A call to save bees in urban habitat
What kind/species of bees are they?
Scientific name of these bees are 'Apis Dorsata'.In common name 'Rock bees' they are also called as 'Asiatic giant bees'. They mainly are found in Asia. They can forage their food for floral sources up to 9km radius from the reference of their hive.
Why do they prefer balconies and beams for nesting?
Rock bees prefer nesting in the tall structures which must be very firm/stable and which should not be swinging to the wind. Their preference in natural conditions are big rocky mountains, tall trees which are very firm like silk cotton trees, Raintrees and banyan trees. Since we have cut down all matured trees for developing urban infrastructure, they have no other nesting sites. So, they are nesting on all tall apartment buildings which are tall,stable and provide perfect canopy in balconies.For all apartment residents, this conflict will be in a package!
Why do they come every year?
Rock bees or any other social bees are migratory in nature. They migrate to new places in search of ideal nesting site not only for structure but also for food which are flowers. They collect pollen and nectar to continue their cycles in their colony. Since flowering trees and plants of your city blooms every year, they will come to pollinate them and have their breeding in the floral abundant season.And please remember, most of the hives leave in the monsoon season towards plains since they can forage on agricultural floral fields. So, this conflict will cease to continue every year. Let us be calm and understand more about the conflict.
Are they dangerous?
Rock bee colonies are big and they will attack if they are provoked. And unfortunately, provocation will come from human side. We have read news about bee attacks in rural india generally in burial grounds,temples,dams and tourist places. However, we have never heard about bee attacks in apartment buildings.Because when a swarm settles down in a possible nesting site, bees will initially observe movements around the hive. Bees will recognise threats around the hive and that is why they do not attack just by seeing the people. Whereas the news about bee attacks are also true. In most of the places, people have provoked them by pelting the stone or from smoke of cigarettes,agarbatthi and smells like perfume etc., But bees which have come to urban areas, will not react to most of it. The final point is that bees will attack if you hit them or provoke them in front of their nest. Otherwise they will mind their own busy business.
Always keep a strong anti-hystamine(epinephrine) in the first aid kit of your society/community. Train few volunteers to use it(shot). Only for people who are allergic to venom.
How important are they?
If these bees can forage up to 9km radius, think about the area of pollination services these bees do. There are 20,000 bee species in the world. Most of them are solitary bees and very few are social bees. Rock bees are the major pollinators of Asia. These bees are responsible for the food security of our country by helping all agrarian communities through pollination. It is said to be 80% of food crops are pollinated by honey bees since they will not stop working if their stomach is full. They will work,fight and die for the colony unlike humans who have been always living with only the way of self interests.Not only about food from agriculture, these bees are also responsible for balancing bio-diversity so that all micro as well as macro ecosystem can have its food chain intact. Pollination of forest flora will produce food for all animals,birds and insects. Now, do you know what you are killing?
Why are they so big and how a beehive functions?
A bee colony will consist of worker bees, drone bees(male) and a Queen. Worker bees cover 90% of population and are responsible for almost everything in the colony. From taking care of young larvae once in three minutes feeding, cleaning the hexogonal cells,taking care of queen,guarding the hive from predators or robbers to foraging for pollen,nectar and water. And there will be only one queen bee for even a very big colony of 60,000 worker bees. Queen is the only fertile female who can lay eggs up to 1000 eggs per day and the increase and decrease of egg laying by the queen will controlled by worker bees.Worker bees calculate inventory, food in flow and number of nursing bees then communicates queen to lay manageable number of eggs. So, when you zero in for killing, remember that you are killing the most sustainable system and a family with young larvae,nursing bees and a queen.
Can we put them in box and rear them like we see in YouTube videos?
Rock bees' behaviour and temperament is way away from domestication. In india, we can rear/domesticate 'Apis cerana Indica' which are found in cavities and can be transferred to beehive boxes. But we can not domesticate Rock bees. Even if you forcible put them (highly risky and must be handled only be professionals), they will leave. Most of the YouTube videos are from west and in west, they have another domesticable species called Apis mellifera and they do not have Rock bees.
Why do they come to home in the night when i switch on electric lamps?
Rock bees are one of the rare species which can work during night also. They are found active foraging during full moon nights and their cycles naturally set as per the movement of moon as well. Now, we have glass panes and artificial lights everywhere. They will loose their orientation and tend to go towards light. They will get exhausted by hovering all night and die. Put blackout curtains and close ducts and gaps if any in your slider doors by small perforated cloth mesh. Switch off light if not required. And you can use red lamps. They can not see the red coloured lamps.
Then how can we co-exist? any mitigation methods?
You can choose to co-exist and leave them bee. If they build nest to very close proximity where you have to access those space like balconies and windows. Please hook some clothes/net to the ceiling which should flutter to the wind in order to make it unstable for nesting. Soon after they leave, scrape out their wax remaining and apply pungent liquids like turpentine/thinner/diesel/kerosene so that the nesting pheromones will wear off. If they are nesting in a beam which can not be accessed by anyone, please always choose to leave them.
Let your children know about bees and their world. Develop compassion to children about tiny insects like bees. Because after few years, they should not call pest control companies after seeing the beehive in their balconies.
Please mail us in case of bee-human conflict - email@example.com
Don't forget to visit www.honeyday.in to buy pure raw honey direct from bee farmers whom we have trained and supported.A part of income will be utilised for educating people on bee-human conflicts and developing skills to tribal/rural communities in beekeeping.