Mr. Xavier Tan is a one-man beekeeper operation in Singapore as the founder and owner of Nutrinest, which engages in beekeeping, educational workshops, and humane bee removal.
He launched a petition on November 10, 2021, to save the bees because he is concerned that the local bee population is under threat. The purpose of the petition is to have the pollinators protected by law. In the petition, Mr. Tan describes bees as a “keystone species” whose existence has a great effect on all other living things, including mankind.
The global statistics on bees indicate that they are not doing well, with the sharpest decline between 2006 and 2015. Around 25% fewer species were spotted then, according to an article from National Geographic in January 2021. The article cited a study that shows the number of bee species reportedly declining in the wild globally.
Despite this information, they have not been included on the list of protected species under the Protected Wildlife Species Rule 2020, a schedule under the Wildlife Act.
Mr. Tan’s petition also addressed Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency Louis Ng and members of NParks, the National Parks Board in his petition.
Mr. Tan stated that lesser important living things are on the protection list compared to bees, which are so important to the ecosystem, therefore it makes sense to include Anthophila as the top species for protection.
Meet Mr. Xavier Tan of NutriNest in this 5:50-minute video by TheHomeGround Asia:
In addition, Mr. Tan has asked them to consider three other changes in addition to protecting bees by law. The other requested changes are to prohibit extermination of bees and to replace it with “humane beehive removal” and that he would be willing to teach pest control companies how to relocate hives safely. Next, he suggests clearly listing the criteria under which a beehive must be exterminated, under the Wildlife Act for exceptional cases. Last, he urges authorities to identify spaces within the 200+ hectare being set aside for nature parks, as part of the Green Plan, for beekeeping.
The petition received about 800 signatures by November 26 and Mr. Tan hopes to submit it in December 2021.
Mr. Lee of NParks stated that of the 133 bee species in Singapore, there are four main honeybee species that are regularly removed in NParks’ managed areas for public safety, as they rapidly sting in swarms if disturbed at their hives.
Assistant Professor John Ascher from the National University of Singapore’s department of biological sciences said that some bees are endangered, but none of the four local honeybee species. Apis cerana and apis florea are the two more frequently exterminated bee species as well as the most abundant and widespread bee species across Singapore. He also said that should honeybees decline, it would impact Singapore’s food goals as well as the reproduction of native plants.
Touching on Mr Tan’s petition, Assistant Professor Ascher said it is “misleading” to use the term Anthophila in the petition’s title as it includes over 20,000 global bee species. Mr. Tan responded he would be glad for expert assistance in narrowing it down to specific bee species.
Some opposition to Mr. Tan’s petition cites such reasons as danger to children, excessively large hives, taking too long to remove if called in by factories. There is also the possibility that bees are unintentionally killed by fogging, and there is even the concern over where the removed hives should be relocated to. Currently they are taken to the Bee Amazed Garden at Lorong Chencharu, but it has a limited capacity so more relocation stations would be needed.
Mr. Tan had responses to all issues raised, based on his experiences and research. He would take the relocated hives at his own apiaries, or they could be placed in forested areas that are away from the public. He sees a potential unintentional conflict in Singapore’s “city of nature” goals, as they may put the public in more conflict with beehives, which could lead to more cries for bee extermination.
Mr. Tan believes it would be better to set humane bee policies now to deal with them rather than later, and that the logic of not protecting bees because there is still an abundance of them makes no sense to him. The more bees that are killed, the sooner they will no longer be abundant.