Declaring Honeybee as National Insect.
Declaring Honeybee as National Insect.
1. HONEYBEES AND ENVIRONMENT:
Honeybees are best known for the honey they produce. But the principal economic role of honeybees in nature is to pollinate hundreds and thousands of flowering plants and assure formation of large quantity of good quality seeds.
In the process of evolution in plants, flowering plants have appeared on earth about 5 to 8 crorer years ago. Honeybees are presumed to have evolved from their wasp-like ancestors, simultaneously or shortly after the appearance of flowering plants on the earth. This is so, because, both flowering plants and honeybees are interdependent for their life cycle. Flowering plants offer, nectar and pollen to honeybees which is their sole food. Honeybees while collecting their food, transfer pollen, the male sperm, of the flowers from one flower to the another flower of the same species and bring about fertilization of the flowers assuring continuation of the plant species on earth.
2. HONEYBEES AND FORESTS:
In forests, trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, weeds etc. flower sequentially and provide food to honeybees for a major part of the year. The forests also provide shelter to honeybees. The honeybees reciprocate their obligations by offering pollination service, assuring formation of large quantity of seeds or fruits and maintaining genetic diversity in plants. Honeybees are therefore an integral part of forests and their ecology. A healthy forest is an indication of healthy bee fauna in the forests. Thus honeybees and forests have been associated with each other and have co-evolved as one biological unit over past millions of years. Hills and adjacent agricultural belts having mixture of forests and agriculture are of unique biological wealth that could be converted into economic wealth and can offer livelihood on a substantial basis. These are the best areas for promotion of beekeeping industry. Forests are permanent natural abodes of honeybees.
Various development projects in the country, however, affected honeybees adversely due to deforestation, increasing land-use for agriculture, urbanization, tourism development etc. All these factors reduce significantly the bee forage potential. It is necessary to check this deteriorating trend of the industry, if this important income resource to the rural and tribal population depending upon forests for their livelihood has to be maintained. This is possible by taking up extensive afforestation programme in which multipurpose tree species useful to honeybees during their flowering should be included. This is all the more necessary in view of the importance of honeybees as cross pollinators of various forest plant species and agricultural and horticultural crops.
3. HONEYBEES AND AGRICULTURE:
Over 70 per cent of the several hundred major cultivated crops of the world are dependent on insects for pollination. According to the United Nation’s Report, pollinating insects, mainly honeybees, contribute to about 203 Billion Dollars worth every year, by way of increased crop production through crop-pollination. Physical and chemical changes in the environment, however, has accelerated the crisis of decline in species richness of honeybees and other pollinators. Insecticide poisoning, has especially threatened honeybees the most important insect of pollination. The enormous benefits the honeybees silently offer to Forestry, Horticulture and Agriculture goes unnoticed. Prof. Einstein had once observed “If the honeybees disappear off the globe, then the man would have only four years of life left. No bees..no pollination.. no plants.. no animals.. no man” Warnings have been coming from environmentalists and scientists from all over the world that excessive use of pesticides, pollution etc. resulting into depletion of useful pollinating insects, particularly the honeybees, is threatening to reduce our total food supply by 1/3. This is a global problem. Considering the seriousness of the problem, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has launched in 2008 a Project “Conservation and Management of Pollinators for Sustainable Agriculture Through Ecosystem Approach”
4. CONCLUDING REMARKS:
Beekeeping has quadruple benefits, 1) Producing lakhs of Kg. of honey from the nectar of flowers which otherwise dries up and goes waste, 2) Providing employment to forest based population, 3) Provide employment to rural educated unemployed in collection, processing and marketing various bee products like. honey, beeswax, bee collected pollen, bee venom etc. and finally the most important 4) Increasing crop productivity through cross pollination of various cross-fertile crops.
In view of the importance of honeybees in conservation and maintenance of natural biodiversity and in human life, it is suggested that the Honeybees should be declared as a “National Insect” and all efforts should be made to conserve all species of honeybees in India and like ‘Project Tiger’, ‘Project Honeybees’ should be started.
R. P. Phadke - Retd. Director, Central Bee Res. & Trg.Institute