Known as “honey hunters,” these brave foragers are trained from generation to generation. They bring in the valuable proceeds from selling the honey to enthusiastic black market buyers in Korea and elsewhere. According to some reports, that honey reaches up to five times the price of normal honey, fueling the honey hunters’ daredevil efforts.
Those nests can reach up to five feet in diameter and contain up to 132 pounds (60 kilograms) of honey, making the harvest of this hallucinogenic food very lucrative indeed. The hunt takes place twice a year, in the spring and again in autumn. The villagers pack their knapsacks with rope and provisions, setting off for the cliffs their ancestors have visited for generations. Then, using only hemp rope and bamboo ladders, they begin their climb. They scale the precipitous cliff faces to collect the honey in a large bucket. They then pass it back down the ladder to another “honey hunter.” Over the course of a year, the 12 villages of “honey hunters” will collect around 6,613 pounds (3,000 kilograms) of red honey.