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The decline in bee population in Goa, especially stingless bees, can be attributed to burning weeds, pesticides and the false perception of bees posing a threat to human beings, according to Vitthal Joshi, ex-deputy director of Agriculture, Goa.

Joshi raised the alarm and appealed to the people of Goa to not kill bees and destroy their hives out of ignorance and the superstitious belief that they bring bad luck during his recently held workshop titled ‘Beekeeping Educational Workshop’ in Pilerne.

“People believe that the cracks in the walls of their houses are caused by bees who make their hives within those crevices and assume that they bring bad luck to the homeowners. However, this is a structural fault of the building, not the bees,” stated Joshi.

Joshi’s workshop, conducted at the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) in Pilerne, is a part of the month-long Greener Side Campaign, an initiative by Echoes of Earth, India’s greenest festival, that aims to shine the spotlight on the Western Ghats and raise awareness about the importance of conserving Goa’s rich biodiversity.

“Bees are one of the most efficient pollinators across the insect kingdom and are of paramount importance to the health of the Western Ghats region and Goa’s biodiversity. Human activity is putting extreme pressure on the bees, hence the urgent need to protect them arises,” stated Joshi.

Joshi posits that even while harvesting honey, care needs to be taken to leave a portion of the hive for the bees to make the process sustainable.

“I vouch for the domestication of wild local bees instead of bringing in foreign variants that interfere with the local flora and fauna. Those involved in apiculture need to ensure that they harvest honey between September and October and February and March, as there is a period for the bees to collect nectar as flowers are in full bloom during these months, which will prevent the bees from reaching starvation,” he said.

Joshi also said that there is a lacuna in the Goan market for honey and rearing stingless bees, which creates a peculiar honey with medicinal properties that is worth Rs. 5,000 and above for one kilogram, is a lucrative opportunity for Goan entrepreneurs that would simultaneously translate into the bees’ conservation.

“As stingless bees are very tiny and have a limited honey collection range, they can be reared among certain plants to get particular flavours of honey, including the rare blooms-once-in-eight-years karvi flower honey that has anti-carcinogenic properties. The state of Gujarat is already commercialising this method of creating selective honey flavours as there is massive international demand for this type of honey. Goa’s foray into honey production is practically negligible but there is scope to catch up,” said Joshi.

Prahlad Sukhtankar, Goa Chapter Head of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), stated that the restaurant industry can also help raise awareness about the importance of bee conservation by educating customers through menu descriptions of the local kinds of honey utilised in dishes.

“The restaurant industry can help enhance local bee conservation efforts by supporting local apiaries to forge a deeper connection between the industry and regional agriculture,” said Sukhtankar.