Breeding bees fit for Dubai’s heat

High in the Dubai mountains, where there’s little vegetation, bees struggle to survive the summer heat. But like in the rest of the world, bees and other pollinators are needed in this arid environment for plant life to thrive.

Here, a farm has been established to provide bees with a breeding ground and extend their life cycle beyond the mild weather seasons when honey can be produced.

Hatta Honey makes honey at 45 locations across the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and operates the first queen bee rearing station in the Middle East. Equipped with more than 3,000 beehives, it can breed up to 15,000 queen bees in a three-month period and millions of worker bees all year round.

During mild-weather months, it is common practice across the Middle East for beekeepers to acquire bees and produce commercial-grade honey, says Shadi Zakhour, managing director at Hatta Honey. But these bees usually end up dying in the summer heat, he adds. The apiary’s primary goal is to create a cycle that sustains bees year-round, he says, through a combination of crossbreeding local and Buckfast queen bees and rearing a hybrid queen bee more suitable for the arid climate.

It also operates a “buyback program,” where it acquires bees from producers across the region and supports these bees during the summer using insulated beehives that maintain lower temperatures, claiming to reduce mortality rates to as low as 30%.

Bees and other pollinators are responsible for a third of the food produced around the world. But climate change, pests and parasites put them at risk of extinction.

Hatta Honey chairman and founder Salem Sultan Al Qasimi hopes the farm can also “educate the community and the younger generations about sustainability.”

“Bees are vital for our life, for food, for our Earth,” he says. “Without the bees, there is no life.”