I’ve an evil plan, to become a ‘robber’. Yes, this is a candid confession and I’m serious.
Ever since I read the book Robbing the Bees I‘ve been fascinated by the world of honey bees and even dreamed of becoming a bee keeper one day. Owning thousands (even lakhs) of bees and make them work for me. Growing my own honey and not shop for it like I do now. Have the pure thing, dude. Joking.
More importantly it’s for securing better yields from my fruit trees. Its said that an apiary can increase yields double fold. For the bees are a great help in pollination.
I’ve been on Planet Earth for quiet a long time now without having come across a Queen Bee. Today was the first day I watched a honeycomb at Mahim’s Nature Park. Having visited the Park at the invitation of UTMT (Under the Mango Tree), an organization engaged in popularization of bee keeping among small-holding farmers in Maharashtra and Gujarat, I came across bee colonies in wooden boxes, placed on tree trunks with nets and egg shells placed in the base to allay predators like lizards.
India has two honey bee varieties, namely Apis mellifera and Apis cerena Indica. Apis mellifera is responsible for making Punjab the leading producer of honey. Apis cerena Indica is the most popular and widely domesticated variety. Each colony has about 35,000 bees on an average. Working in Maharashtra and Gujarat, UTMT promotes Apis cerena Indica variety.
Why Apis Cerana Indica?
An indigenous variety unlike Mellifera, these bees can be adapted to living in cavities in buildings and in purpose-made hives. They can potentially colonize temperate or mountain areas with prolonged winters or cold temperatures. As they form small colonies their honey yield is less. Apart from reproductive swarming A. cerana abandon the current nest and move towards new location where there is abundant nectar and pollen supply available and again build new nest. This means that they are more vulnerable to starvation if there is a prolonged shortage of nectar and pollen. Absconding will start when there is not enough pollen and nectar. After the last brood emergence, the adult bees fill their honey stomachs from the storage, and swarm off eventually to establish a new nest at a new location.
A cerana has more absconding behaviour than A. mellifera. A. cerana are more inclined to retreat inside than to attack an intruder passing near their nest. But any attempt to open the nest, especially if it is done roughly, will cause bees to fly out and sting the intruder.
It was just the first lesson on becoming a ‘robber’. As I learn more will keep you posted.