As the world media is flooded with photos of wild animals becoming emboldened during lockdown to stroll at heavily populated areas, insects like bees too are having the time of their life. The experts believe the drastic decrease in the air and noise pollution and pesticide-free atmosphere have kept honeybees busier resulting in an increase in honey production.
As per the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), which is under the Ministry of MSME, the number of bee colonies and the health of bees has significantly improved which is crucial for ecology and food safety. Vinai Kumar Saxena, Chairman, KVIC, said, “During the lockdown period, the quality of air improved significantly. The abundance of flora in the surrounding and a peaceful environment kept the bees busier and filled up the hives with honey in a quick time. As compared to the usual 15 to 20 kg honey collected in each bee box, the quantity rose significantly to nearly 40 kg per box during the lockdown (March-May).”
He further said this trend is seen in almost all honey-producing states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and others. As there was little pollution and almost zero use of pesticides in the crops during this period, the quality of honey also improved as bees collected pesticide-free nectar and pollen from the flowers.
Despite a lean season for honey production (mid-March to May), beekeepers swear that they have extracted almost double the amount as compared to previous years. According to Vijay Kasana, a beekeeper who has farms in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir and other northern states, there is 30-40 per cent increase in honey production. “As honeybees got a peaceful atmosphere to work, the outcome is a sheer delight. In a bee box, where 7-8 kg is extracted in one go, this time we have taken honey twice,” said he.
Since India has different climatic zones, therefore there is a variety of honey cultivated in India. “Indian honey ranks among the best in the world. Our mustard farm honey is exported in the European market while the saffron farm honey is among the most expensive in the world,” said Kasana.
The production of honey in India stood at 1.05 lakh metric tonnes in 2017-18 (source: National Bee Board). This year, it is believed to scale up.
During this period, bees’ health improved leading to a spike in their colonies. “In the last two months, without the use of medicine or extra feeding, the number of bee colonies has gone up,” he said.
However, there are larger benefits of beekeeping than just the production of honey. Bees are crucial for our ecosystem and food safety. According to bee expert Dr Milind Wakode, a rise in population of honeybees means an increase in cross-pollination and the resultant higher farm yield. “In India, bees are primarily used for the harvesting of honey, but we underplay their major role in the pollination of fruits and vegetables. Countries like Israel have used this method to increase crop production and the world knows about their superior agricultural techniques,” he said. “If we maintain a clean environment, it will not only yield in productivity of bees but better quality of crops,” he added.
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