Sunday, 3 September 2017

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

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