Climate Change Pushes Himalayan Honey Bees to Higher Altitudes

Feb 1st, 2014 | By | Category: Climatic Changes in Himalayas, Ecosystem Functions, News

19519Republica: Himalayan cliff honey bee, the insect known for its ingenuity in making its colonies in places where humans and predators do not have easy access, has lately started to prefer higher altitudes for habitat.

According to apiarists, the stinging winged insect heavily searched after, mostly by humans, for the sweet nectar called honey it hoards collecting from various flowers has started migrating toward higher places to make colonies.

Apiarists are of the opinion that the new trend seen among the honeybee found in the Himalayan regions is mainly due to the effect of climate change.

With the bees climbing higher to make their hives, people making their living by harvesting honey from wild bee colonies now need take more risk and climb up difficult cliffs to reach the bee colonies. Honey hunters said the availability of the bee colonies in the usual areas have plummeted sharply.

Suroj Pokharel, the director of Child Development Program, who has also conducted research on bee, said due to rising temperatures, the effect of climate change, the Himalayan cliff bees have started climbing higher for making hives.

He informed that even the bees found in the Tarai plains have also started moving to higher altitudes to make their hives. He further informed that over the past 10 years the bees have started to move to places that are 200 to 400 meters higher than their usual habitats.

“The species of honeybee found in the plains could be found up to the altitude of 1100 meters but now they have climbed 200 meters further up,” said Pokharel

According to him, the Himalayan cliff bees used to climb down to 1,000 meters to escape the cold during the winter. But now, it does not descend below 1200 meters. Similarly, the Himalayan bee, which were found at the altitude of 3,100 meters, are now found at 3,500 meters.

“The change in the habitat of the bees can be attributed to the rising temperatures and the development of modern infrastructure including roads and buildings,” Pokharel further said. “The Himalayan bees are no more found in the places where they were found until a decade ago.”

Pokharel is of the opinion that increasing dust and smoke in the villages and modern infrastructure have threatened their existence. Also, the increaseing use of insecticides have taken a serious toll on the honeybees.

Climate change that has gradually altered the flowering time of the rhododendron, the main source of nectar for the himalayan bees, has also affected the bee species found in the Himalayas. “Increasing adversities have forced the bees to migrate to relatively safer areas in the highlands,” Pokharel opined.

Jitesh Pradhan, who has made a documentary describing the hardships of honey hunters, said that bee colonies are very hard to find in the usual and accessible areas.

“The bees have started to choose more adverse geographies for building their colonies,” Pradhan added.

Moti Bahadur Gurung, a honey hunter, who is also the vice chair of the Conservation Area Management Sub-Committee under the Annapuran Conservation Area Project (ACAP), said they have found that honey productivity in the wild bee colonies have decreased in recent years.

“We risk our lives climbing adverse cliffs searching for bee colonies to harvest the honey. But, the harvests are not good now compared to the past. A liter of cliff bee honey costs over Rs 2,500 rupees in the villages.

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