Beekeepers demand a ban on harmful chemicals
Beekeepers say pesticides used by farmers and pest-control companies are leading to a decline in the number of bees, harming their honey business.
Apurva BV, chairman of Hive Trust, Bengaluru, said bees are dying because of poisoning. In rural areas, pesticides used by farmers kill bees. In urban areas, people use pest control to get rid of bees. Another reason for the decline of bees is light pollution.
There are 500 bee colonies in 70 coffee estates in Kodagu. In the past few years, it has not rained enough in these estates. Many trees have not developed the buds on which bees feed, causing the starving insects to fight.
In urban areas, due to a rise in pollution, bees feel stressed. They are exposed to polluted water and pesticides which affect their reproductivity.
Over the years, Apurva’s honey business has been affected adversely. “Last year, I used to procure 5 kg of honey per bee box; this year, I have only been able to procure 1 kg per box.”
In Australia, people who kill bees are jailed. In India, the government should at least educate people about the importance of bees.
Dr Dharmesh Vadher, who left the beekeeping business in 2022, said the main reason for the decline in bee numbers is pesticides used by farmers. “When I was in the business, we used to lend bees to the farmers for pollination on the condition that they would not use pesticides on their crops.”
But the bees went to adjoining farms where pesticides had been used.
“The way the government helps farmers by giving loans and subsidies, they should also regulate their policies on making bee-friendly pesticides. In many parts of Europe, harmful pesticides are banned.”
European honeybees used by farmers are sidelining the indigenous breeds. The former find it difficult to survive during summer.
Manjunath SN, deputy director, agriculture plan production, department of agriculture, Karnataka, said every insecticide and pesticide goes through molecular screening. The concerned authority conducts trials to make insecticides and pesticides safe for animals, birds and aquatic life, though not for bees and other insects. The Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee implements rules on pesticides.
“We on the government level are aware farmers use pesticides to a limit, but unfortunately farmers overuse the pesticides which becomes hazardous to not only insects but animals and humans as well.”
Anusha HN, MD at Pestokill, a pest control company in Bengaluru, said strong pesticides are harmful for bees. Instead of killing bees, her company uses smoke to drive them away. Most people are scared of bees and ask for pest control.
“Sometimes, even after driving the bees away, they come back to the same place. In this case, we suggest our clients colour their balconies in some light shades,” Anusha said.
Soumik Dey Roy, assistant professor, agricultural entomology, Brainware University, Kolkata, wrote to The Observer: “Without proper knowledge about the target insects’ physiology, farmers go for broad-spectrum pesticide spraying. As a result, the pest status has declined…. Honeybees were among these non-target animals.
Heavy spraying of pesticide on flowering crops resulted in exposure of honeybees to highly poisonous chemicals. These chemicals in turn caused the death of bees, and the presence of chemicals in honey produced by them.”
According to the Press Information Bureau, India exported 59,999 tonnes of natural honey worth Rs 716 crore (US$ 96.77 million) during 2020-21, with the United States taking a major share at 44,881 tonnes. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh and Canada were the other top destinations for Indian honey.
India started its first organized exports in the year 1996-97.