KOLKATA: The delta region of Bengal, Sunderbans witnessed a record collection of honey after back-to-back hits by two cyclones in 2020 and 2021 followed by the Covid pandemic.
The collection of honey has more than doubled compared with last year. This year’s honey collection stood at around 38 tonnes compared to 16 tonnes last year.
“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 last year as bees were back in Sunderbans. This year, flowering is much better in the delta region resulting in the last four year’s 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.
According to sources, there are various kinds of bees in Sunderbans and among them, the Apis dorsata makes more hives and honey.
"The bees fly from the Himalayas in search of these flowers in the mangroves. They are migratory and fly up to Indonesia before returning back. Cyclones had destroyed the habitat of the bees and led to much less flowering,’’ said a forest official.
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, the world’s largest mangrove delta, which is the home of the Royal Bengal Tigers, is spread across 10,000sq km 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. During this period, the honey collectors (moulis) venture into the forest, which is also the territory of the Royal Bengal Tiger, and harvest honey from beehives.
The honey collectors risk their lives, facing fatal attacks from Royal Bengal Tigers every year.