-With inputs from Nagaland Beekeeping & Honey Mission (NBHM)
Beekeeping or apiculture is one of the most widespread agricultural activities that are practiced all over the world. Nagaland has a unique distinction of being one of the botanical hot spot regions of India. It is home to numerous plant species and perennial flowering plants that offers an absolute leverage for providing the much needed foraging areas for the bees. Its multi floral wealth offers the opportunity for the honey bees to produce the finest honey in terms of quality and taste, which is often the choice of many honey enthusiasts. Many different species of bees and wasps has established a unique ecological position for themselves in the temperate and semi –tropical mountainous terrain of Nagaland.
Nagas has a tradition of beekeeping that extends back to many years. It is an age old tradition practice that is entangled in the socio-religious rituals of tribal communities. Bees have been revered and used as vital indicators for many natural forces beyond their control by the animistic Nagas since long ago. This is evident from the many folklores, beliefs, bee songs, and rituals that were associated with bee rearing and honey hunting by the many tribal communities that inhibit the state. Thus there is no dearth of traditional knowledge on bees and management techniques on bees and beekeeping amongst the Nagas.
Wild honey hunting is another activity associated mostly with forest dwellers and tribal communities. Their long and close association with nature has made them skilled in harnessing nature’s resources and living off forest and its resources for centuries together. From rock bees that thrive apparently in the inhospitable and rugged mountains to the Apis cerana bees that set up their communal residence in the midst of friendly Naga homes, to the trigona/melipona species (Stingless bees) are found in the wild and also reared in homestead hives. Bees find their own space and coexist in perfect harmony with the village folks in many hamlets of the state. A visit to any Naga village is bound to lead to encounters and sightings of a diverse collection of bees and the Naga farmer nurtures them in boxes of different shapes and sizes.
Native beekeepers in Nagaland practice both ‘apiculture’ and ‘meliponiculture'(Stingless Beekeeping), although apiculture is found to be widely favoured. Balancing with modern management techniques will no doubt give the much needed boost to this ever promising sector. With its rich flora, suitable ecology and with the existence of colonies, Nagaland has a great potential in apiculture.
Photo Courtesy- NBHM