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Unseasonal rains kill Italian bees, threaten Himachal apple harvest

Unseasonal rains kill Italian bees, threaten Himachal apple harvest

Apple growers in Himachal Pradesh are facing new challenges due to unseasonable rains and snowfalls, which have negatively affected apple and stone fruit sets.

According to the report of Down To Earth, the death of Italian bees used for pollination has caused significant losses to gardeners and beekeepers, particularly in Shimla, Kinnaur, Lahaul Spiti and Kullu districts above 7000ft.

The pollen from the male flower is essential for pollination, which is carried out by bees when they transfer it to the female flowers. Gardeners often rent bees for flower placement in April, with prices ranging from Rs 1,200 to 2,000 per month.

In Himachal Pradesh, more than 2 lakh orchardists depend on horticulture for their livelihood, with an annual apple business worth more than Rs 4000 crore in the state.

According to farmers and beekeepers, the Italian bees died due to harsh weather conditions and lack of proper nutrition. Chemicals used during flowering, low temperatures, and hail can also contribute to bee deaths. Beekeepers stress the importance of keeping bees close to apple plants to prevent damage.

Bees crucial for apple production

According to a Down To Earth report, Rajneesh Bharmata, a farmer from Dashan village in Rohdu, who had rented 300 boxes of bees for pollination in his apple orchard, found half of them dead. This is cause for concern as there are no natural bees in the area, and renting bees is now the norm.

Italian honeybees, also known as Apis mellifera, were brought to India in 1962 and bred in Nagrota, Himachal Pradesh. The sudden drop in temperatures due to unseasonable rains prevented the bees from feeding properly, causing most of them to die in their boxes.

Beekeeper Iqbal Singh Thakur also reported that many of his bees had died after being used to pollinate fruit crops in Kullu, but he did not have an exact count. Also, some growers use chemicals during the flowering stage of their trees, which can harm and kill bees, according to horticulturist Prashant Sehta.

Kishore Sharma, Assistant Professor at Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni, emphasized the important role bees play in apple production and advised growers to properly maintain bees along with their apple trees to avoid any damage.

The Italian honeybee, also known as Apis mellifera, was first introduced to India in 1962 and is now being successfully bred in other states. In light of the recent challenges faced by apple growers in Himachal Pradesh, experts recommend feeding bees with sugar syrup and brown sugar to meet their dietary needs during low temperatures and hail falls.

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