COVID-19: Bihar beekeepers find it tough to relocate bee boxes amid lockdown

Bees are relocated to orchards in Jharkhand for them to get easy access to food sources

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Tuesday 14 April 2020

Beekeepers in Bihar are unable to relocate lakhs of bee boxes to neighbouring Jharkhand for giving their bees easy access to nutrition, amid the nationwide lockdown in place to curb the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The flowering season for the litchi is over by the first week of April, when trees are loaded with unripe, green litchis that do not fulfill the nutrition requirements of bees.

Beekeepers who operate at litchi orchards in the state’s Muzaffarpur and East Champaran districts, thus, shift or relocate bee boxes via trucks to orchards in Jharkhand, where the bees find adequate food sources.

The lockdown, however, has kept trucks off the roads, with beekeepers facing prospects that their bees could starve to death. They would, as a result, suffer huge losses.

“We are not getting permission for trucks to carry bee boxes,” said Shankar Choudhary, a beekeeper from Minapur block in Muzaffarpur.

Bees are relocated to Gumla, Khunti and Ranchi in Jharkhand every year, according to Narendar Yadav, another beekeeper.

“We are facing a really difficult time due to the lockdown this year. The government should help us,” he said.

A delay of a few days could result in the bees starving to death, according to them.

Bees could not live without flowers around them, as the food they get from these flowers also helps them make honey, the beekeepers said.

Litchi honey from the two Bihar districts is in high demand in the country and abroad for its taste.

Around two lakh bee boxes were usually relocated from Bihar to Jharkhand annually, said Dilip Kushwaha, the president of the Madhumakhkhi Palak Sangh, a collective formed by the state’s beekeepers.

The huge number of bee boxes makes it a challenge to relocate them, amid the lockdown.

The government said it will provide “some relaxation” to beekeepers for relocating their boxes from one place to another or one state to another, according to a letter from the state agriculture department, dated April 13.

“We have been working to promote beekeeping and honey business in the state by farmers to increase their income,” Bihar’s agriculture minister Prem Kumar told Down To Earth on April 14, 2020.

The state government had asked district administration officials to relocate the boxes, according to district horticulture officials.

Beekeepers could, in the meantime, give sugar syrup to bees from time to time for the next few days until arrangements for their relocation were in place, PP Singh, a professor of entomology at the Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University, told Down To Earth.

They should also take care of the queen bee by keeping it inside a cage and temporarily stop honey extraction to help bees manage their food for a longer time, said Singh.

There were around 9,000 beekeepers in Bihar, according to a report by the state’s Khadi and Village Industries Commission.

A report by the National Bee Board said that the state, however, has 859 registered beekeepers, far less than the non-registered beekeepers operating on ground.

Both the statistics were countered by Kushwaha, who said approximately 12,000 beekeepers operated in Muzaffarpur and East Champaran alone. Most of them were not registered.

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