The newest strategy for saving bees is really, really old

February 19, 2016

From: enisa

With pollinators in decline around the world, conservationists turn to traditional farmers for answers.

 Christina Selby | @christinaselby


To close the pollination gap, farmers who could afford it started to hire beekeepers from the neighboring warmer state of Punjabi to bring managed hives of European honeybees — Apis mellifera — to the valley during the apple bloom season. “The problem with this is that poor farmers are now paying for an ecosystem service that the native honeybee previously provided for free,” says Pradeep Mehta, research and program manager for Earthwatch Institute in India. Not only that, but the introduction of nonnative honeybees can bring with it disease and competition for nectar sources, reducing some populations of native bees even further and robbing ecosystems of important biodiversity.

Now, however, scientists are enlisting nature to turn that around in this remote corner of the world. The Himalayan Ecosystems Research Project — a collaboration among scientists, Nashala villagers and international volunteers like me brought in by Earthwatch — is studying pollination in this area and applying what’s learned at the farm level. Last year, the group began restoring traditional pollinator services with trainings and stocking new hives with native Asian honeybees, as well as introducing modified practices, such as using an extractor to harvest honey rather than crushing hives, that boost the bees’ ability to thrive under their modern circumstances.

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