Tambaram Downtown

The taste of a sweet hobby

“A honey bee is my idea of the ideal pet. I am rearing honey bees from the age of five,” says apiculturist N. Swaminathan.

It is not every day you meet someone who sees honey bees as pets, and I am obviously surprised. But at the end of the 40-minute session – in which he takes me through a step-by-step demonstration of how to keep these insects and the rewards that come from doing so – I am convinced bees make great pets.

To prove his point, Swaminathan reaches into a hive so that a swarm of bees sit on his hand. None of the bees stings him. “There is a misconception among people that bees sting. They don’t until you try to destruct their habitat. Bees have a way of finding out who’s out to destroy their habitat,” says Swaminathan.

He exercises great care in extracting honey for the comb. “I use a honey extractor,a mechanical device used to extract the honey from the comb without destroying the comb,” he says. The man’s romance with bees began in 1962, when he was a child growing up at Thiruppanandal in Tanjore district.

“In my native village, officers of Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan distributed a box of honey bees to every resident for rearing. I received a box of honey bees. This kindled in me an interest to rear honeybees. I began to rear honey bees as a hobby and received a sum of money from the village officers for extracting honey,” says Swaminathan.

The bees cover a radius of five kilometers to collect honey. N. Swaminathan is rearing honey bees in 15 boxes in his home garden and on his terrace. In two of the 15 boxes, he has kept Italian honey bees. While the regular honey bees bring an average of three kilos of honey every year, the Italian bees, which are available in Bangalore, Mahabaleshwar and North India, bring an average of 20 kilos of honey in a year.

On an experimental basis, he is also using boxes that are made of Kadapppa stones. During the rainy season, cockroaches, frogs and lizards enter the boxes and eat the honey bees. These creatures cannot harm the honey bees that are lodged in boxes made of Kadapppa stones. Therefore, during the monsoons, the bees are kept in the Kadapppa boxes, he pointed out.“Honey bees help new plants grow better and bear more fruits. The honey bees collect honey, and pollen and carry them back to the hive. Pollen helps in keeping cholesterol levels under control. On the flip side, pollen can cause allergic reactions in some people.”

Swaminathan says rearing honey bees does not cause any disturbance to the neighbours. “Honey bees can be reared up to the second floor of a building,” he says.

“Anyone getting started on honey-bee rearing, can first go in for just a couple of honey bee boxes. Honey bee boxes can be bought in Kanyakumari and Marthandam,” says Swaminathan.

For more details, contact Mr. Swaminathan at swaminathan9@gmail.com or at 9487887800.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 3:02:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/the-taste-of-a-sweet-hobby/article5977940.ece

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