Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats

by Applied Environmental Research Foundation(AERF)
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Movement for conserving bees in the Western Ghats
Apis cerana
Apis cerana

Hello Supporters,

Hope you all are doing good and are well connected and aware of what’s happening in your surrounding or other places. I have been looking at news and posts on social media about 8 African Cheetah from Namibia introduced to Kuno National park, Gwalior on 17th September under the ‘’Project Cheetah’’. The wild southern African cheetah was introduced in India or anywhere in the world for the first time. The purpose is to develop healthy population of cheetah in India, so that they can execute their functional role as a top predator.  But will they survive as a foreign species introduced to different habitat? Well, Time is the only key that will give answers. But till then what already is happening can be shared with all of you.

Earlier, we shared the information about how small farmers are practicing bee keeping from ages to get honey of high nutritional and medicinal use from the Indian stingless bee and Apis cerana. But, during my recent field visit, it came to my knowledge that 50 wooden boxes cultured with Apis mellifera, a European honey bee has been transported to Sandipani Gurukul in Devruk from Goa. Those were, exported in such numbers for the first time in Western Ghats as per my knowledge.

We all are aware of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer’s phrase ‘’ Survival of the fittest’’ which refers, it is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is the most adaptable to change. But what if we human disrupt that natural process and introduce new species over the native one’s?

 Apis cerana is a native species common for beekeeping in rural communities in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and few other Asian countries. Rural communities are aided by these in many ways as they provide nutritional as well as economic and ecological security. For them it’s not only part of their culture but also a natural heritage. On the other side Apis mellifera is popular among commercial beekeepers as they are known for more production of honey and bee wax than the Indian bee. If Apis mellifera produces large amount of honey, then why not to replace Apis cerana?

Introduction of Foreign species among native one can create chaos, there will be competition with the native pollinators for floral resources and nest sites, they can co-introduce pathogens that may infect native species and are capable of pollination of exotic weeds and disruption of pollination of native plants. Though Apis mellifera produce more honey but they pollinate largely on agriculture produce and favour monoculture (Uma Pratap and L.R Verma), which means they contribute slight to maintain highly biodiverse landscape of India.

In 2020, National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM) was launched as a component of The Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative by the union government to increase the promotion of the development of scientific beekeeping and production of honey and related products to double the farmer’s income. They introduced 5 Indian species and 1 European species Apis mellifera for this programme.

People from rural communities to higher government bodies are not aware of what impact it can cause to native species, because the impact of destruction is not noticeable enough right now but it will not take time to impact life of native species and us. Our initiative is about promoting traditional knowledge, native species over foreign one and create awareness to rural communities to follow their indigenous knowledge so that we can fulfil the goals of Bee Conservation Campaign.

Hope this information is alarming enough to understand the importance of our native bees.

So stay connected for more information and stories because nature never fails to surprise us with something new, and keep supporting our initiative.

Thanks a lot supporter once again.

References

https://lib.icimod.org/record/22855

ICIMOD publication; - Asian Bee and Beekeeping: Issues and Initiatives

https://nbb.gov.in/default.html ;-National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM)

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Indigenous (Apis cerana) bee keeping
Indigenous (Apis cerana) bee keeping

Hello Supporters,

Hope you all are doing good and are well connected and aware of what’s happening in your surrounding or other places. I have been looking at news and posts on social media about 8 African Cheetah from Namibia introduced to Kuno National park, Gwalior on 17th September under the ‘’Project Cheetah’’. The wild southern African cheetah was introduced in India or anywhere in the world for the first time. The purpose is to develop healthy population of cheetah in India, so that they can execute their functional role as a top predator. But will they survive as a foreign species introduced to different habitat? Well, Time is the only key that will give answers. But till then what already is happening can be shared with all of you.

Earlier, we shared the information about how small farmers are practicing bee keeping from ages to get honey of high nutritional and medicinal use from the Indian stingless bee and Apis cerana. But, during my recent field visit, it came to my knowledge that 50 wooden boxes cultured with Apis mellifera, a European honey bee has been transported to Sandipani Gurukul in Devruk from Goa. Those were, exported in such numbers for the first time in Western Ghats as per my knowledge.

We all are aware of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer’s phrase ‘’ Survival of the fittest’’ which refers, it is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is the most adaptable to change. But what if we human disrupt that natural process and introduce new species over the native one’s?

Apis cerana is a native species common for beekeeping in rural communities in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and few other Asian countries. Rural communities are aided by these in many ways as they provide nutritional as well as economic and ecological security. For them it’s not only part of their culture but also a natural heritage. On the other side Apis mellifera is popular among commercial beekeepers as they are known for more production of honey and bee wax than the Indian bee. If Apis mellifera produces large amount of honey, then why not to replace Apis cerana?

Introduction of Foreign species among native one can create chaos, there will be competition with the native pollinators for floral resources and nest sites, they can co-introduce pathogens that may infect native species and are capable of pollination of exotic weeds and disruption of pollination of native plants. Though Apis mellifera produce more honey but they pollinate largely on agriculture produce and favour monoculture (Uma Pratap and L.R Verma), which means they contribute slight to maintain highly biodiverse landscape of India.

In 2020, National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM) was launched as a component of The Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative by the union government to increase the promotion of the development of scientific beekeeping and production of honey and related products to double the farmer’s income. They introduced 5 Indian species and 1 European species Apis mellifera for this programme.

People from rural communities to higher government bodies are not aware of what impact it can cause to native species, because the impact of destruction is not noticeable enough right now but it will not take time to impact life of native species and us. Our initiative is about promoting traditional knowledge, native species over foreign one and create awareness to rural communities to follow their indigenous knowledge so that we can fulfil the goals of Bee Conservation Campaign.

Hope this information is alarming enough to understand the importance of our native bees.

So stay connected for more information and stories because nature never fails to surprise us with something new, and keep supporting our initiative.

Thanks a lot supporter once again.

References

https://lib.icimod.org/record/22855

ICIMOD publication; - Asian Bee and Beekeeping: Issues and Initiatives

https://nbb.gov.in/default.html ;-National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM)

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Ex-intern on field collecting pollinators data
Ex-intern on field collecting pollinators data

Dear supporters,

Thanks a lot for your continuous support to this campaign. With your help, we are excelling in our project work to conserve bees in the Northern Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Because you donated to this great cause we managed to hire an intern this quarter to carry out planned research activities regarding this project work. The intern- who is pursuing her postgraduate degree in Environmental Sciences had applied for an internship at Applied Environmental Research Foundation (AERF). As per her interest and available work at AERF she started her internship in Feb 2022 to work on the Bee Conservation project. Her job was to monitor our cashew and mango orchards/study sites and assess the insect diversity. This study was important to gauge the impact of Organic Management on these orchards over the past few years. Insect diversity is inversely proportional to the use of chemical pesticides in the orchards.

From Feb to Mar 2022, she conducted several field visits to study all the sites during the day as well as night to collect pollinator’s diversity data. An all-out search method was used to collect this data. Also, we had set up multiple light traps during the night to document other pollinator's diversity from the study site.

The results of these field surveys were amazing, as shown in the graph. 

During the course of this study we also started to look for other important pollinators who are helping in the pollination of cashew, mango, and other native flowering plant species in the study area. This is when we identified the Indian Stingless Bee (Tetragonula iridipennis). Since then, our researchers including myself have been looking for all the information regarding this bee species and its overall ecology.

The Indian Stingless Bees are smaller in size as compared to other bee species but share the same colony structure and mechanism. Studies have shown that the honey collected by these little creatures has high medicinal value. And this is the reason that this bee species have been an important part of the culture of the indigenous people, especially the Mayans. Researchers from around the globe have been studying and establishing many medicinal properties of this honey. According to Abd Jalil M. A. et_al (2017)the antioxidant properties in Stingless bee honey could break the chain of free radicals that cause a detrimental effect on the wounded area. Furthermore, the antimicrobial and moisturizing properties of this honey could overcome bacterial contamination and can help heal the wound faster. In addition to this, the anti-inflammatory attributes of this honey can protect the tissue from highly toxic inflammatory mediators.

This medicinally important honey has been identified by tribal and indigenous communities hundreds and thousands of years ago. That is when they started to reare this bee species. During my expedition, I came across one such local person who is rearing the Indian Stingless Bees in his house. To my amazement, this person doesn’t have any scientific knowledge about this species but he is rearing the bee colony in a simple homemade wooden log and collecting honey for years, all this using the traditional knowledge and techniques passed down onto him by his ancestors. I took up this opportunity and started talking to him to learn about the methods he is using. I also managed to carry home a little quantity of the honey as sample. We are going to examine this honey sample in the laboratory for its pollen content, sugar content, and other important properties.

Taking cue from this visit, one of AERF’s researchers also started rearing Indian Stingless bee colonies and managed to harvest a little quantity of honey, in just about 5 week’s time. A part of this collected honey will also be used as a sample and get lab tested. Then a comparative study of both the samples will be conducted.

I am positive that this data will reveal some amazing facts about the local population of Indian Stingless Bees from our study areas.

So stay tuned for more interesting stories and results from this project work, and keep supporting this initiative. With your continuous support we believe that we can dig out many interesting facts about these micro and understudied organisms.

Thanks a lot once again.

References

Abd Jalil M, A, Kasmuri A, R, Hadi H: Stingless Bee Honey, the Natural Wound Healer: A Review. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2017;30:66-75. doi: 10.1159/000458416

Traditional practice of stingless bee keeping
Traditional practice of stingless bee keeping
Informative session regarding stingless beekeeping
Informative session regarding stingless beekeeping

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Dear Supporters,

We are proud to inform you that with your relentless support we have successfully brought under agreement more than 17 acres of private cashew orchards in Math Dhamapur village (4 orchards) having 700+ native cashew trees and a rich biodiversity of insects and other pollinators. To promote the cultivation of native species of cashew trees that are managed organically, AERF is identifying and signing Cashew Orchard Conservation Agreements with the orchard owners in the region. This initiative falls under the banner of Nature Connect India Pvt. Ltd, which is the business wing of AERF. By bringing these orchards under the agreement, NCIPL is trying to make sure that the farmers cultivating organic varieties get more incentive and support so that the idea of organic and sustainable farming could be promoted in the region. The first agreement was signed in the Q2 of 2021. As the word spread, we are witnessing many more farmers/orchard owners who want to bring their orchard under NCIPL’s Cashew Conservation Agreements. Now that sounds like a beginning of a successful conservation story, doesn’t it?

After this success, we started exploring the new sites so that we could manage them better. Obviously, our focus is on the Honey bees. But, we should not ignore “Pollinator-mediated selection”. It is an important evolutionary process occurring in flowering plants, in which the foraging behavior of pollinators differently selects for certain floral traits. On the other hand, we should also not ignore “Pollination syndromes”. This is a suite of flower traits that have evolved in response to natural selection imposed by different pollen vectors.

Pollen vectors can be abiotic like wind & water or biotic, such as birds, bees, and other insects. Considering the importance of pollen vectors we explore our new sites to document other important pollinators. The results are amazing.

In total, we recorded around 25 bird species. Out of these 25 bird species 13 species like Common Iora, Grey-capped Emerald Dove, Indian Blackbird, Indian Golden Oriole, Jungle Babbler, Purple Sunbird, Thick-billed Flowerpecker and Yellow-footed green pigeon shows nectarivorous diet guild. Apart from this we also recorded around 33 species of Butterflies, 16 species of Moths, 10 species of Ants, 3 species of Crickets and Katydids, 3 species of Wasps and Hornets, and 2 species of forest cockroaches. All of these species play an equally important role in pollination.

During this quarter we not only focused on the pollinators but also documented the herb and shrub diversity from these sites. Also, using available literature we tried to prepare a list of flowering species with their flowering seasons. Our key findings from this region will be added to this list and that will help to create insect-friendly foraging grounds in and around targeted sites. The plantation of flowering species will be carried out during the monsoons.

 

For a better understanding, we have attached a detailed excel datasheet containing all of our findings with this document. Also, we are sharing a collage of these beauties that will be a treat to your eyes.

We will continue such surveys throughout the next quarter to understand the seasonal pattern of pollinator movement, which will be the key to pick out flowering plants that will be the highlight of the foraging grounds that we wish to introduce in the cashew orchards.

Simultaneously, the following activities are proposed for the 1st quarter of 2022:

1)     Training of our Bee Champions.

2)     Procuring Honey Bee Boxes and PPEs utilizing the funds that we have received from our environmentally friendly donors.

3)     Sourcing flowering species from the nurseries.

With your continued support, we strive to conserve not only Honey Bees but also all the other important yet lesser-known pollinators in Northern Western Ghats, India.

Pollinators can make you smile. Let them live for a while!!

PSFeel free to write to us in case you want to know more about our activities and approach.

Bird diversity
Bird diversity
Herbs and Shrub Diversity
Herbs and Shrub Diversity
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Map of targeted cashew orchards
Map of targeted cashew orchards

Dear Supporters,

We hope you are doing great in the pandemic. As the pandemic rules and regulations started to minimizing, we started our work in full power. Just like worker bees, our researchers started to forage in our field site to find new and healthy foraging sites for pollinators. The way honey bees search for healthy and nectaring flowers, we started our search to find new, healthy, and organic cashew and mango orchards from our study site.

In this era of development and dirty competition, the majority of farmers have started to use chemical fertilizers in their farms to get more and more yield. Also, they use genetically modified, hybrid cashew and mango verity in their farms. The situation is becoming more drastic as they are gradually increasing their farms/orchards by clearing surrounding forests areas. All these activities are causing a serious threat to the regional pollinator species. On the other hand, we have succeeded to discover new farms with a native variety of cashew trees. The owner of these lands/farms still believes in the “The Old Is Gold” philosophy. 

During our expedition we came across 3 local people from our study site. All these 3 people own around 17 acres of farmland having around 500+ native cashew verity plants. Without wasting any time, we have conducted biodiversity and social surveys in and around these farmlands. The results were fascinating. From these field visits, we managed to record around 25 species of birds, around 20 species of insects (including Honey bees and Stingless bees) from the orchards as well as from the surrounding forest area. Also, we managed to record 32 species of different plants, 23 Herb species and 10 shrub species, and 18 climber species from the surrounding forest of these cashew orchards. This diversity is nothing but an indicator that shows the importance and health of these cashew orchards and their surrounding forest area.

Further, using AERF’s secondary data & available literature we tried to prepare a seasonal flowering plant list from this region. This list is useful for our future interventions in this area. The detailed list is attached with this report.

At AERF, we always try to come up with different ideas and initiatives for the sustainable development and growth of local communities by conserving regional biodiversity. One such initiative is the “Fair for Life” (FFL) certification program. This certification focuses upon the sustainable collection of produce from Private Orchards/Farmlands/Plantations. Also, it encourages providing many social and financial benefits to all the stakeholders of the projects. AERF- under its for-profit wing Nature Connect India Pvt. Ltd. has identified 4 different cashew orchards and other private forest patches to be brought under the FFL certification - for the collection of resources from these areas. 

While conducting biodiversity surveys of these sites the idea of starting honey bee conservation studies cropped up in the mind of the team members. During the meetings with these private landowners, we pitched this idea, to which they readily agreed. Now, the main activities that will be conducted under this new initiative are :

1) Conduct surveys to identify patches where foraging grounds for bees could be created.

2) Planting a mixed variety of native and seasonal flower species to attract the bees throughout the year. Monsoon is the perfect time to plant these species. Now that the rains are not strong enough, the planted flower species will not get washed away.

3) Providing training to the owners to maintain these bee foraging grounds.

Once the rains stop and the flowers start to bloom, the bees will get attracted to these foraging grounds. This will serve two purposes:

1) These foraging grounds are located in the cashew and mango orchards. Come December, the flowering on these trees will begin to show. The bees that are attracted to the foraging grounds will also help in pollination on the cashew/mango trees.

2) We plan to run a pilot program by training these orchard owners on Bee Keeping. We will train them to capture the queen bee, how to set up the bee boxes, and how to extract the honey once the box is ready. Further, we will sign agreements with our Bee Champions to purchase the honey from them at a fair price, at the same time bringing the honey supply chain under FFL Certification.

We at AERF, are always thinking about sustainable conservation and community empowerment. Many of you all have supported us in the past and that has helped us to continue this fight against time and nature. We look forward to more support from all you nature enthusiasts who believe in us! 

Filed researcher collecting data
Filed researcher collecting data

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Organization Information

Applied Environmental Research Foundation(AERF)

Location: Pune - India
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AERFConserve
Project Leader:
Akshay Gawade
Pune, Maharashtra India
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