Food

The truth about honey

The University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) in Bengaluru has a bee in its bonnet. And a good thing too. Today, on World Bee Day, the university is flagging off a two-day workshop on bee keeping for urban enthusiasts and interested farmers.

“It all started with the Central Government’s mandatory initiative last year,” says NS Bhat (Retired) Professor and Head of the Dept of Apiculture, UAS, who holds a Doctorate in Entomology. “The second edition will see nearly 50 people getting initiated into bee-keeping as the response was very good.” He goes on to say that Bengaluru has nearly 50 urban beekeepers. “Karnataka has an approximate 1,200 tonnes of honey production,” adding that there is, however, no official data available on the numbers.

While honey is a by-product, Bhat says the main objective is teach people how important pollination is to an eco-system. “How to grow bees, how to harvest honey, how to multiply honey-bees while being transferred from their natural habitat...”

The University of Agricultural Sciences is also celebrating the day by honouring people who have made an impact in the world of bee keeping.

Chayaa Nanjappa, 47

Forty-seven-year old Chayaa Nanjappa of Mysore, was one of the first persons in India to introduce modern honey processing in 2007. Chayaa, who runs Nectar Fresh, a brand under which she sells honey, jams and fruit preserves, from Mysore with her husband Rajappa, says “I am directly in touch with 1,500 tribals and I support nearly 300 tribal families. I have trained them for 12 years, and this has helped increase tribal and rural employment.”

Born in Nalkeri in Kodagu, the only daughter of a coffee-planter father and a headmistress mother, Chayaa did a course at the Central Bee and Research Training Institute (CBTRI) in Pune to learn the skills necessary to process and preserve honey. “It was my dream to do something helpful for rural India,” says Chayaa. “Observing the vast network of busy bees in hilly regions inspired me.” She says her honey is “sourced from pollution-free valleys and forests from every region of India including Sirsi and Uttarakhand using eco-friendly methods that protect the bees and preserve the natural pollen and nutrients.”

The first-generation entrepreneur’s system of learning by trial and error led her to “Unifloral Honey,” made with honey collected from bee boxes across fields dominated by a single flower. “We produce 20 tonnes of Unifloral Honey, with 18 flowers through the year,” says Chayaa, who has four classic honeys coming from the Himalayan region. She adds that they have an overall 700-tonne capacity production every month.

The most popular flavours of Nectar Fresh are from flower fields of Krishna Tulasi called wild thyme; jamun, ajwain, white tulsi, coriander and drumstick. “These organic fields are all over the hilly regions, but drumstick comes from Tamil Nadu” says Chayaa adding “that her clove and acacia flavours of honey can replace sugar in tea and coffee to add that extra zing.”

While the Indian Culinary Association has honoured her recently, three IIM Professors took up a case study of her quality of honey bee production for presenting it at IV League competition last year that won rich awards.

Apoorva BV, 34

Another professional who turned towards urban farming, is mechanical engineer turned bee keeper Apoorva BV, originally from Chitradurga. The 34-year old apiarist harvests honey from farms and forests across Karnataka and takes it to customers through Honeyday Bee Farms, a company jointly run with Guruprasad Rao. Apoorva has also worked in tribal regions of Chattisgarh to transform traditional bee hunters into bee-keepers.

“Urban bee keeping is an awareness drive from my charitable trust, The Hive, through which I conduct workshops and training sessions with farmers and urban gardeners who wish to keep bee boxes in their gardens,” he says. His talks revolve around educating people on the contribution of bees. “They are prime pollinators of agricultural crops,” he says.

Apoorva states that there are 20,000 bee species in the world. “We are aware of the ones that can be domesticated, especially the ones that bring in revenue,” says Apoorva, adding that he has travelled extensively to forests in Uttarakhand, and the Dhandakaranya forest range in Central India where Italian bees, Apis Mellifera, are reared.

In the South, on the other hand, he says most bee keepers prefer native species. Apoorva who collects 22 varieties of honey in a year says native species such as Apis Cerana Indica bees are good pollinators, and can be domesticated at forest peripheral areas by marginal farmers. “The taste is excellent as their honey is from diverse pollen rich flowers,” he says. In contrast the Italian bees are meant for commercial bee keeping where migrations are mandatory to organic farmlands such as mustard, sesame, or sunflower for procuring unifloral honey.

In Bengaluru, Apoorva is working on educating people on how vital bees are. His work is varied, and includes working with pest control companies. “We have trained several to remove them scientifically with cages, after which they are relocated 30 to 40 kilometres away in their natural habitat,” says Apoorva. He adds that his weekends are often spent sensitising urbanites on rock bees that nest in high-rise apartments. “There are ways to avoid them nesting in balconies.”

Remember

Pollution and disappearing green cover have driven away nearly 40 per cent of the visiting bee population in the city

The last decade has seen little activity from the Bangalore Bee-keepers Association due to sustainability factors for farmers

Scientists at University Agricultural Sciences have roped in more than 300 bee-keepers to encourage organic honey

Bangalore once produced 45 tonnes of honey annually when farmers had nearly 30 colonies each providing 150 kilograms of honey every year

World Bee day

World Bee Day is celebrated on May 20. On this day Anton Janša, the pioneer of beekeeping, was born in 1734. The purpose of the international day is to acknowledge the role of bees and other pollinators for the ecosystem

The workshop

UAS-GKVK Dept of Apiculture in the city has a special two-day workshop organised on ‘Training in Bee-keeping’ where one can also spot register for the workshop at Hebbal Main Road - 080 2333 0153


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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 1:01:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/honeybee/article27185194.ece

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