Some of you may know that I have a vast and far-flung apian clipping service. This is true: I probably have the most vast and far-flung apian clipping service known to man or woman.
Just this week my friend Mim recently returned from India and used that occasion to rip precious pages from the Air India Magazine. She delivered to me an article about harvesting the honey of Giant Himalayan Rockbees (Apis laboriosa) in remote Nagaland. And my sister (last seen in SQD on the subject of St Haralambos the Bulgarian patron saint of beekeeping, so you may having doubts about her reliability) sent me pages torn from National Geographic Traveler about the tiny stingless bee (Melipona beecheii) of the Yucatan.
Nagaland, bordering Myanmar, is about as far east you can go in India and still be in India. It is extremely difficult of access. Naga is home to the Great Indian Hornbill and Blyth’s Tragopan. Every December there is a Hornbill Festival with many exciting events, including the Fire Eating demonstration, the Pork Fat eating competition, the Naga King Chilly eating competition, the Hornbill International Motor Rally and of course there is the Global Hornbill Film Festival.
Most mysteriously of all, Nagaland is 90% Christian and is in fact the only predominantly (75% of the population, more than Mississippi) Baptist state in the world. How did this come about? You may well ask.
In the photographs from Air India Magazine the hives look like dark shelf mushrooms randomly affixed to the rock face, which rises about 1000 feet from the ground. In order to harvest the honey, some villagers stand at the base of the cliff smoking the bees with torches and some sing, while the harvesters scramble up ladders made of vines and bamboo, to cut out the hives. Do not try this if you have vertigo.
Easier of access are the Melipona beecheii. According to Melina of the National Geographic Traveler, the Mayans considered bees to be mystical creatures who could take messages between the living and the underworld. When she is not doing yoga in Tulum or attending Bikini Bootcamp, she visits a shrine to Ah Muzen Cab, a Maya bee god. Later she visits a family who keep stingless bees. Along with being without a lethal weapon, these bees tend to be less industrious than the European or Africanized bees. The stingless varieties wake around noon and are remarkably picky about their nectar source. But what little honey they produce is delicious, earthy and citrusy, so I am told.