Do your plants and trees flower well, but you still don‘t get a bountiful yield of vegetables and fruits? The reason for this could perhaps be poor pollination in your garden. For a good yield, plants don’t just need water, manure and pest protection. Many plants need bees, butterflies and other insects to transfer their pollen from male to female flowers, and thereby bring about fertilisation and fruiting. In fact, the decline in the bee population is a cause for concern in the agricultural community as it might even impact the country’s food security. Honey bees are a crucial component of the dynamic ecosystem and their numbers are dwindling due to loss of habitat and the impact of pesticides. Another important reason is the collapse of hive colonies due to radiation from mobile phone towers that disrupts the worker bees’ navigational skills in finding their way back to the hives. P. Sudhakar, joint director, C.P.R. Environment Education Centre, says, “We may not have noticed them, but we can still spot beehives in discreet places such as on tall trees. But, the number of beehives has dwindled in number because of various factors such as tree-felling and pollution. Curiously, beehives can now be spotted on high rises as trees have become scarcer.”
In this backdrop, avid gardeners in the city have taken to installing bee boxes in their garden to ensure that they get a good yield of fruits and vegetables. Chennai-based Jaswant Singh has three bee boxes — one in a corner of his ground garden and two on the terrace where he grows fruit trees in pots. He says that the yield from all his plants has increased significantly ever since he introduced a beehive in his garden. And added advantage, he now gets pure honey. “Since I have medicinal plants in my garden, the honey made by my bees is medicinal too,” he says.
Six years ago, Singh began by using amateurish beehive boxes by fashioning hexagon shaped cells from cardboard and placing them in a wooden box, and luring bees to make it their home by placing a sugar solution (one part sugar and one part water) near these boxes. Later, he got a carpenter to make a bee box that met international standards of beehive box design. Ready-made boxes are also available in the market. “You can also get bee boxes with established bee colonies from areas like Sathanur and Gingee,” says Singh.
To make your garden sustainable and attractive for bees, you could also plant a few native fragrant flowering plants.
Keep a very shallow water body that bees can drink water from without drowning, and have a small mound of mud.
Completely avoid using synthetic pesticides or fertilisers in your garden.
However, one must be careful while handling bees as they sting humans, especially when disturbed. Dr. Sunita Maithreya says, “When bees sting, it is very painful, and the effects on the body vary in different individuals, depending on their body’s reaction. I would not recommend having a beehive in your garden, unless the hive is maintained in an isolated place where nobody is likely to walk by, disturb the bees or set them on a stinging spree.
And remember, once disturbed, they will also fly to houses in the neighbourhood.” And before setting up a beehive in your garden, do check with your doctor if you or others living/frequenting your house are allergic to bee stings. Sudhakar adds, “Bee stings are not generally harmful and the swelling subsides in about a day.”