“Bees are the batteries of our life; we have to guard them.”
Every human and non-human species are an integral part of the ecosystem. The existence of every
species matters and the absence of it affects the whole ecosystem. Similarly, the bee is one of the
indispensable parts of the ecosystem whose food source necessarily required for survival. Bees
help in the fertilization process i.e., pollination. They suck the nectar from the plants and help to
transfer pollen from one flower to another. 1/3 rd of the food we eat is pollinated by the bees.
Besides that, bees provide us with one of the beneficial products i.e., honey. Honey has been
stood out to be not only an appetizing product but also as a cure for many physical problems. It
also has soothing and relieving effects. People often consume and also apply it for skincare
purpose. However, the honey derived from different bees differs in quality and benefits based on
the nature of the bees and the particular plant in which the bees pollinate. Let’s discuss about
how one of the rarest honeys i.e., mad honey also known as red honey is collected by bees.
“Mad honey is derived from bee called Apis Dorsata Laborisa:”
Apis Dorsata Laborisa is the world’s largest Himalayan cliff bee which is up to 3cm in length.
Back then this bee was denoted as the subspecies of Apis Dorsata but later in 1980, it was
regarded as an independent species. However, after a lot of research again from 1999 it was
denoted as a subspecies of Apis Dorsata. It is a Himalayan bee found in mountain regions of
Nepal, Tukey, China, etc. which resides and nests in high altitude between 2500m to 3000m. A
single nest of the bee contains up to 60 kg of honey.
It is adaptive to extreme cold and low oxygen climates playing a vital role in being so giant.
Being the largest bee, it can fly up to 3 km which provides an edge over any other bee in terms of
the foraging area. Due to the huge coverage of the foraging area, it can pollinate in wild flora. Apis
Laborisa forms three different types of honey depending upon the altitude upon which flower at
which bee pollinates resides. The honey which is formed by pollinating in the flower present in
high altitude is red honey, from mid-altitude is spring honey and from lower altitude is autumn, honey. All three types of honey have their own values differing from each other.
Forages of Himalayan bee
In the context of Nepal, the mountainous region of Lamjung is rich in the flora diversity providing
forage for a large number of faunas residing there. The Kaski has two major forests i.e., Schima
Wallichii and Castanopsis indica serving sub-tropical vegetation at 1000 to 1800 msl. The high-
altitude zone is dominated by Rhododendron species mainly Rhododendron arboreum,
Rhododendron barbatum, Lyonia ovalifolia, Michelia kisopa, Quercus lamellosa, Acer sp.,
Maesa chisi, Eriobotrya elliptica, Berberis spp, Myrisine semiserrata, Schima Wallichii,
Castanopsis indica and Myrica esculenta where the wild bees feed on pollen maximum. The
plant species productivity differs according to the months. The major source of pollen and nectar
for bees are Brassica spp, Cucumis sativas, Callistemone spp, Campsis grandiflora, Albizia spp,
Colebrokia oppositifolia, Eleagnus parvifolia, Eurya acuminate, Maesa chisia etc.
According to the research, it was observed that the wild bees spend a smaller number of times in
feeding on the flower in comparison to other honeybee species maybe due to fear of predators.
The predators tend to attack bees as well as their nests. In return, the bees form mass waves and
attack in group which shows the beauty of their togetherness. The Apis Laborisa has its major
nesting sites at Thak, Hokku, Chmmurung, Khadarjung, Birethathi, Seti valley, Ghachowk,
Landruk, Lamakhet and others.
The specialty of Mad Honey:
As stated, the wild bees form three types of honey among which the red honey i.e., created by
pollinating in flowers at high altitude is the most valuable and different from other kinds of honey.
Rather than consuming locally the honey hunters sell this at a high price and earn for their living.
The Gurung tribes sell them in the local market through which it is even exported across the
world. The wild bees forming this honey pollinate in those special Rhododendron species which
consists of Grayanotoxin compound giving recreational and hallucinogenic effect. Besides that, it
has great medicinal values such as help in enhancing sexual performance, offers relief from
arthritis problems, boosts the immune system, cures diabetes and hypertension, etc. due to diverse nectar
sources and strong flavor. The spring and autumn honey also hold good price but less in
comparison to red honey.