Indigenous honeybees: Allies for mountain farmers (2004)

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In mountain agriculture, field crops, fruits, vegetables, livestock and honeybees combine to provide self-sufficiency for farmers. Together, they help provide the resilience necessary to live with the hardships and extremes of mountain environments. Indigenous honeybees play an important role in mountain ecosystems. They are the natural pollinators for a wide variety of mountain crops as well as indigenous plants. While visiting flowers to collect nectar, the bees transfer pollen from one flower to another. Three quarters of the world's cultivated crops are pollinated by different species of bees, and honeybees are the most effective and reliable pollinators. They also play an often unrecognized role in maintaining the vegetation cover: more pollination means more seed, more young plants and eventually more biomass, providing food and habitats for birds, insects and other animals. There are very few areas in the world where indigenous species of honeybees other than Apis mellifera still exist, and even fewer where the indigenous honeybees can be kept in hives and managed by farmers. In the Hindu Kush Himalayas, indigenous honeybees include Apis dorsata, Apis florea, Apis laboriosa (bees whose products can be collected but which cannot be kept in hives) and Apis cerana. In addition to their importance for pollination, these bees contribute directly to the livelihoods of mountain people by providing honey and other bee products. Apis cerana, the Asian hive bee, is particularly important to mountain farmers as a source of cash income. This species is well suited both to the climatic conditions in the region and to the farming practices that are typical of these marginal, mountainous areas. It has the ideal characteristics to ensure the pollination of mountain crops, having adapted its foraging patterns to suit the changing flowering and nectar production rhythms that result from the uncertain and variable climatic conditions in mountain areas. It can work under cool conditions up to an altitude of 3000 metres and is ideally suited as a pollinator of early flowering crops like almonds, peaches and plums. Kept in hives in the backyards, these bees pollinate kitchen garden crops, usually the main source of vegetables. The indigenous bee offers a further advantage in that it keeps going even under adverse conditions; if the situation becomes really difficult the colonies may migrate temporarily, but the bees come back to their hives when conditions allow them to do so.
Year: 2004
Language: English
In: Leisa Magazine: December 2004,

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 Record created 2011-12-21, last modified 2016-09-16