Tag Archives: Araku

Timeline January 2014: Happy New Year from the Araku Valley

6 Feb

We’ve been busy over the new year period and haven’t been able to update everybody. A belated New Year greetings to all! The new year promises much for the women beekeepers of the Araku Valley.


As per the lunar calendar the residents of the Emerald Valley celebrated their new year, two weeks into the year on Makar Sankranti. Celebrated across India and even parts of Nepal, the Hindu harvest festival holds a special significance for farmers. As the Araku Valley found itself amidst festive revelry, we were engaged on Dr. Patel’s bio-dynamic farm in Baroda, Gujarat.


At the farm, we spoke about the bio-dynamic Sun hive which is currently in the process of being redesigned to adapt to the local bee population. We were happy to present it to the people present at the workshop. Thanks to the natural beekeeping trust of England we We also highlighted our efforts towards natural beekeeping practices.


To have healthy bees, we need healthy plants and for this the soil needs to be nutritious. The practice of bio-dynamic agriculture ensures the soil is revitalized. If you are interested and want to know know more about this type of agriculture, check their website: http://www.biodynamics.in

Back in Araku, our partners are slowly filling their hives. What a joy to see the girls learning how to handle the bees without fear. The bees are also extremely active at this time of the year. The buzzing of bees is music to our ears, we’re expecting several colonies to swarm to our specially built hives

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The bee garden is growing and slowly changing. We recently made a Pagoda and introduce one Newton hive and one sun hive. And for the first time in history, a swarm established in the redesigned hive and started making a comb. It is an immense hope to have our sun hive filled with the Asian bees. After so many effort on adapting the Size, make the template, find someone who could do it and which was able to do it in bulk and constantly. We are making it in rice straw and they are not using a plastic bottle to respect the size they can do it only with their hands! Amazing, right?



December 2013: The Bee Garden comes to the Araku Valley

22 Jan

Of late, we’ve observed a great improvement in beekeeping skills of our women beneficiaries. We’ve reached out to over eighty women in Araku Valley and there are encouraging signs for the near future.

copyThe majority of our women beneficiaries have overcome their fear of bees and showing a keen interest in taking up the task. We recently had a visit from Senior Advisor Sustainability and Shared Value Creation at Danone, Bernard Giraud. Danone, in partnership with Naandi Foundation has been working towards livelihoods solutions in the Araku Valley. He was impressed by what he saw and amazed by the lack of fear among our women while handling the bees. The local tribes people in Araku  have an ingrained sense of harmony with nature, as do each and every one of our beneficiaries.Visit

Another bit of exciting news, the Pagoda of the bee garden has been built and is ready to welcome the bees.  The Hariyali (Greenery) Project has helped us ensure that we have the most bee-friendly plants around our ‘Bee Shangri-La.’ Plants. A range of tomatoes, basil, lychees and even strawberries snugly wrap our bee sanctuary in the Central Nursery in Hukumpetta. To guaranty to  establish a bee sanctuary, and thanks to the practice of biodynamic agriculture, we are slowly improving the soil which will lead to healthy bees.

bee garden

beeWe’re welcoming visitors in Araku Valley to come check us out and let us know what you think.

July 2013: Araku welcomes the Indian monsoon

17 Jul

After the harsh summer, farmers can finally rejoice, monsoons have arrived!  Most farmers in our emerald valley don’t have access to irrigation systems and can only rely heavily on the rain. When the monsoon skies open, farmers plough their lands and start sowing rice and vegetables. In a week’s time the dry, arid landscape transforms itself into a lush green landscape.

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There is little info available as to where the bees migrate to during the monsoon, they become scarce in this region when the monsoon start. Apis cerana builds its nest in October, which often gets flooded during monsoon and the honey bees evacuate. I was surprised to see this swarm at one of our empty hives a couple weeks ago.


That morning I went to a particular village to monitor the bees and inform the villagers about monsoon management techniques. When we reached one of our new beekeepers came to us, telling us that there is a group of bees hanging on her empty hive. I was delighted to be greeted by lively swarm! The colony found its new house all by itself! Taking established colony count to 15!


Our first trained beekeeper, Laxmi,  is now ready to teach other women of her village. She looks like a pro and she isn’t the least bit scared of the bees anymore. She has a passion for her bees and when she opens her hive, she takes great care not to disturb them too much.The team is extremely proud of her!


March 2013: Bee Aware

10 Apr

BD tof 1bd tofI was recently invited to a Biodynamic training workshop in Bangalore. The workshop which was held at Lifeboat farm in south east end of the city, was attended by around 30 people from across the country. I presented a lecture on the practical aspect of natural Beekeeping.  It was a joy to present for such a receptive and aware audience. All willing to be part of the solution and have fun in the process. Our friend and ally Briony who bought us back the first Sunhive in India (given by the Natural beekeeping trust) was in attendance and explained it’s advantages to one and all.
camphill.tiffOn the third day Briony and myself were invited to a place called Friends of Camphill, a community where  people with disabilities can learn to live with their limitations. We spoke briefly about bees to a very eager and interested group. It was a memorable experience for them and for us.
Our objective was spread as much awareness about the  challenges bees and the beekeeping community faces today. I think this was goal was more than achieved, the interest we had garnered for beekeeping was evidently clear.

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Back to the valley now, where new beekeepers (about 30) have begun building shelters for their future bees. As you can see, we tried to replicate the same style across shelters using bamboo and straw. This time we made individual shelters.


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The roof has been made in this shape to keep the water from stagnating. In our previous shelters the roof was flat and we faced minor issues during monsoons. In this way we  wont have the problem of water stagnating. Newton hives are being built locally and soon will be distributed to them.

burned shelterAt present conditions aren’t particularly conducive for the bees. It is extremely hot and really dry to boot. We are encouraging our beekeepers to assure that the bees have a source of water near by. When I say hot I’m not kidding, recently, one of our shelters started burning but fortunately the bees were well protected in their shelter and were not harmed at all! Thank god for that.

February 2013: Meet our actual Queen Bees

8 Mar

After two fruitful weeks spent in the field, I am back to update you guys on the pollinator program. On the event of International Women’s Day I’m proud to say we’ve received a great response from the maidens of Araku, both young and old. At the moment we are expanding the program to 4 villages. These 2 last weeks, we focused on community mobilisation, which is crucial for a successful program.



New Beneficiaries

Our pollinator program team went to these 4 villages to introduce the program. Interested persons came forward. For example, in Kodaput village, 12 women joined our beekeeper family.  We’ve seen women across ages, mothers, sisters and even grand mothers enthusiastic to join us. I must admit, even I was taken aback at seeing a dozen ladies united in their interest for apiculture.
Encouraging women is a priority in this program and it is such a joy to see so many women coming forward. I can’t seem to say this enough but beekeeping is the perfect activity for these tribeswomen. We do our best to place the hives near their house, ensuring that it does not become too time-consuming an activity whilst ensuring safety as it is in the vicinity of their own village.

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Tene Tigalu project

A science fair was organised by Naandi foundation in some schools of the region. I assisted a group of Nanhi Kalis in preparing their project. And the subject was Tene Tigalu meaning honey bees. The three girls were really eager to learn. They learnt about natural beekeeping. On the day of the science fair they explained to visitors the importance of honeybees as pollinators and why we should respect them. They won third place at the fair.

First natural division

21 Feb 2013Our first established colony is ready for its first natural division. In the last picture you can clearly see the queen cell (Bottom Left).  In a matter of a few days the old queen will swarm with about half of the workers of the colony and leave the new queen to reign supreme in her colony. Swarming is the natural way of reproduction of honey bee colonies.

For the more trained eye, it’s a full frame, this hive was ordered from outside. We are now making it locally using top bars.

Timeline 2012

9 Jan


Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu, India

Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu, India

The buzz began in Kotagiri with the able guidance of the Keystone foundation.

Cupid’s arrow struck me in the form of my first bee sting, and there was no looking back from there. I just knew what I wanted to do.

First meeting with Apis cerana introduced by Leo Robert

First meeting with Apis cerana introduced by Leo Robert

It was here that my interest in Indian honey bees came to life. During my time at the foundation I learnt the basic beekeeping practices and guidelines to follow.

My interaction with the Keystone foundation was crucial in developing my understanding of apiculture and best practices to follow whilst implementing the same.

Region of Araku valley

The scenic valley

After reading boatloads of documentation on honey bees we initiated our project in the emerald-green Araku Valley in A.P., with Naandi foundation. The Pollinator Project focuses on the domestication of the indigenous Asiatic honey bees Apis cerana.

The chief goal of the project is to train women farmers in various beekeeping methods and encourage other women to do the same.

July 2012 

10 First beneficiaries

The first 10 beneficiaries

5 villages from the area were selected to be a part of the Apiculture project. Each village has seen two horticulture farmers nominated.
10 farmers have been chosen for the job including 8 women. We distributed the first hive received from the good folks at the Keystone.

An happy beneficiary receiving her first hive

A happy beneficiary receiving her first hive

In addition to this we’re providing the selected apiculturists basic training and an understanding of how to go about beekeeping as efficiently as possible. We hope to see them imbibe the importance of honey bees in agriculture and embrace their role as pollinators.

August 2012

Training with one of our beekeeper

Training with one of our beekeepers

Only one of our new beekeepers was able to capture a colony and house them successfully in his hive. The others absconded, a common response for Indian bees.  The Indian monsoons are the worst season to capture a colony as the majority of the bees have migrated.

October 2012

Newton hive made by our local carpenter

Newton hive made by our local carpenter

A local carpenter has been trained to replicate the newton hive, the hive used by Indian bees.

November 2012

Sunshine returns, and along with it the honey bees make their way back! Hives are buzzing with activity. The beekeepers are in the process of completing their training.

We are teaching them how to extract wax from the old combs and make candles. Wax candles are a great source of light for them. They are cost-effective, natural and easy to make. In certain villages in the area (where electricity lines have not even been installed) even the light luminance of a candle can be of great use.

December 2012

First honey of Araku Region prepared by misses A.c

First honey of Araku Region prepared by misses A.c

The hives are being filled; the total stands at about 7 colonies now.

New beneficiaries are joining the activity of beekeeping. It’s encouraging to see the local women keenly seeking to learn about and practice apiculture.

Also our first hive had the super (honey portion) added to it, and in a matter of a couple weeks, it’s chock-full of honey.Our first harvest is just around the corner!

The Sun Hive

The Sun Hive

Saved the best for the last! The highlight of the month is the arrival of the first sun hive in India. The shape of the hive harmonizes with the movement patterns of the bee colony and enables the bees to design their brood nests according to their own innate criteria.