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“The busy bee has not time for sorrow.”

William Blake

William Blake.

We all depend on the survival of bees. Bees pollinate nearly 75% of the world’s plants, which in turn produce 90% of our food.Essentially then, without these busy-bodies our planet would likely go hungry. In their role of pollinators, cross-pollinating billions of plants, trees, shrubs and trees, bees are also a primary rewilder that contribute to an expansion of our ecosystem. Bees are vital for the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature. They protect and maintain ecosystems as well as animal and plant species, and act as indicators of the state of the environment. Their presence, absence or quantity tells us when something is happening with the environment and that appropriate action is needed.

To mark World Bee Day we celebrate the Apis dorsata or the Indian Giant Honey Bee, popularly also known as the Giant Rock Bee, found all over India and in sub-mountainous regions up to altitudes of 2700 metres.

Image from SUJÁN Archives

Their busy lives are spent pollinating and cross pollinating, travelling, providing nourishment for their colonies by producing honey and dancing! Yes, they dance (waggle dance) to communicate the location of food sources to other bees in their colony. This dance language indicates the distance, viability and direction of their food source. They are also the only bees of their genus to exhibit nocturnal foraging activity.

Image from SUJÁN Archives

India is home to five species of bees, but the Apis dorsata is uniquely, the only wild species of the lot. Highly aggressive and difficult to rear, a single colony will produce over forty kilograms (or nearly 90 pounds) of honey a year. Their combs can extend to over a metre in length and are usually constructed attached to a rock face or the branch of a tree. At between 17-22 mm, they are also the largest of all bees found in India. The most productive part of their year is usually between April and July – the hottest period in India – just before the rains arrive when they produce honey, usually harvested twice a year.

Image from SUJÁN Archives

Their reproduction cycle indicates one of the highest levels of polyandry among all social insects. Some drones and the queen fly away from the nest and mate on the wing. This is called nuptial flight, and the ‘Queen-bee’ will mate with multiple drones.

Image from SUJÁN Archives

Sadly, bees around the world are under threat. Present species extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts and interference. Together, we need to continue to work at protecting bees and other pollinators, and help play our part in contributing to solving problems related to the global food supply and the loss of biodiversity by further committing to supporting, restoring, and enhancing the role of pollinators.

We stand in solidarity with The United Nations and the theme for today to ‘Bee engaged : build Back Better for Bees’ and will continue through our conservation initiatives to prioritise environmental regeneration and pollinator protection. To learn how you as an individual or organisation can help protect our bees visit www.un.org/en/observances/bee-day


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