Thursday, 11 April 2019

Bee-human conflict in urban India



A call to save bees in urban habitat



The moment you see a big beehive at your balcony, it is natural to get scared and continue panicking till you get rid off it. Before you resort to kill them, here are the few facts to realize and a step closer to save them from your fear factor.I have tried to answer FAQs to few of the bee-human conflict calls since 4 years! 


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 -  thehivetrust@gmail.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. 



 

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Bee Sustainable

Had an opportunity to address about significance of bees to our food and bio-diversity. Sharing my first TEDx talk held at Indus business academy on December 13th 2017.




Like our facebook page www.facebook.com/thehivetrust for more updates about our work towards conserving bees and beekeeping practices.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Beekeeping initiative at Dantewada,Chattisgarh

After the last visit, we have sent 50 Apis cerana colonies with boxes to Dantewada on November 9th 2017.This logistics of Apis cerana colonies is a longest distance(1380km) ever recorded in Cerana beekeeping industry which took 3 nights and 5 days to reach Dantewada from Bangalore. Now, since all the required livestock and equipment reached the place, we need to develop skills to the community. Along with our local partner Pragati prayas samajik seva sanstha(PPSSS),Dantewada lead by Mr.Ram Narendra, we organised 10 days of intense training program to more than 80 tribal families. The days which I spent there created a life time memory since I got to travel to the most remote villages of Dantewada. Witnessed their rich culture and saw real innocence.

For few moments, I got to see their world. Being a social entrepreneur, I am really proud to say that I really have worked with the true grassroots of India. Until and unless you see the world of grassroots, you can’t really think or get close to the possible solution. The content life of the tribal way keeps you so confused throughout the travel. Questions which linger in your mind about rights and wrongs will make you to reason the very core purpose of many modern concepts of development.

Beekeeping is all about skills to identify the changes inside the hive. Now, if we transfer technology and develop skills, the tribal communities can innovate the way of doing beekeeping by getting hives and equipment done with the local resources. The developed skill will be converted to work, engagement and values. This is the real contribution that we have to impart for the grassroots.    




An orientation talk to the farmers of Karli,Dantewada.With Rama narendra


An orientation meeting with women SHGs of Nerli and Kameli,Dantewada


Fermentation of mahua flowers




Rosella – they call it khatti bhaji which makes delicious chutney in bowl made of palaash leaves



Training at PPSSS,Chitalanka,Dantewada









Training to women SHGs and tribal families at Faraspal



We randomly stopped at keshapur,Dantewada a very remote village. We found few kids playing and called them to give a bee-talk.Explained them about how cerana bees can be transferred to the box for rearing.




We divided the colony and gave it to a participant. Their family got really excited about the new hive. 



On 30th December, a Manager of NABARD from Jagadalpur Mr.Jena  came to the event and expressed NABARD’s support for the Beekeeping project at Dantewada.



No words for the support from district administration lead by Mr.Saurabh Kumar,Collector of Dantewada who came to the launch event and addressed tribal families to take up beekeeping in community level.I would like to thank Mr.Kritesh Hirvani,Principal of Livelihood college,Dantewada. A classic example of how an efficient and dynamic bureaucracy can make things to move faster. We are reaching 100 tribal families to develop skills and supply bee colonies with equipment at Dantewada.In addition to this initiative, we will work with SHGs of Bijapur and Sukma districts covering at least 500 tribal families as directed by NABARD in about 6 months.

Our effort to create a beekeeping ecosystem is at the right path and pace. We are slowly developing a team of tribal youth at PPSSS,Dantewada. As a passionate beekeeper, it so heart warming to see beekeeping reaching to right community.



Sunday, 3 September 2017

Buzzing in the land of Mahua trees -An unforgettable Chattisgarh

Few years ago a writer 'Grace Pundyk' from Australia gifted me her work 'Honey Trail'.A book which narrates her travel across globe explaining history of honey from times of Egyptian civilization to the modern story of retail honey market. I started to relate to the contents of her book when i started my trip to Chattisgarh. A tribal state with 80% of forest cover and mostly Mahua trees.Tribal communities at chattisgarh make traditional 'Mahua wine' from fallen flowers.Along with a friend Ram narendra who runs an NGO 'Pragati prayas sanstha' at Dantewada,Chattisgarh, i had an opportunity to travel one of the deep and interior areas of chattisgarh. I met many tribal youth, government authorities who are putting lot of effort to skill rural communities regarding many aspects including organic farming,tailoring,horticulture and non-violent rock bee honey collection.An interactive time with tribal youth regarding 'Transfer of native Cerana bee colonies to the beehive box' was an eyeopener to the tribal community. I played a video and explained the steps involved in it since rains are pouring in this season.

Though Cerana bees have high absconding nature, it is important to practice with native species so that no ecological imbalance takes place. Skilling tribal communities about 'Hiving'(Transfer colony from natural habitat to the beehive box) will bring in sustainability in the tribal beekeeping model since they can always start by hiving native bees when honey flow starts. Chattisgarh's agricultural practices consumes less pesticides when compared to other farming states which makes more conducive space for beekeeping activity.

All communities and government departments of Chattisgarh are working hard to bring in peace and prosperity through various means. Skill development and creation of opportunities will change the course of the state for sure. All the sacred beliefs,ecology and tribal way of life will be holistically preserved if activities like beekeeping can be introduced in these areas.Finally, beekeeping should reach right places!



On my Honey trail



Beekeeping orientation at Chote tumnar,Dantewada






Found tribal women selling bamboo shoots on the way to Bijapur




Talking to Rock bee honey hunters of Dantewada




Talking to a tribal leader about starting beekeeping at their village 


Nerli,dantewada




Stingless bee colony - Someone had opened up to take honey




  

Fall of Beekeeping paradise? My survey at Coorg's present status

From many decades, we (south indians) directly related the words - 'honey and beekeeping' to Coorg(kodagu). A land locked district which grows coffee,cardamom,peppers etc also was famous for honey and traditional beekeeping practices. Before 1990, Coorg was one of the best honey producer in the country. After the attack of 'Thai sach brood disease, the whole beekeeping industry at Coorg fell apart. Beekeeping community lost confidence in this activity and slowly found sustainability in activities like plantation and ever growing Eco-tourism.At that transition,the beekeeping community which had acquired best knowledge of region and species specific beekeeping did not transfer it to the younger generation or younger generation did not found beekeeping as a lucrative activity.Due to this gap, the beekeeping is happening in micro level.

I went to survey around north Coorg,Somwarpet. The scenic beauty of western ghats continues to surprise me with its diversity of flora and fauna. And my favorite - small villages between hilly forests.I went there with my friend Lakshmikanth who used to be with me in my bootstrapping days.
We went to Pushpagiri hills which was one of the points of traditional beekeepers.We crashed in to many homes and asked questions about beekeeping and honey production.The road was heading to 'Mallalli falls' where lot of tourists travel through everyday. Since tourists trust the word 'Coorg Honey' they ask for honey in nearby villages.Many homes at villages have 2-4 beehives and very few beekeepers have more than 15 beehives.

After talking to few beekeepers, i can say few things.Confidence is back after thai sach disease but there is lack of knowledge. Beekeepers tell some anecdotal stuff about decrease in wild trees which is responsible for high nectar yielding (could be true since deforestation is universal)and decrease in colony size.During 1980s, the beekeepers of same village used to harvest honey from sweet 8 supers!.Now, it is reduced to 2 supers and these are Apis cerana indica(black strain).All boxes are kept without stands and will be placed on ground in coffee plantations.And one more thing is colonies swarm inside the empty boxes every year! Yes, they apply aromatic bee wax in the box after cleaning it on October every year, bees will find pheromones and aroma of wax in the box which invites whole swarm to become a home for them.They don't inspect brood at all, they just harvest honey whenever it is ready.

Talking about money from honey,there is no doubt that they are selling their harvested honey(small volumes) to premium price which is unaccounted since these sales are not channelized through any of the co-operative beekeeping societies.Because society's buying price is rock bottom when compared to what they are selling to money spending tourists who knock door for a bottle of honey.And beekeeping societies are settling themselves more on trading honey and less on beekeeping promotion since they want to jump in to main stream retail market which is dominated by big brands!

We are missing a point- Role of pollinators density required during coffee blossom which makes Coorg richer by 30% of what it is now.I hope people of Coorg will soon start thinking about rejuvenating beekeeping culture and tradition for the sake of ecology,economy and heritage! I will be very happy to help you to achieve it :-)

Old boxes placed on land




Chengappa(beekeeper's) Apiary

Mallalli falls

walking to chengappa's apiary

me (Apoorva) with chengappa in the middle and Lakshmikanth on the right

Bee-human conflict in urban India

A call to save bees in urban habitat The moment you see a big beehive at your balcony, it is natural to get scared and continue p...