22 May 2017, Kotagiri: Keystone celebrated World Bee Day today at Nehru Park in Kotagiri, engaging with the local population of Nilgiris including school children, civil societies and practicing beekeepers. World Bee Day is celebrated on May 20th which is the birthday of Anton Jansa, a Slovanian beekeeper who pioneered modern beekeeping with movable frames and boxes, as proposed by Apimondia to the United Nations.
The inauguration was presided over by Mr. T.K.V. Rajan, Founder-Director, Indian Science Monitor who spoke about the achievements of Dr. JC Bose and how conscious responses were characteristics of sentient beings, plants and animals. Dr. K. K Suresh, Dean – Forest College and Research Institute, Mettupalayam, went on to speak about declining vegetative cover in the Nilgiris. Rev. Philip Mulley, Trustee, Keystone Foundation, has been observing indigenous communities in the Nilgiris for many decades and spoke about the close links that they have with honey and bees and how they value bee diversity.
The event saw young children from Sholurmattam and Garikyur perform a skit about a small bee colony and different types of bees. School teacher, Mr.Dharmaraj, Nallasiriyar Award winner, brought children from Sholurmattam for the event and spoke on the need to conserve bees, especially native bee species. Angel Saveri, teacher at St. Mary’s High School recited a poem which she had written about bees, their diversity and medicinal values along with spiritual messages.
The Honey Portal is a project that Audra Bass, intern with Last Forest Enterprises, has been working on in collaboration with Keystone. This website carries information about honey, bees, conservation, and indigenous communities closely associated with bees and honey. The portal would be able to provide information to help with conservation of grasslands, forests and other ecosystems related to nesting habitats of bees. This portal is set to go live in a couple of months with information from the Nilgiris and Odisha.
Jestin Pauls from Aadhimalai describing different kinds of honey and their uses and Frango from Last Forest Enterprises spoke about consumer awareness regarding honey quality. There were a number of posters displayed about types of bees, their science, pollination, etc. Appropriate tools for beekeeping, such as bee boxes, tools, honey extractors, smokers, protective gear, etc. were displayed. There was also a live demonstration hive which garnered a lot of interest from the visitors. Different varieties of honey and beeswax products were also displayed.
Declining populations of native bees is a cause for concern around the world and India is no exception with reports of reduced harvests. Bees pollinate more than 70% of food crops and are the most important group of pollinators. Beekeepers, Rasu from Semmanarai, Vellayan from Pillur, Suresh from Banagudi, and Jamila from Sigur were felicitated for their efforts in practicing appropriate beekeeping. During his talk, Robert Leo, Dy Director, Keystone Foundation, spoke about the need popularize beekeeping with urban populations and find ways to overcome the many challenges that would invariably arise.
Justin and Leo from Keystone, conducted a quiz on bees and took questions from the audience on issues and doubts regarding beekeeping. Beekeepers form the audience had several suggestions including government interventions to manage Thai sac brood virus (TSBV) attacks and bear attacks. They also suggested some parts of the landscape be set aside to conserve bee populations.
Just like humans, bees are impacted by changing patterns of land use and increasing use of chemicals in agriculture and this event generated a lot of interest among the audience regarding bee conservation. Pratim Roy – Director Keystone Foundation spoke of the age-old relationship of men and bees going back to the Egyptians. “Just like humans, bees are both social and solitary. They are facing challenging times and are adapting to them as best as they can. Given their importance in our lives, we should be doing all we can to conserve them.”