ISSUE NO.1 | The Nagas | July 2017
A fading necessity
Porba, 25.6145° N, 94.3400° E
The culture of cultivating stingless bees for purposes of honey and pollination is called Meliponiculture. Nagaland is the only state where this culture is still practiced, although remotely. We find out a stingless beehive in Porba and now we tell you what this whole thing is all about.
Blessed with an enriched biodiversity that thrives in its lush rainforests and mountain ranges, Nagaland has always been conducive for the practice of meliponiculture which pertains to the rearing of stingless bees. A practice that has survived for centuries, Naga tribes have gained considerable experience in perfecting the skills required to cull honey from these bees, which serves to be an integral part of several home remedies on account of their medicinal properties. Furthermore, stingless bees have the reputation of being ideal pollinators especially when it concerns greenhouse cultivated crops on account of their rather short flight range.
Their role as pollinators has opened up an avenue of endless economic possibilities which are yet to be realized to their full potential, keeping in mind the fact that the Nagaland is home to more than one of the eight varieties of stingless bees that are found in India. We found the species Tetragonula irridipenis in Porba.
Naga tribes are quite skilled in deducing the presence of theses stingless bees, after having traversed deep into the forest and keenly observing the flora in the location, which may display the signs of these rather famed pollinators having visited the locality and would accordingly initiate their search for bee colonies. Usually in the morning hours, using slanting rays of light to aid them in their search for terrestrial bee colonies. While a similar method is used for the subterranean, it further involves digging up and the usage of grass blades to indicate the direction of the colonies aided by the sounds of the colonies in the process.
In addition to the traditional beehives, methods such as bee boxes and log hives are also used to cultivate the bees, with log hives being the preferred manner. Rectangular wooden boxes have also been used in a number of Naga tribes. Even though most of these colonies produce a limited quantity of 100 ml of honey or so which explains their rates of Rs. 3000/kg, it is noteworthy that these tribes harvest the pollen which is available to them, only partially since they believe that the retention of pollen in the colony hive will be key to enhancing the growth of the colonies further, which is the same rule they follow for the harvesting of cerumen which serves as important byproduct. Nagas also use a limited amount of the pollen for medicinal purposes, that too only as per need in addition to its nutraceuitical values, providing energy and improved heart rates to list a few of the several benefits that they derive from the consumption
Nagas tribes have always adopted a very ecofriendly approach, ensuring that their actions will not upset the ecosystem balance, and use meliponiculture to regenerate the forest’s natural vegetation whilst furthering agricultural production.
A major cause of concern is the dying practice with the onset of the new generation which does not find the art of meliponiculture and are seeking economic success elsewhere since the amount of effort invested in this practice is a lot more with relatively limited economic returns. Hence a higher degree of accuracy in the extraction of the pollen, without disrupting the ecosystem balance, is necessary which requires further scientific study and documentation of the methods of practicing meliponiculture, in order to prepare for the possibility of the practice eventually ceasing in the near future.