A big puzzle for a natural farmer is to attract honey bees to the farm. They not only provide valuable honey, but also are a vital ecological link to complete the entire cycle. Yet, due to mindless loss of diversity of flora, and loss of watering places and favorable trees, these vital links to human survival are facing survival stress.
In addition, addition of GM seeds , in even flowering plants and trees, means the entire evolution of honey bees according to a particular ecology, flower sizes, season timings, etc. has gone for a toss. Their natural ways of keeping themselves healthy are no longer possible with GM seeds. A prominent example is proliferation of GM Moringa in many parts of India.
To add to it, in order to exploit the greed and ignorance of small farmers, many organizations have been aggressively promoting BOXED honey bees. The bees are fed sugar (glucose or fructose) solutions , as there are no flowers around for most part of the year. In addition, like caged birds, these bees are susceptible to diseases and wipe out. Hence the solution is loaded with heavy metal medicines, just like caged poultry is loaded with daily antibiotics. That usually goes to the honey, via the saliva. The gullible consumers, who believe that honey will provide healing to their health issues, get cheated.
As if that much is not sufficient, the Honey boxes are usually provided with either African or Italian honey bees. The claim is that Indian honey bees, like Indian breed cows or birds, are more aggressive, and have low conversion ratio.
It is conveniently overlooked that our honey bees and the flora have taken tens of millions of years of evolution in these conditions, once Indian subcontinent was separated from African continent. Honey bee is too critical a link in ecology as pollination of many trees and plants depends on them. Changing this link with alternate links is akin to bringing all the natural ecology into a distress. Then provide solution to that stress by providing GM plants and tree stems. Hence, I have termed it a conspiracy.
On the solution side, as a natural farmer, the puzzle faced is to make sure the farms attract honey bees of prominent varieties.
We narrowed down the problem to these factors:
1. We needed large trees that honey bees prefer to build their combs on. These are typically Peepal, Semal, Gooler, etc. There is some property in them, probably CAM photosysthesis, and water retention , that attracts honey bees to make them the host.
- 2. Flowers of different varieties, twelve month long. It would allow feeding and healthy activity to them for the entire year.
- 3. Flowers of different sizes, as different variety of bees e.g. Apis Florea , have different preferences.
- An intelligent natural mix of flowering trees and plants, so that bees remain healthy. For example, it is thought that Marigold is an excellent provider of medicines to bees.
We have combined the above elements in the food forest to get excellent results. It takes 2 years to attract the first honey bees, once the large tree saplings start crossing 3 feet.
I have been amazed that they find their way to a favorable ecosystem, supposedly informed by a voice of the nature, about it.
Thereafter, it is a constant flux. One day, probably 4 years into it, the ecosystem will be ready to host their colonies. That is the day of delight for a natural farmer because then one knows, the ecology has turned the corner for good.