Honey Hunting on the Cliffs of China’s Yunnan Province

Kevin Frayer, a photographer with Getty, recently went honey hunting with a group of ethnic Lisu people in China’s mountainous Yunnan province. The “cliff honey” is coveted in China, and can sell for up to US$50 per kilogram. Frayer: “Honey hunters face swarms of bees and get stung repeatedly while suspended from rope ladders. Lower hives can often be reached with wooden ladders or poles. Hunters suit up in protective gear and use smoke to scatter the huge honeybees from their hives to reduce the risk of confrontation, but there are literally thousands of them in each hive. The bees belong to the species Apis dorsata, and can be either giant honey bees or dark honey bees.” The honey harvest, long a part of the cultural tradition of the Lisu people, may also be under threat. “Some honey hunters claim they are finding fewer hives than in the past, because bee populations are impacted by heavy pesticide use among local farmers and global warming.” (Editor’s note: a previous version of this article incorrectly identified the bees as Himalayan honey bees.)

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