Bees Around the World: Nepal

Bees Around the World: Nepal

The Cliff-Climbing Beekeepers

Bolo Kesher is known as the Perengge, 'the man who harvests the honey'.

He harvests honey made by the world's largest honeybee, Apis laboriosa. These giant Himalayan bees follow a seasonal migratory pattern, spending the cooler months in the valleys and the warmer months nesting on cliffs high in the mountains where Rhododendron trees bloom.

A smoky fire is lit at the base of the cliff setting off a massive attack by the bees. As soon as the attack diminishes in intensity the Perengge heaves his way up the braided ladder towards the first nest.

On a hand-woven ladder, up to 100 metres above the ground, the Perengge works bare-handed and bare-footed in a cloud of bees. With no protection, he rolls into a ball when the attacks become too severe.

At a distance from the cliff Shimbu, son of the Perengge, has an observation post so he can give instructions to the men at the top of the cliff who must position the harvest basket without being able to see it.

Once the bulging honeycomb is safely in the basket it is lowered to the ground. The men responsible for recovering the honey are the khudhapap (khuda means honey in Rai), they empty the basket and take the honeycomb away to be filtered.

The honey collected is made from the nectar of rhododendron flowers. Potentially toxic, it is much sought after for its medicinal qualities.

This traditional form of beekeeping is at risk of disappearing.

In 2011 Bolo Kesher's cliff only housed 8 nests, ten years prior there were more than 200. Increasing population pressure is destroying the rhododendron forests.

The forests are harvested for firewood and replaced with fast growing timber trees that produce no nectar for bees.

The decreasing number of bees is threatening the ecosystem.

Apis laboriosa is an important pollinator of high altitude plants. The loss of this vital pollinator is threatening the food base for the entire region.



Photography: Eric Tourneret
As a freelance photojournalist, Eric has travelled the world, photographing a diverse range of subjects. Eric's images explore the theme of human's global relationship with the honeybee. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.