The quality of our life depends on many services that nature provides for free, such as pollination. According to the UN, over 75% of agricultural land depends on pollinators such as bees, birds, bats, and butterflies. Without bees, there would be less food production, variety, and nutrition sources. Albert Einstein did not exaggerate when he said, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Sadly, 40% of invertebrate pollinator species, particularly bees and butterflies, face extinction. Therefore, in 2020, Dilmah Conservation (DC), which has several species conservation initiatives under its name, launched a three-year bee conservation program: ‘Bee A Keeper’. Aimed at conserving the Sri Lankan bee population, the effort includes research activities and creating a replicable livelihood model for people through sustainable bee-keeping.
For greater efficacy, the focus areas of the ‘Bee A Keeper’ program have been separated into research, project, educational, farming, mangrove, and communal hubs. The Research Hub, located at the One Earth Climate Change Centre, Queensberry Estate, Nawalapitiya, began in June 2020 by establishing ten bee colonies. Its main occupations are research and evaluation of the environment’s suitability for bee-keeping. Ongoing activities include research into behavioural patterns and adaptation of wild honeybees to the environment, foraging bees’ behaviour, and introducing queen bees to queenless colonies to ensure their survival.
In January 2021, work on the Project Hub began at the DC Centre in Endana, Delwala Division. Focused on community bee-keeping, the Endana apiary currently has six bee colonies. Most of the colonies are maintained by community members supervised and trained by the Centre Coordinator and two research students from the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka. In the long run, Dilmah Conservation aims to develop the community bee-keeping programme into a thriving cottage industry, where sustainably produced bee’s honey can reach the marketplace. In addition, it has been planned to translocate bee boxes in 10-15 households within and outside the Endana Nature Corridor, another one of DC’s initiatives, before the end of this year.
The Hubs also provide the perfect environment for bee-keeping enthusiasts to learn about bee-keeping by conducting workshops. Unfortunately, further workshops have been halted for the time being as centres remain closed to the public due to COVID-19. DC also contributes to food security and biodiversity through its sustainable agriculture and reforestation projects.
Did you know that bees have a unique attraction towards flowers, like lavender, catnip and alliums, as they see the colour purple better? Planting diverse plants that flower at different times of the year, buying products from sustainable agricultural practices, and avoiding pesticides and fungicides in gardens are some things that we can all do to help our ‘buzzy’ friends.
To help bee colonies in Sri Lanka, you can raise awareness by sharing information and learning more about bees. Watch the introductory webinar of the series “Friendly Beekeeper” on our DC Facebook page or follow the link: https://bit.ly/2RRydH1 Want to learn more? Then watch out for the upcoming webinar series by following Dilmah Conservation on Facebook and Instagram.