The beekeepers of Kashmir go to warm areas for honey production during the winter season. They travel about 750 km each year. As the winter months draw closer, Kashmiri beekeepers like Abid Hussain are preparing for an annual migration out of the valley in search of warmer weather, more honey and big bucks. Hussain uses protective gear to protect his hands and face from bee stings. They are preparing to send bees to the desert area of Rajasthan, hundreds of kilometers from the Himalayan region. “Everything, including nature, comes to a standstill in Kashmir in winter,” says Hussain. Hussain will take bees to mustard fields in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, some 750 km from here.
Dozens of his fellow beekeepers travel in the same way in autumn. They go through mountainous roads to the warm region of the plains. Honey farmers have been making such journeys since the 1980s, when a pest disease nearly wiped out the local bee population. After this, the trend of raising European species of bee here increased, which is more sensitive to the Himalayan cold. Now crores of bees take nectar from the rich agricultural crops of Kashmir every year and this gives better business to the beekeepers. During his stay in Sriganganagar, Hussain gets honey worth about 9 thousand rupees from each bee hive.
Effect of harsh weather In the mustard field, bees make honey by taking juice from flowers and at the same time they do the work of pollination. That is why mustard farmers are happy with their arrival. Professor Parvez Ahmed Sofi of Kashmir’s Agricultural University says annual visits for beekeepers are crucial to their survival. “Migration protects bees from harsh weather, helps them to re-colonise and produce honey,” he says. Without it, beekeepers would have only two crops a year, if they lived in Rajasthan. If you travel, there are four crops. As temperatures rise in February, Hussain will begin his return northwards. On their return, they will also stay for two months in the ancient city of Pathankot near the border with Pakistan.
They will wait here for the litchi to flower in early April and then return home after another harvest. But officials in the Kashmir Valley say temperatures are rising in the region, while severe winter storms continue to threaten its wildlife. Last year around 750 tonnes of honey was produced. Experts say that more production can be done in this area. Hurricanes, hot winters and unpredictable rains have affected production in recent years. AA/CK (AFP).