Importance of bees !

Narendra Pukhrambam *

I have written this article because I wish to share my experience and observation of bees and my view on the important role they play in the life of man and to demonstrate the tremendous benefits they bring.

I hope that it will help not only to inculcate a love for these little winged friends and assistants of mankind but also to obtain more bee products, higher crop yields and lead to broader use of bee farms or apiaries for therapeutic and prophylactic purposes.

A Bee-Keeper or Apiarist keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produces including bee-wax, propolis, pollen and Royal Jelly, to pollinate crops or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an Apiary or “Bee-Yard”.

The fascinating work of an Apiary, which gives tremendous aesthetic pleasure, the consumption of honey and the proper use of bee venom, royal jelly, Pollen, propolis, bee-wax and drone-larva extract are very important links in a chain of factors beneficial for man’s health and prolongation of life.

These little creatures have a magnetic charm that grips everyone who comes to know them, So that they cannot fail to feel a strong friendship for bees all their lives. This love of bees is often handed on to the children and grandchildren.

There are quite a few beekeeping families in which the profession has been inherited from father to grand fathers. Bee keeping is a very fascinating occupation. Until the 20th century, honey bees were equated with the production of honey and wax.

But since the past 3-4 decades utilizing honeybees to pollinate large numbers of agricultural and horticultural crops to increase per acre yield has become a routine practice in many developed countries including India.

Honey bees are one of the friendly insects which have been exploited by mankind for the product of honey and wax due to lack of scientific Bee-Keeping. For centuries the inquisitive mind of man has tried to unriddle what bees do on flowers and in the darkness of the hive.

It is only comparatively recently that the Agronomist, Horticulturist and Naturist like Charles Darwin have shown that flowers and bees cannot exist without each other and that their existences are inter connected. It has been calculated that bees constitute eighty percent of all the visitors to the flowers of cultivated plants, only twenty percent falling to other insects.

Flowers are indeed visited by a variety of insects of which honey bees occupy first place among the obligatory visitors with a wide sphere of action. Domesticated honey bees possess the greatest ability and possibilities as pollinators. Their flying season begins in the early spring and ends in autumn under favourable conditions. They visit flowers all that time while wild bees do so only for a few in the season.

It is known that bees are like a living brush with the help of which flowers are naturally pollinated, cross pollinated plants yield more and bigger seeds and fruits then self pollinated plants.

These four winged pollinators of flower - the living catalyzers in the process of plant evolution will become instruments of natural scientific transformation by means of which the earth will once again be converted into a garden in bloom, but this time by man and not by insects. This is why Charles Darwin used to put it, “Insect transformed the earth into a flowering garden”.

In Asia there is a shortage of arable land and over 50% of the world’s farming families exist but have only 25% of the world’s arable land. The per capita availability of land would be less (0.1 hectare in China and 0.14 hectare in India) at the beginning of 21st century. As against this, the average Asian population is expected to grow at 1.86% a year. Hence, the need for increasing productivity.

In this, the tools of biotechnology could help in raising the productivity of major crops through an increase in total dry matter production which can then be partitioned in a way favourable to economic value. Biotechnology has certainly given new economic status to our biological wealth. Biotechnology diversity is the variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they are found.

It is our common human heritage. Nature is our common human heritage. Nature is our common home. So we must know it well in order to have it better, to protect it and to augment its riches. The only right relationship between man and nature has always been and always will be our main source of food. If exhausted, the human race will cease to exist.

The importance of a correct and rational diet for fitness and health, and for will-being in old age and long life, is well known. Prof J. De Castro, the famous Brazilian specialist on nutrition considered food the most effective antibiotic, protecting the organism against microbes better than anything else.

He estimated that more than two thirds of the world’s population was constantly starving and that 85% did not have enough to eat. In the struggle against hunger there is no doubt that broad development of rational apiculture could make a colossal contribution. It is being increasingly realized that bees could be less expensive input for promoting sustainable and eco-friendly agriculture and enhancing crop productivity.

The potential benefits, due to bee pollination, in the form of increase in yields of various crops. Honeybees have their vital role in sustaining plant biodiversity, Many commercial beekeepers of developed countries like USA, UK and parts of European countries prefer to provide honeybee colonies on rental basis for pollination service rather than to take honey production.

The value of additional yield obtained by pollination service rendered by honeybees alone is about 15 to 20 times more than the value of all the hive products put together (NBB).

It is worthwhile to mention that honey bees work as an input of agriculture which is essentially required for its development. Therefore honey bees should be treated as fifth input for overall development. Therefore honey bees should be treated as fifth input for over all development of agriculture in a sustainable manner.

It regulates the efficacy of other four inputs used in agriculture, particularly in pollination support crops/fruits (NBB). In his article “Bees” and “Bee Keeping” in the work of L.N. Tolstoy expressed that of all the branches of agriculture beekeeping was most independent, that one could follow it without hiring any labour, and exist on it alone.

Further he expressed “if I were young again, I’d go to a country where people don’t talk about newspapers and politics but about bees and agriculture (3rd Nov. 1906).

An estimate made by western Scientists put it that 10 million species exist, although only 1.5 million species have been described so far, The World Conservation Monitoring Centre at Cambridge, UK, has estimated that 724 species of insects, plants, amphibious, reptiles, birds, mammals are already extinct and another 22,530 species respectively are threatened. Many animal and plant species, which are not in immediate danger of extinction, are suffering from declining populations.

In this context I would like to focus on the importance of Bees as stated by Albert Einstein, one of the greatest and most influential scientists of all time.If the bees disappeared off the globe, then man would have only four years of life left.

No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man” The Greek philosopher Democritius, creator of atomic theory, said when asked for advice on how to live and how to keep in good health, that one should annoit one’s interior with honey and one’s exterior with oil. So in ancient Greece honey was considered one of the nature’s most precious gifts.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) was the first researcher into bees, and has rightly been dubbed “the sum of ancient apiculture”. His history of animals, his writings on the ‘parts’ and ‘reproduction’ of animals contain many references based on experiments with and observation of bees. He considered honey a remarkable product, capable of prolonging human life. Pliny wrote that fish fat mixed with honey had a beneficial effect on infected wounds and on sores in the mouth.

When inhaled honey not only has an effect on the mucous membrane of the nose and throat, but also on the alveoli of the lungs. It not only acts as a local bactericide, but also helps to build up organisms. In Indian medicine it was considered that honey could be used both as a remedy and as an analeptic. The tonics prescribed ‘to give pleasure’ and ‘to preserve youth’ were mainly prepared from honey.

From ancient times honey has been believed to possess special curative properties. In the works of ancient physicians it was called the “Elixir of Youth '', and modern doctors consider it a food for longevity and often quote ninety - year old Pythagoras for saying that he would not have lived so long had he not eaten honey.

Special works on age and longevity say that a large percentage of those who have lived over 100 years are mountain Shepherds and Bee-keepers. It is an old popular belief that green leaves and flowers make the air bracing and this has been scientifically demonstrated that wherever there are plants, volatile substances that destroy microbes and constantly discharge into the air are atmospheric vitamins.

So beekeepers working in an Apiary (Bee-Garden) during the best months of the year therefore breathes air that is not only fresh and pure but is also enriched with the fragrance of honey and atmospheric vitamins. Usually enjoying good health and long life through their habit of eating honey and healthy work in the midst of nature.

I hope my article will help increase the number of bee-lovers and through their activity in gathering honey and other products contribute to raising yields of vegetable, fruits and seed as well as giving them pleasure and healthful work.

* Narendra Pukhrambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on April 26 2024.

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