A Bus Conductor Links Bee Security To Food Security

By TheHindu on 15 Jun 2015 | read
Parthiban inspecting the health of the bees in a coconut garden. Photo: M.J. Prabu Parthiban inspecting the health of the bees in a coconut garden. Photo: M.J. Prabu 
Maintaining the bees and sharing the income from honey is a new venture

Rarely do we come across individuals who apart from their regular work become obsessed with something that becomes their passion, dream and conviction.

Mr. A. Parthiban is one such person who is popularly known as honey bee man in Gobichettypalayam, Tamil Nadu.

Working schedule

The man works as a bus conductor on the Gobi-Madurai route for nearly 12 hours a day, three days a week. During the rest of the week he is busy catching honeybees, installing bee boxes in several fields, orchards and coconut groves.

Hailing from an ordinary farming family Mr. Parthiban seems to realize the importance of the bees in the ecological cycle.

“The insects are essential for our food security. Without them many of our fruits, vegetables or flowers would become extinct. But sadly modern science doesn’t seem to realize this. In the name of advancement we are destroying many things that play an important role. Productive and rapidly declining honeybees are one such,” he says.

Western countries have recognized the effect of honey bee pollination and are doing their best to protect and encourage these insects.

“But here in our place we call them a nuisance. We either smoke them away or drive them using fires.” he adds. Though initially Mr. Parthiban’s interest appeared weird to his friends and neighbours, they started supporting him once they started realizing that he was speaking some sense.

Lot of calls

Today he is flooded with calls from different areas requesting him to set up bee boxes or catch the bees hovering in the orchards and godowns.

“People find the bees scary. They think the insect will sting them. Normally the insects do not sting anyone unless disturbed,” he says.

The main popularity of the man in the region is that apart from setting up bee boxes he also offers to take care of the box and the bees (maintenance).

“Maintaining the insects was one area which did not have many takers,” he says and adds: “I thought if I could step in it would increase the interest among many people to set up bee boxes in their place.”

Two approaches

He advocates two types of approaches in promoting this enterprise. One is installing the bee-boxes by the farmers’ investment and the sale from honey is given to the owner. Two, Mr. Parthiban himself installs the boxes and maintains them. The income from honey is shared between the owner of the farm and him.

Mr. K.K. Ramaswamy of Vaiyakadu thottam in kolapalur village had approached Mr. Parthiban to obtain a remedy for flower setting in his tamarind tree. Parthiban placed the bee boxes and advised Mr.Ramaswamy to wait for some months.

Increase in yield

And as predicted the tamarind farmer harvested 4,350 kgs of tamarind compared to previous yield of 1,000 Kgs from 250 trees.

Apart from his monthly income the bees seem to have provided him with an additional income of nearly Rs. 20,000 a month.

More than the danger involved in climbing trees to catch some bees, because of the painful stings, it is the feeling that he was doing something worthwhile, seems to be his conviction.

Recently the district science forum in the region awarded his son Mr. Jawahar Raja an 8th class student for developing a solar melter for melting the honey combs.

Usually after the honey has been extracted the empty comb is heated in a pot or vessel for making candles. Through this solar melter the comb gets melted and the liquid oozes out through a outlet and collected in moulds.

“A humble earthworm during its lifetime makes the soil fertile, a silkworm before it dies spins some silk threads, aren’t we, endowed with a sixth sense, supposed to do better?” he asks.

Interested readers can contact Mr. A. Parthiban at 11/18 Makali amman, street, Kollapur post, Gobichettypalayam, mobile: 9442171818.