M3 Features

Apiary cultivation gets a boost in Bengal


March 13, 2014

The world famous Sunderbans honey is often termed as ‘honey laced with blood’ by foresters and wildlife lovers because people who gather it are often killed by tigers in the hostile terrain. Now, the state forest department is planning to introduce apiary (honey cultivation) in the fringe villages of the forest so that honey gatherers do not have to go into the forests.

Around 4,000 honey gatherers enter the tiger infested forests of Sunderbans between the months of April and May.

“We are trying to introduce apiary in the fringe villages of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve so that the dependency on the forests could we reduced. We have approached Vivekananda Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) at Nimpith in South 24-Parganas. They will be training villagers in apiary,” said Rakesh Sinha managing director of West Bengal Forest Development Corporation.

The project will be a joint collaboration between the WBFDC, the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve and the VIB. The union science and technology department would fund the project.

According to estimates, around 4,000 honey gatherers enter the tiger infested forests between the months of April to May. Even though official estimates reveal that tigers seldom kill honey gatherers, unofficial sources said deaths are frequent. Many are not even reported as villagers illegally enter the forest without proper documents. In retaliation, the honey gatherers also injure the tigers with their weapons.

In the forest honey is produced mainly by one species of bee – Apis dorsata. Outside in the villages it is mainly the Apis cerana indica, which builds hives on trees and huts and only a small amount of honey is collected.

“Our plan is to train villagers so that village-species could be utilised in a scientific manner to start apiary and increase the production of honey. It should be a round-the-year business. This will not only reduce the dependency on the forest but would also produce honey round the year instead of just two months. However, the honey produced by the village bees is quite less in quantity,” said BK Dutta, director VIB.

Dutta said that there are certain flowering plants, which attracts the indica bees, which if grown adjacent to the house would provide food for them. Apart from this certain kinds of pheromones could also be sprayed to attract bees. When food becomes scarce they could be given sugar as substitute.

Experts however said that the honey cultivated in the apiary would be different from the wild because of difference in food source of the bees. While wild bees mainly depend on the flowers of the mangrove plants such as Keora, Kholshe and Goran, the bees in the villages depend on flowers of eucalyptus, sunflower litchi and mustard.

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