Honey collection more than doubles in Sunderbans after pandemic blues
The collection of honey has more than doubled at 38 tonnes compared with last year’s 16 tonnes in volume.
KOLKATA: After the massive destruction of the mangroves in Sundarbans by the two cyclones in 2020 and 2021, combined with the Covid pandemic, flowers bloomed again in the jungles resulting in a record boom in honey collection from the delta region of Bengal in 2023.
The collection of honey has more than doubled to 38 tonnes compared with last year’s 16 tonnes in volume. “The bee population and beehives were damaged in the cyclones and there were not enough flowers in the mangroves to attract the insects. The situation started improving in 2022 as bees were back in Sunderbans. This year, flowering is much better in the delta region resulting in the four-year record collection,” said an official of the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation (WBFDC), the agency in charge of processing, packaging and selling the honey collected from Sunderbans in the retail market.
Honey collection depends on multiple factors like ideal climate conditions in their natural habitat. The past couple of years have witnessed severe damage to the ecosystem in Sundarbans but nature has its own way of fighting back.
According to foresters, there are several species of bees in Sunderbans and among them, the Apis dorsata type makes more hives and honey. "The bees fly from the Himalayas in search of these flowers in the mangroves. They are migratory and fly to Indonesia before returning. The recent cyclones had destroyed the habitat of the bees and led to much less flowering,’’ said an official of the forest department.
Bees that gather nectar from the khalsi flower (Aegiceras corniculatum) are believed to be the source of the best honey in the Sunderbans.
The Sunderbans is the world’s largest mangrove delta which is also home to Royal Bengal Tiger. The mangrove jungle is spread across 10,000sq km and a little above 4,000sq km is in West Bengal and the rest is in Bangladesh. The honey collection takes place for about a month in summer, usually between April and May. The process continues for two weeks to a month.
‘Cylones damaged beehives, bee population’
The bee population and beehives were damaged in the cyclones and there were not enough flowers in the mangroves to attract the insects, said an official of the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation (WBFDC). The situation started improving in 2022.