World Bee Day 2024: Bees are buzzing again in Goa as locals, govt encourage beekeeping - Hindustan Times
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World Bee Day 2024: Bees are buzzing again in Goa as locals, govt encourage beekeeping

May 20, 2024 08:18 AM IST

Globally, May 20 is celebrated as World Bee Day. As bee population is declining in Goa, locals are stepping up to create awareness about importance of bees.

‘If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left’ - Albert Einstein

World Bee Day 2024: With bee population declining considerably in Goa, concerted efforts are being made by individuals and the state government to encourage beekeeping.(Freepik)
World Bee Day 2024: With bee population declining considerably in Goa, concerted efforts are being made by individuals and the state government to encourage beekeeping.(Freepik)

One Saturday evening in Aldona (North Goa) Market. The crowd was milling around Savio D’Cunha’s wooden table to peek into a glass lid box that had a tiny hole sealed with a screw. Inside, hundreds of bees were buzzing and crawling around hexagonal combs laden with blobs of dark brown honey. These tiny Trigona (Barik Mus) stingless bees must have flown thousands of miles to collect nectar (bees fly 55,000 miles back and forth for 2 million flower visits to make one pound of honey). In the crowd, I could not find the honey bee and the worker bees were gloriously unaware of the curiosity around them. The drone bee (black male bee) was dead. That’s the sole function of a drone bee - mate with the queen and die. (Also read: Weird Science | Understanding the science behind "killer" bee attacks)

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Questions were louder than the bee buzz.

“Do bees bring bad luck? Should we destroy the beehive hanging in our garden?”

“Do bees cause cracks in the wall?”

“Do bees cause a lot of nuisance?”

Before another question fell on the bee box, Savio turned into a bee-evangelist. Not only for the Trigona but also for three other bee varieties found in Goa: Apis Dorsata (Rock bees that usually build hives on buildings); Apis Florea (Bodiare, excellent pollinators, build hives on tree branches); and Apis Cerana Indica (Sathode mus, makescombs in hollow of trees or empty anthills).

According to the United Nations, globally, bees are under threat. Present species extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. (Freepik)
According to the United Nations, globally, bees are under threat. Present species extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. (Freepik)

“If all bees die, we’ll die very soon. You need bees for fruits, vegetables, crops. Bees are not evil, we need them to exist…. Don’t destroy vegetation. Plant more trees. Am not happy with what is going on in Goa, we are cruelly destroying bee-habitat….” In knitted brows and a long sentence without pauses, Savio was speaking bee-truth. Ignorance and superstition has led to an alarming decline in Goan bee population, specially the stingless bees that breeds in small holes in walls or tiny hollows. A stingless bee colony can produce as little as 300 grams of honey in one season, but the expensive honey ( 4,000 a kilogram) is popular for its medicinal properties, specially honey from nectar of the local karvi flower that blooms once in eight years. That karvi-flower flavoured honey is rare and full of anti-carcinogenic properties.

Apiculturist and beekeeping Master Trainer P Shaliyo looks beyond honey, wax and royal jelly from the bees. Armed with statistics, he focusses on the importance of bees as cross-pollinators and their role in boosting crop yields. According to Shaliyo, yield increase due to bee pollination in honey bee farming is: Mustard 44%, Sunflower 32-45%, Cotton 17-20%, Onion 90%, Apple 45%. And because bees thrive in lush vegetation, the soft-spoken apiculturist emphasises on the need to plant more pollen and honey-yielding plants in Goa including Neem, Coconut, Kusum, Surengi, Arjun, Dhaman, Rubber Tree, and Jambul.

With bee population declining considerably in Goa, concerted efforts are being made by individuals and the state government to encourage beekeeping. Father Michael D’Costa of Don Bosco Vocational Training Institute (VTI) in Quepem organises one-day beekeeping training workshops for a nominal fee. In his native village of Corjuem (Aldona), Savio D’Cunha is spreading awareness about the importance of bees in the ecosystem; he also sells bee boxes with bee colonies (price starts at 4,000 for a bee box). P Shaliyo has created a treatise titled Apiculture for Beginners with Apis Cerena Indica bees: A Practical Guide for Goa Beekeeping. Goa now has its sole beekeepers’ association. According to Allwyn Sequeira, President, Bardez Beekeepers Society, there are currently 100 members but they target to enrol 1,000 beekeeping members by 2030.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), bees and other pollinators, contribute between $235 billion and $577 billion to the annual global food production through pollination.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), bees and other pollinators, contribute between $235 billion and $577 billion to the annual global food production through pollination.

According to the United Nations, globally, bees are under threat. Present species extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. Close to 35% of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, and about 17% of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats, face extinction globally. If this trend continues, nutritious crops, such as fruits, nuts and many vegetable crops will be substituted increasingly by staple crops like rice, corn and potatoes, eventually resulting in an imbalanced diet.

To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated May 20 as World Bee Day. But why May 20th? Because it coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša (1734-1773), who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and was the first beekeeping teacher at the imperial court in Vienna. In one of his books, he noted: “Bees are a type of fly, hardworking, created by God to provide man with all needed honey and wax. Amongst all God’s beings there are none so hard working and useful to man with so little attention needed for its keep as the bee”.

I am no Jansa. I even abstain from honey - I do not have the heart to rob honey from the bees. But by the time you read this, I’ll have a colony of stingless bees in my garden. The bees will have a pretty shelter and my garden laden withmore fruits, vegetables and flowers because God’s hard-working beings would have cross-pollinated them. I’ll leave the honey for the bees. They worked very hard for it, it is theirs.

Bee facts:

• The honey bee is the only insect that produces food for humans.

• A honey bee can fly up to 15 miles per hour and visits 50-100 flowers in one trip.

• A pound of honey is made by 2 million flower visits. The bees fly 55,000 miles back and forth to bring that honey.

• A honey bee worker only makes an average of 1/12 of a teaspoon in her lifetime.

• One ounce of honey would fuel a bees flight around the world.

• Honey bees beat their wings 11,400 times per minute. This is beating of wings makes the buzzing noise.

• An average hive has 50,000 to 60,000 worker bees.

• According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), bees and other pollinators, contribute between $235 billion and $577 billion to the annual global food production through pollination.

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