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Nomadic West Bengal youth on a hive-hunting mission in Vellore

The group of youth finds matured hives, destroys them and then reaps the sweet harvest, which is bought by on-lookers.

Published: 12th July 2018 04:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th July 2018 11:21 AM   |  A+A-

Bengali nomads busy selling honey in Vellore on Wednesday (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

VELLORE: Monsoon chases them away from place to place and like faithful disciples they travel, in search of new pastures. One such journey has brought this nomad group of West Bengal natives to Vellore city. Here they hunt for bee hives and extract honey for sale.

The group of youth finds matured hives, destroys them and then reaps the sweet harvest. The on-lookers, who have gathered by then to witness the whole process, leave only after buying off all the honey. A kilo of honey is sold for around Rs 450. The nomads then set out for the next hive.

On Tuesday morning, the nomads had arrived at Sathuvachari. A huge hive on a tall tree was their newest kill. Karthik Mouli, the group’s leader said that this is the first time they had cone to Vellore. “Sometimes we get requests from households to destroy hives in their premises. We are basically nomads who engage in all kinds of activities all through the year. During the lean period in Bengal, we migrate to other parts of the country to take up all kinds of odd jobs. We usually engage ourselves in construction work, farm labour, domestic help, etc. We extract honey during our free time for extra income,” Mouli added.

In Vellore, they are yet to find a suitable job and hence have devoted their full working hours to hive-hunting. The nomad families are camping in batches in a couple of locations in the city. Since places like Vellore and Chittoor have bumper yield of mangoes, bees in large numbers have migrated here. They can build a hive here in just about a month’s time, added Mouli. According the group members, in West Bengal the native bees are small in size and only one to two kg of honey can be saved per hive.

“But the ones in Vellore are large and perhaps is a hybrid variety. A large hive here contains around 4 to 5 kg honey. In some parts of the country such as Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, a new variety of bees have replaced the native ones and the yield per hive there ranges from 20 to 25 kg,” they added.

It is not a simple task to extract honey. Gollu, another nomad in his twenties, explained that usually the hives were built on building tops, tall trees or mountains, posing great climbing risks. "We use a rope to climb and then destroy the hives. Other nomads use smoke to bring down the hives. But we do it the hard way by pulling the hives down." Monsoon will reach Vellore in a few months time. Gollu says then they will return to Kolkata and make clay dolls for the Dussehra festival.

BEES HERE MAY BE OF A HYBRID VARIETY, SAY THE NOMADS
According the group members, in West Bengal the native bees are small in size and only one to two kg of honey can be saved per hive. “But the ones in Vellore are large and perhaps is a hybrid variety. A large hive here contains around 4 to 5 kg honey. In some parts of the country such as Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab,Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, a new variety of bees have replaced the native ones and the yield per hive there ranges from 20 to 25 kg,” they added.



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