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What are the benefits of extracting honey from a bee box as compared to hunting bees in forests? Extracting honey from a bee box saves the time and energy bees require to re-fill honey in the empty combs without wasting their time on making the comb first. It also saves the time and energy of the beekeeper while removing and putting back the combs in the bee-boxes without disturbing the honey-bees. It is a pro-environmental practice as honey is extracted without destroying the combs. Honey is extracted only from the super chamber (surplus honey) which doesn't take away their stored honey used during dearth periods (no food) and also doesn't expose the brood frame (egg, larva, pupae) outside to die or attract infection. In addition, extracting honey from the bee box also provides assurance of the honey’s purity and thus, honey extracted through this process can be consumed without any processing, given that everything used in the extraction process is hygienic.

In conversation with Nikhil Sathe, Technical Assistant

According to you, what are the most significant ways in which the training session(s) organised by UTMT have impacted the lives of the farmers?

Generally, the maximum duration of most bee-keeping training sessions for farmers or less educated people is one month or sometimes even shorter than that. However, we not only provide Two-day or monthly training sessions but also walk along with the farmers throughout the year, practically teaching them seasonal management and also advanced bee-keeping techniques and new inventions related to bee-keeping. I personally find this very significant and unique as I have noticed that it has impacted the lives of the farmers impressively through the inclusion of bee-keeping in their routine.

 What are some of the most common questions/ doubts you were asked during the training session?

Farmers mostly ask how they would fill up the bee-boxes. Some other frequently asked questions are-

  • How can we manage a bee-box as bees sting a lot?
  • What do we do with the surplus honey? (Market access)
  • How will we get a bee-box and the expense incurred for the same?

Can you please describe the content you use during the training session?

We use pictures and videos of every single thing we talk about in our training. Pictures of Queen, Drones and Worker bee, where they live, how to identify cerana bees, stand and shade for bee-boxes are some of the pictures used. In addition, videos on how to transfer a Feral colony into bee-box, preparations before doing an NCT (natural colony transfer), how to extract honey, life cycle of honey-bees, how bees pollinate and many other videos related to bee-keeping are shown during the training.

Is such visual aid a more impactful tool during the training sessions?

I personally believe it to be very impactful aid because it helps them to relate/understand the sessions more easily which continues to happen throughout the training.

Nikhil Sathe inspiring beekepers

Technical Assistant Nikhil getting potential women beekeepers and children excited about the prospect of beekeeping by showing videos and pictures of active bee boxes.

What are the benefits of extracting honey from a bee box as compared to hunting bees in forests?

Extracting honey from a bee box saves the time and energy bees require to re-fill honey in the empty combs without wasting their time on making the comb first. It also saves the time and energy of the beekeeper while removing and putting back the combs in the bee-boxes without disturbing the honey-bees.

It is a pro-environmental practice as honey is extracted without destroying the combs. Honey is extracted only from the super chamber (surplus honey) which doesn’t take away their stored honey used during dearth periods (no food) and also doesn’t expose the brood frame (egg, larva, pupae) outside to die or attract infection.

In addition, extracting honey from the bee box also provides assurance of the honey’s purity and thus, honey extracted through this process can be consumed without any processing, given that everything used in the extraction process is hygienic.

Nikhil Sathe teaching honey extraction process

Technical Assistant Nikhil Sathe explaining to local honey hunters how easy it is to extract honey from a bee box as compared to hunting bees in forests.

Can you tell us about the response, particularly from potential female beekeepers, that the training session received?

In general, farmers become more inquisitive after the training and are excited about the new journey of beekeeping that they are about to embark on.

I distinctly remember one instance where this woman was so amazed to know what bees do, how they live and so on that she came and attended the training. She was glad that she attended the training because otherwise all her life she would continue to think that the only purpose of a bee’s life is to collect honey. However, as new and surprising information about honeybees was revealed during the training session, she became aware of the crucial role honeybees play in our ecosystem.

 

Kanti Bai as a beekeper

Kanti Bai (Left) was the first one to give her name for wanting to train as a beekeeper. We are proud to add her to our cadre of beekeepers!

What was the most memorable experience you have had during the training session(s)?

The astounded look on farmers’ faces when they learn about honey-bees is something remarkable and this happens in every training I have attended so far. This feeling is very beautiful because I personally have experienced it when I was learning about honey-bees. Farmers also express their gratitude towards the trainers at UTMT for teaching them about importance of bees in the lives of farmers, particularly the role bees play in pollination. In addition, they also become aware of other useful information such as how bees are domesticated, the various species of bees, the benefits of beekeeping, and the various modern beekeeping practices.

 

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The inspiring story of OmnaTai

Omna Suresh Mauchi

Mauchipada village, Sakhri block, Dhule district, Maharashtra 

Omnatai, 38, from Mauchipada village in Dhule, is another rising star from the new batch of trainees in UTMT’s NABARD-supported beekeeping project. She was inducted in January 2015 as a Master Trainer, which entitles her to specialized training workshops held by UTMT for promising Master Trainers.

 

Trained in January 2014, Omnatai had never heard of beekeeping in boxes before UTMT came to her village. However, she was quite familiar with bees, having practiced honey hunting of the smaller, wild Apis florea bee with her family from a young age. It is this inherent fearlessness that served her well when learning the process of transferring the indigenous Apis cerana indica bees that UTMT works with, from nature into a bee box. Soon after the first demonstration by UTMT’s technical staff, she independently began scouting for bees and successfully transferring them into bee boxes, a great achievement as both are technical skills that usually a new trainee several weeks to learn. UTMT Program Associate Ms. Dhanshree Chavan vouches for her abilities, “She does colony transfers with great precision”.

 

To date, Omnatai has conducted 4 colony transfers. She often shares notes with Vimaltai, a fellow trainee and friend equally skilled at colony transfers. Together they make a formidable pair whom villagers refer whenever a new colony of bees is found.

Multitasking is necessary at such times. “My best experience of beekeeping is filling bees into bee boxes. If someone finds bees, I leave everything at home, even if I haven’t cooked, and rush there. My husband and children do not mind… they prepare tea, and wait for me to return and resume cooking. Sometimes, I wake up at 4 am, to cook and keep things at home ready, before leaving. It is not too tough to manage housework, farm work and beekeeping.”

Omnatai does not feel the activity is difficult, however she feels the need to understand in more detail the subsequent steps in the beekeeping process. She eagerly awaits the bees’ growth season when she will learn the technique of multiplying the bees to fill more bee boxes. This way, the other less confident members of her Self Help Group – Priti Mahila Bachat Gat – can have their bee boxes filled with bees quickly.

 

Omnatai perceives the increased yields of chillies, onion, chana, mango and amla on her humble 1.5 acre farm, to be the biggest benefit she will accrue from beekeeping. With the supplementary income obtained from these and the sale of honey, she intends spending for her children’s routine needs and for purchasing vegetables. 2 bee boxes presently stand in the farm.

She has had a fair share of detractors, “A few people say ‘Bees sting, why do you want to do this?.’ I tell them, ‘I am interested, that’s why.’”

Omnatai hopes to expand her number of bee boxes soon, even willing to invest personal funds if needed. She is also keen to help her group members fill their boxes and start practicing beekeeping soon.