Gurung says: “Nature is our god, we have to respect and harvest carefully as our ancestors did so that the bees can keep producing honey for centuries more.”
Ratna Thapa, a senior bee scientist at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, estimates that there is a 70% decline in the Himalayan cliff honey bee population every year.
Surendra Raj Joshi, a livelihoods specialist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has a similar finding. He says, “The data from Kaski and Lamjung districts suggest that there is a decrease both in the number of colonies per cliff and the total number of cliffs nested by bees.”
Thapa and Joshi attribute this rapid decline to a range of factors: pesticide use, loss of habitat and food sources for bees, infrastructure development, and attacks by pests and predators.
Another important driver they identify is destructive and unsustainable honey hunting practices driven by international demand for its psychotropic properties.
Twenty years ago, the honey harvested by the villagers of Naiche sold for around Rs500 per litre. Today, it can fetch up to Rs2,500, but the price is much higher in Kathmandu and higher still in the international market.