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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Helping beehives thrive

Sneha Mahale, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, February 05, 2012
First Published: 17:04 IST(5/2/2012) | Last Updated: 17:06 IST(5/2/2012)

It may be the month for lovers with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, but nature enthusiasts too have reasons to celebrate. Tomorrow, Maharashta Nature Park in Dharavi, will see a plethora of activities take place as city-based organisation, Under The Mango Tree, is set to host, what could be, India’s first National Bee Day. The aim of the event is to create awareness about the Indian indigenous honeybee, Apis cerana indica, and its impact on the local environment. As part of the day’s agenda, a survey that shows the deep connection between bees and plants will also be unveiled.

“Farmers tend to use European bees when they indulge in beekeeping and they are quite expensive. Through this event, we hope to create awareness about Indian bees and prove that they are a more sustainable option,” says Gurushabd Khalsa, Urban Beekeeping Project Coordinator, adding that a single bee box can have a substantial impact on a farm’s productivity.

Activities kick-off at 9 am and are open to participation by children and adults alike. Events that could interest kids include painting competitions, photography sessions and a bee-walk while adults could spend time at the question and answer session with Mumbai’s first urban beekeepers. They can also attend a workshop on cooking with honey, with Rajiv Basak, executive chef of Bungalow 9, and Rajat Nagpal from MasterChef India. You could also catch a film on bees or head to the food stalls.

To cater to the growing number of urban beekeepers, plans to expand city sites where the bee boxes can be kept are also in the pipeline.

Currently, only Maharashtra Nature Park provides space for urban beekeepers to keep their boxes, but soon Byculla Zoo and Bombay Natural History Society’s CEC Center too could become venues. “Our beekeepers are now keeping boxes on residential building terraces too,” says Khalsa.

What it means:
Bees play an important and irreplaceable role in nature. Their value in agriculture as pollinators has been estimated to be 20 to 30 times more than their value as honey providers. The aforementioned survey was carried out among 15 plants and a small group of farmers in Dist Valsad over 2010-2011. It proved that farms that had bee boxes showed a considerable increase in productivity as compared to others. The productivity of items such as tomatoes (up to 160 per cent), cashew (up to 157 per cent), pigeon pea (up to 133 per cent), flat bean or papdi (up to 128 per cent) and chickpea (up to 79.5 per cent) increased.

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