Towards Sweet Revolution in Jammu Region

World Honey bee Day
Prof. R.K Gupta and Dr. Devinder Sharma
World Honey Bee Day is a special awareness day when honey bee scientists and beekeepers, enthusiasts devote their time to recognize the contribution that honey bees make to our everyday lives, as well as learning about the different steps that we can take in order to protect this vital species, According to Albert Einstein “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live. The Jammu region is bestowed with all the three kind of native honeybee species viz A dorsata. (Bhor) A cerana (Gun) and A florae (Nikki makhi) besides exotic species A mellifera introducued during early seventies. In Jammu region there used to be a large number of honey hunters who used to collect honey from the Apis dorsata commonly known as Bhor Makhi in Dogri language as per bibliography collected by Smith from 1793 onwards. Besides people were practising honey having in wall or log hives with A cerana locally known as Gun Makhi. This practice of bee having slowly moved to beekeeping in Jammu region. As per Rajatarangini, written by Kalhan Pandit in AD1148-1150, honeybees existed in this region from very ancient times, living in natural abodes and honey was a trade commodity, and its medicinal value was appreciated. Further there is a mention Honey was cultivated in the hill state of J&k by Sir Walter Lawrence who was Settlement Commissioner of the state (1889 to 1895). From the available documents it was extracted that as early as 1819 beekeeping had reached the stage which was regarded as equal to advanced systems of European countries of those days while modernisation of beekeeping in Jammu and Kashmir dates to some individuals, the late Dr TC Razdan and the late Ali Mohammad Shah, whose initiative took place in the late 1920s. There used to be a large number of colonies of A cerana in kashmir during 1962 which used to be migrated and managed in Jammu region.Indigenous honey bees, Apis cerana, have played a key role in enhancing agricultural productivity as they are a natural pollinators for a range of fruits and crops. The A. cerana cerana strain of Jammu and Kashmir is not only larger but also higher honey-yielding than other counterparts. As such Beekeeping with Apis cerana was a tradition in Jammu region. However, since most of A cerana colonies disappeared in 1962 and afterwards beekeeper started adopting A mellifera in this region Consequent upon the successful introduction of Apis mellifera at Nagrota Bhagwan, India, it was thought to harness its feasibility and potential in the state of Jammu & Kashmir There is no denying the fact that people in Kashmir were practising beekeeping with Apis cerena in modified Newton Hives, but as far as Apis mellifera is concerned, it was initially introduced at Jammu and it was only after 3-4 years that it was moved to Kashmir valley from Jammu. The idea was promoted by the then Director Agriculture, Mr. Amin who belonged to Anantnag area observing its performance in Jammu. He instructed, S. Suchwant Singh to move few colonies to Kashmir region from Miran Sahib Jammu. It was a mere coincidence that during that period a controversy arose about transmission of sac brood virus and its outbreak around 1972-73. Many beekeepers including Shah Brothers raise their concern about introduction of Apis mellifera in Kashmir in view of outbreak of Kashmir bee virus. Later on these concerns were rectified scientifically and beekeepers in Kashmir started beekeeping with Apis mellifera.. Modern beekeeping in Jammu started with the introduction of Apis mellifera in 1975-1976. The colonies were multiplied and distributed to the farmers as well. Consistent and continuous efforts of SKUAST-Jammu and Department of Agriculture coupled with innovative nature of the beekeepers for adoption of modern technology, Apis mellifera beekeeping was popularized in short span of time.. Within two decades the strength of beekeeper increased from 261 to 3295. Simultaneously, the number of colonies and honey production inclined to an extent of 11390 to 71264 and 522.39 to 8182.3 qtls, respectively. The mean growth rate increased 7 times within 20 years with mean honey production of about 11.48 kgs per colony. However, this success is confronted with many challenges and emerging issues which are being addressed through appropriate scientific interventions. Consistent efforts were made to increase the productivity through migratory bee keeping which could fetch an income of 4.89 times as compared to stationary bee keeping . Center on Experiential learning and Innovative Beekeeping at SKUAST Jammu is on mission mode to tap the existing potential of beekeeping through various interventions like scientific solutions ,trainings and enterprise development. J&K has more than 1.1 million ha under cultivation, out of which 215 000 ha are under such crops which fully or partially depend on bees for pollination. The area under pulses, fruits and vegetables, oilseeds and fodder crops is 32 000, 66 000, 71 000, and 46 000 ha, respectively. Almost all these crops require or benefit from insect pollination. At a modest rate of three colonies per hectare for pollination purposes, the State requires a minimum of 645 000 colonies to produce field/fruit crops. But J&K has just less than 67 000 colonies – a gap of more than 10-times the required number. At present there are just 0.2 colonies/ha against the minimum requirement of 3-5 colonies/ha. All the above crops provide rich sources of nectar and pollen that are unexploited so far. Besides this, J&K has more than 658 000 ha under forest. The pollination needs of wild forest plants have not been estimated but are likely to be significant. In addition to this J&K has 219 000 ha which are still barren and uncultivated. This area could be used profitably for mass plantation of bee flora to overcome the problem of depleting floral resources, and boost beekeeping potential. This activity will not only provide bee flora but also help in the reclamation of wastelands and degraded soils. There is a wide gap between the present number of bee colonies and the number that could be supported in this region. According to current estimates, Jammu and Kashmir has the potential to sustain more than 600 000 bee colonies, producing 9000 tonnes of honey per year and provide job opportunities for 12 000 families. A working group of SKUAST-J is evolving appropriate technologies to achieve the goal of honey mission and sweet revolution. The ultimate aim of this research group is to make this unit as Center of Excellence.
Nevertheless, conservation of native bees is vital for the functioning of plant communities and human welfare, behavioural limitations of the dwarf (A florae) and giant honeybees (A dorsata), particularly their practice of open-air nesting, prevents their being kept in man-made hives. However, environmental changes are affecting populations of these bees through changes to available floral and nesting resources, and the distribution and virulence of parasites and pathogens. Altered timing and abundance of flowers, as well as the amount and quality of nectar and pollen produced has been scientifically documented in this region especially for the native species. Further, it has been observed that the introduced A. mellifera L. outcompetes A. cerana, Apis dorsata and Apis florae, Commercial beekeeping is practiced largely with A mellifera (more than 95.0 percent) and to a limited scale with A cerana (less than 5 percent). This is because A. mellifera colonies were found more productive than those of A. cerana where forage is abundant. A gradual decline in the wild colonies and honey harvest is clearly evident for the last 60 years. The reduction in number of wild of colonies (per square km area) of native bees, A dorsata, a cerana and A florea was 73,81 and 80 per cent, respectively in Jammu region. A preconceived notion that human being know better than bee do what living conditions proved disastrous and the world is now reaping the rewards of human arrogance: bees that are dependant for their survival on chemical inputs and human interventions especially Colony collapse disorder ( CCD) coupled with the pollination crisis. Therefore promoting genetic diversity of honey bees and providing safe environments would be crucial steps toward future sustainable agriculture colonies. So, on this World Honey Bee Day, lets teach our young ones the benefit of having honey bees around and learn how peaceful co existence of humans with honey bees can create productive avenues for us.