerable bee populations there from descending into collapse. Bee keeping is an age-old profession in these countries that has been passed down through the generations, especially in mountainous regions of Lebanon, where mulberry trees grow. Today there are between five and six thousand beekeepers in the country and an estimated one hundred and eighty thousand hives that produce between eighteen thousand and twenty thousand tonnes of honey a year. Almost a third of the nation’s population is below the poverty line so surely anything that can boost the income of the locals can be considered to be extremely valuable and well worth investing in.
Laylin points out that donkeys are essential to many people in the Middle East, which means that there would be no shortage of them available to aid the region’s beekeepers if the concept of donkey beekeepers was to catch on. Were honey-carrying donkeys to become popular, beekeepers across the world could well be paying suppliers handsomely for these suits, meaning that Manuel could potentially make a large amount of money from his wacky invention. This would enable him to buy Bonoco all the treats that he wanted and demonstrate appreciation for a friend who catapulted him from the position of a low-paid, run-of-the-mill beekeeper to one of the most successful beekeepers in the region with global interest in his techniques.