Graham EarnshawのThe Great Walk of China*1の中で、著者のEarnshaw氏が湖北省石橋鋪*2で出会った養蜂家の記述が面白かったので、写しておく；
I came upon a flock of beehives, the brown wooden crates that in China constitute a honey farm. I'd seen them many times as I walked across Anhui Province, each with dozen of bustling hives about a metre in height and a temporary tent off to one's side where honey men live. I decided this was the time to find out about the honey trade, so I introduced myself to the beekeeper.
Mr. Wang Qiudong(Autumnal East) was from Juzhou*3 in Zheijiang Province, far to the east. He was forty-four years old and was taking care of eighty beehive. He said he moved the honey farm depending on the seasons, maybe four or five times a year. He'd been working with bees for twenty years and had been all over- Sichuan, Shangdong, Inner Mongolia-searching for good hunting grounds for his bees. The honey men are the gypsies of China, always on the move, always apart from the local culture; transients with a different agenda.
He reckoned each hive had four or five thousand bees, which meant he had something close to half a million bees under his care. The bees lived for about one month each and, in normal circumstances, travelled within a radious of about five kilometres in search of pollen. The queen bees (which have the same name in Chinese) lived for seven or eight years and were bred separately by the beekeeper.
The 'sweet gypsies' appeared to have a pretty consistent approach to life, as all the honey farm I'd seen were almost identical in terms of the hives and tents. The collapsible shelters are made from a dark-coloured waterproof tarpaulin containing a stove, a bed, a big tub full of honey, and lots of plastic bottles to hold the honey sold as retail. Mr. Wang offered me some royal jelly, but I turned it down in favour of some ordinary honey. The price was eight RMB for a jin*4; or about a third of a litre. I had a taste of the honey on a bread roll later that day and it was deliciously sweet, but very runny, and while I prefer a thicker consistency, it was easily the freshest honey I'd ever eaten.
Mr. Wang said he made eighteen hundred RMB in a good month, much less in poor month. The difference depended on the weather as beekeepers are as dependent on the weather as taxi drivers are in Shanghai. Their customers mostly local residents, but they also sell in bulk to traders who collect and consolidate the honey and resell it on the international markets. He said he planed to give up the wandering honey life when he reached fifty and retire in his hometown of Juzhou.
Mr. Wang showed me the beehives, opening one up to reveal a series of wooden slats with the honey combs growing in the darkness. Somewhere in the middle was the queen bee, but I couldn't see her. Each hive had a small opening, a tiny door, and it was up to the bees to decide when to go out and for how long. No curfews in force here.
There are no known illness for the bees, Mr. Wang told me; there is no apicultural equivalent of foot and mouth disease or avian flu. The only problem they have is that occasionally a bee will ingest some pesticides along with the pollen, causing a few death in the hives. (pp.99-101)