This World Bee Day, here are some initiatives for conserving bees

Beekeeper B. Naga Koteswara Rao along with his team pulls out racks of honeycomb from the boxes to extract honey.   | Photo Credit: KR Deepak

From September to February, Araku , located about 120 kilometres from Visakhapatnam, is bathed in shades of yellow. It is the season for niger flowers, which blooms in the valley, and B Naga Koteswara Rao is busy. Along with five others, he is tending to honeycombs. Unfazed by the angry buzzing of the bees that have been disturbed, Koteswara, with a net covering his face, begins the task of extracting the honey. He says it is important for a successful bee-keeper to understand its natural instincts, and the dynamics of the hive. He should know. He has been doing this for 15 years now.

What’s buzzing
  • India produces 45,000 tonnes of honey annually. This can be increased to 1.10 lakh tonnes, if farmers are sensitised on the advantages of using organic manure.

It is no secret that thanks to deforestation, and excessive use of pesticides, bees are on the decline. So it becomes all the more significant that a group of bee keepers in Araku Valley are doing all they can to practise sustainable beekeeping. During the flowering season, the farms are dotted with blue beehive boxes, placed in rows. Each box has about one lakh worker bees, 100 drones and one queen bee. Through a small hole under the box, the bees enter and exit. The bees work really hard.To produce just one spoon of honey, a worker bee has to visit around three lakh flowers. “During peak season, we get about four to five kg of honey in 15 days from a single box,” says Koteswara, who learnt beekeeping from his father at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Guntur district.

A beekeeping unit set up in the fields of Niger flower in Araku Valley in Visakhapatnam district

A beekeeping unit set up in the fields of Niger flower in Araku Valley in Visakhapatnam district   | Photo Credit: KR DEEPAK

Koteswara set up his enterprise in the Araku Valley 15 years ago with just 14 beehive boxes. Today, he has 3,500 boxes and a team of 20 members, and they generate five to seven tonnes of honey every season. Last year, he completed an order of 12,000 honey bottles for the DWCRA (Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas) members of Chittoor district. “I’ve also supplied to Tirupati Devasthanam,” he says. The honey is produced in 52 flavours that include mango, niger seeds, eucalyptus, neem and coffee. The honey produced is sold right after it is taken from the boxes. “This is the purest form of honey,” he adds.

For bees worldwide
  • On World Bee Day on May 20, Slow Food will plant organic flowering shrubs or trees to support clean pollinator forage. The worldwide initiative will be launched online, using hashtags #onetreeforahive #plantoneforpollinators and #slowtreesforbees.

According to Koteswara, beekeeping activities in the Eastern Ghats have served the farmers as well. “Honeybees, which live in highly organised communities, help farmers in pollination and maintaining the ecological balance,” he says. It has also motivated many youngsters to explore this as a profession. However, Koteswara says that the government must spread awareness among farmers on the benefits of beekeeping, and using organic manure in farming. He rues, “Some farmers are hostile to us. Out of ignorance, they sometimes try to kill the bees coming into their fields or prevent us from keeping the beehive boxes nearby.”

Bee Basket

Saving the world one bee at a time is 33-year-old Amit Godse. A resident of Pune, Amit heads a company called Bee Basket that relocates beehives from buildings and offices to safer and isolated places. “Bees play an important role in the ecosystem. Over 70 % of plant pollination happens due to bees, and yet here we are trying our best to burn down beehives,” he laments.

Amit Godse, founder of Bee Basket relocating a beehive

Amit Godse, founder of Bee Basket relocating a beehive   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

It was watching a beehive being burnt at the housing society he lived in, that triggered Amit’s quest for more humane ways of dealing with bees. “The pest control team smoked the hive, and killed all the bees,” he recalls. So he began to read, travel and research about bees till he had enough confidence to quit his job and start Bee Basket. Today, with a team of six members, Bee Basket has relocated over 800 beehives in Pune and Mumbai. “The relocation is done mostly in the evenings when the bees return to the hive. We sprinkle water on the hive so that bees do not fly away and then pack the hive in a carton,” he says. The hive is then taken away, and tied to branches of trees away from the reach of people. Amit is now planning to spread his operation to Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, and train the tribals there so that beekeeping can be sustained.

Go bee!
  • Can you hear the bees buzzing? Today is World Bee Day and if you happen to visit the Botanical Garden in Ooty, you sure can. Keystone Foundation, an NGO based in Kotagiri, the Nilgiris, is hosting a range of events to celebrate everything bee. “We have displayed bee keeping equipment and posters at the Botanical Garden,” says Robert Leo, Keystone’s deputy director. “Through the day, there are events such as quizzes on bees, felicitation of bee farmers, games for children themed on the movement of bees, song and dance,” he adds.
  • Leo says that Keystone has been popularising bee keeping among small farmers and tribal youth for the past 25 years. “We help build low-cost bee boxes made of lantana, clay, and bamboo, for not everyone can afford bee-keeping equipment,” he explains. Apart from training and support, Keystone helps adivasis market their honey as well. “We sell their products under the brands Last Forest Enterprises and Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company.” Under these brands, Keystone sells wild as well as hive honey, apart from value added products such as bee wax wraps, lip-balm, soaps, and candles. They are available across Tamil Nadu. Several organic stores in the city stock the above products, including Restore at Palavakkam.

For the past several years, his quest for bee conservation has taken Amit to remote areas near Palgadh, Chandgad and Kolhapur in Maharashtra. “I’ve conducted awareness programmes with the tribals and farmers, and helped them understand the importance of bees. Beekeeping is financially beneficial as organic honey and bee wax are always in demand,” he says, adding, “Bees are essential for people who nurture terrace gardens too, as they increase pollination, which in turn improves the yield.”

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 7:43:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/the-honeyed-truth-initiatives-striving-for-conserving-bees/article27183206.ece

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