Honey hunting involves harvesting the honey from wild bee colonies located at the high cliffs. The practice of honey hunting in Nepal has been prevalent since hundreds of years. A Kulung clan of Gurung community in mid-western Nepal harvests honey every year from Apis laboriosa‘s honey comb, the largest honey bees in the world.
Honey hunting has been practiced since the dawn of civilization. In Nepal, the practice of harvesting wild honey started few hundred years ago by the native Gurung tribe of mid-western region. The harvesting is mostly practiced at Bhujung and Pasgaon villages of Lamjung.
- The native practice of harvesting involves using scarce materials made from locally available resources. Bamboo, jute ropes, firewood etc are frequently used. The hunters avoid using harness while climbing the high cliffs, mainly because of the experience, hence increasing the risk of falling.
- The harvest may last a day or two. A special puja is led by the shaman before embarking on the job. The puja purportedly placates the cliff gods and spirits. The hunter using special ropes climbs up to 200 meters with unprotected clothing and a bamboo stick. The staffs help the hunter in the purpose by setting up the materials, collecting and burning firewood to generate smoke to disorient bees and to carry and manage the hunted bee hives. The hives are cut and collected in the basket and carried down safely.
- There are 3 types of wild honey available; red honey is created from flowers at higher altitude during spring, spring honey is made from flowers at mid or lower altitude and autumn honey is created from flower at any site.
- Red honey has psychotropic qualities and isn’t consumed locally. They are sold at international market at higher prices. Red honey is mostly used to prepare medicines and are mainly exported to Japan, Hong Kong and Korea.
- The well organized trips are conducted twice or thrice a year to various places in Nepal for the interested tourists. They tour agencies tend to charge huge amounts while their harvest practices doesn’t really follow eco-friendly methods. The entire benefit is engulfed by the tour agencies, leaving less for the local staffs. You are recommended only to participate in the honey hunting trip organized at the designated places in Lamjung district; and support the local staffs earn more benefits from the trip.
Read more on Honey hunting trip
Himalayan Honey Bee
Apis dorsata labiriosa or Himayan honey bees are the largest among the honey bees in the world, and they are mostly found in the higher altitudes of Nepal, India and Bhutan. They were categorized as the subspecies of Apis dorsta, however, in 1980 it was classified as the separate species.
It mostly nests at the altitude of 2,500 and 3,000 meters; building very large nests under overhangs on the south-western faces of vertical cliffs. The nests are made facing against the direct sunlight and potential predators. One nest can contain as much as 60 kg of honey. The bees forage at altitudes of up to 4,100 m (13,500 ft).
A pound of wild honey may fetch $60 – $80 in the Asian black market.
Read The Last Death Defying Honey Hunters of Nepal –National Geographic