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Why honeybees are disappearing from Himachal Pradesh?

Why honeybees are disappearing from Himachal Pradesh?

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  • GS 3 || Economy || Agriculture || Agricultural Production & Productivity

Why in news?

  • In the last few decades, there has been a steep decline in their numbers. These indigenous bees, which are crucial to our ecosystem are on a verge of extinction.
  • Honeybees are an integral part of mountain farming in Himachal Pradesh. Traditionally, farmers in Himachal keep the indigenous honeybee called Apis cerana.

What is Apiculture?

  • Apiculture, or beekeeping, is the practice of rearing honey bees.
  • Beekeeping, also known as apiculture, is not a new concept in India; it is mentioned in the Vedas and Buddhist sacred texts.
  • Honey is a source of income, nutrition, and medicine for mountain communities.
  • These tiny superorganisms help in the pollination of plants. Which increases the productivity of crops and maintains the biodiversity of the region.
  • Beekeeping can be an important contributor in achieving the 2022 target of doubling farmer incomes. 

Production of Honey in World

  • China is the largest honey producer in the world and exports the largest amount of honey to other countries.
  • China, Turkey, the USA, Iran, Russia, Ukraine, India, Mexico, Brasil, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Spain, and Michigan are also known as the biggest honey producer countries in the world.

Prospectus of Apiculture

  • There are only about seven commercially important honeybee species in the world, but India is home to five of them. For example, a rock bee or an Indian hive-bee. As a result, apiculture is resilient to climate change and also resistant to  environmental degradation
  • Agrarian economy: In an agrarian country like India, bee pollination as a new agricultural production strategy has enormous potential. Pollination is well-managed and crop yields increase significantly when bees are integrated into agriculture.
  • Medicinal use- Honey is a key ingredient in India’s ayurvedic and pharmaceutical industries, with rising industrial demand. It’s also thought to help with the treatment of several other ailments. As a result, the expansion of the AYUSH and pharmaceutical industries in India is expected to have a positive impact on honey as an industrial raw material.
  • Food Processing Industries – To boost rural income, the government is actively promoting food processing industries in the country.
    • For example, policies like PM SAMPADA. Honey is a high-value product that fits in well with government policies.
  • Honey demand is expected to rise in the coming years as a result of changing eating habits and a growing inclination among consumers toward wellness foods and healthy alternatives to artificial sweeteners. Because of its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, the threat of COVID-19 infection has prompted people to consume more.

The Importance Of Bees

  • In pollination
    • Bees are beneficial because of their pollination services, helping to provide food in the form of fruits, berries, nuts, leaves, roots, and seeds.
    • Arguably, it is the most interesting part of our diet that is reliant on bees (and other pollinators) for cross-pollination.
  • Bees also pollinate foods eaten by other animals and birds. Birds and mammals may rely on berries, seeds, and also some fruits and nuts that are pollinated by bees and other pollinators.
  • Bees benefit biodiversity– Quite apart from the fact that pollination is important for food production, bees contribute greatly to the countryside, gardens, and general enrichment of landscapes.
    • Bees are therefore beneficial to the environment generally. They pollinate wildflowers as well as shrubs, thus enhancing and ensuring plant biodiversity and beauty in landscapes and gardens.
  • Bees save elephants – and may save human lives
    • Some of the practical ways in which bees may help communities in developing countries are somewhat more unusual. For example, bees are helping to save elephants and protect people in Africa, by reducing human-elephant conflict.
    • Even more surprising is the fact that it has been found that bees can be trained to sniff out landmines and explosives!  They may yet be saving lives in very practical ways!  (Interestingly, it has been found that wasps can also be trained in a similar way to bees).
  • Bees help sustenance farmers
    • Bees help people and communities, especially in developing countries.
    • An international organization called Bees For Development helps communities to earn a sustainable living and pollinate food crops through beekeeping.

Reasons for the decline of the honey bee population

  • Honey bees are vital parts of our ecosystem, acting as highly efficient pollinators of our food crops as well as for wild flora. We need bees to keep our crops and earth healthy, but in recent years their numbers have been decreasing by the billions.
  • This decline has been linked to several factors, including parasites such as varroa mites, which bite bees and infect them with fatal viruses the use of pesticides that poison bees, and monoculture farming, which prevents them from having a varied diet.
  • In 2016, 44% of managed beehives in the US died. The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has declined steadily over the past 60 years, from 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Overwintering loss rates have increased from the historical rate of 10-15% to approximately 30%, and beekeepers have collectively lost approximately 10 million beehives.

Government initiatives  to promote apiculture

  • National Bee Board has created four modules to impart training as part of the National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM).
  • Central Bee Research and Training Institute
    • The Central Bee Research and Training Institute is run by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) and exists to help rural and tribal groups find ways to become economically sustainable in beekeeping.
  • Promoting Beekeeping as part of its aim to double farmers’ income. 
  • Launched ‘Honey Mission’ as part of the ‘Sweet Revolution’.
  • Allocated 500 crores towards Beekeeping under the Atma Nirbhar Abhiyan. 
  • 30 lakh farmers have been trained in beekeeping. 
  • Financial support by the Government.
  • India is among the world’s top five honey producers.
  • Compared to 2005-06 honey production has risen by 242% and exports shot by 265%.

Challenges

  • Beekeeping has traditionally been a forest or migration-based activity in India and several other south-east Asian countries. As a result, production and productivity are low, and the industry is unable to meet rising demand.
  • Death and diseases: Diseases and mites such as European Foulbrood and Sacbrood pose a threat to Indian bees. Pesticide poisoning, population losses due to crop residue burning, and unexplained colony losses are all major issues in the enterprise.
  • Institutional support: Cattle and poultry extension services are the most common livestock extension services. Farmers receive limited assistance in selecting the best location for beekeeping, selecting quality bees, early disease detection, efficient extraction techniques, value addition, and product marketing.
  • Lack of awareness: Indian farmers are unaware of the pollination needs of crops, the diversification of beekeeping needs, and modern honey extraction technologies used around the world. Indian honey is of poor quality due to the aforementioned factors.
    • Pesticides and insecticides are abundant in Indian honey, in addition to impurities.

Way ahead 

  • Expand the scope
    • Beekeeping cannot be restricted to honey and wax only, products such as pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and bee venom are also marketable.
  • Increase in area
    • Based on the area under cultivation in India and bee forage crops, India has a potential of about 200 million bee colonies as against 3.4 million bee colonies today.
    • Increasing the number of bee colonies will not only increase the production of bee-related products but will boost overall agricultural and horticultural productivity.
    • Institutional support: The government needs to extend support to beekeeping in the form of microcredit facilities, veterinary services, development of regional infrastructure for processing and storage, etc.

Recommendations made by Beekeeping Development Committee 

  • The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister had set up a Beekeeping Development Committee under the Chairmanship of Professor Bibek Debroy.
  • Objective
    • Identify ways of advancing beekeeping in India, that can help in improving agricultural productivity, enhancing employment generation, augmenting nutritional security, and sustaining biodiversity. 
  • Recognizing honeybees as inputs to agriculture and considering landless Beekeepers as farmers. 
  • Institutionalizing the National Bee Board and rechristening it as the Honey and Pollinators Board of India under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. Such a body would engage in advancing beekeeping through multiple mechanisms such as setting up new Integrated Bee Development Centres, strengthening the existing ones, creating a honey price stabilization fund, and collecting data on important aspects of apiculture.
  • Recognition of apiculture as a subject for advanced research under the aegis of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research. 
  • Development of national and regional infrastructure for storage, processing, and marketing of honey and other bee products.
  • Simplifying procedures and specifying clear standards for ease of exporting honey and other bee products.
  • Plantation of bee-friendly flora at appropriate places and engaging women self-help groups in managing such plantations.
  • Training and development of beekeepers by state governments. 

Mains model question

  • What are the challenges faced by the bee-keeping industry and what needs to be done to realize the full potential of the industry?

References