The red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea F.) faces the threat of extirpation in Northwest India

Abstract

R.C. Sihag

Pollination is one of the essential ecosystem services. In recent years, a severe global pollinator decline has been the prime concern of pollination scientists and agriculturalists. The red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea F.) is an important pollinator of the semi-arid to tropical environments of several parts of Asia and Africa. The actual status of the colony numbers and foraging populations of this honey bee are not known. In this article, I examined the status of these parameters of this honey bee in Northwest India. I conducted monthly surveys and counted the total number of colonies of the red dwarf honey bee present at the main campus of CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar (India) (in about 9 km2) from 1984 to 2011 at an interval of three years. I also counted the number of foraging honey bees on two crops, viz. a winter-flowering crop, Raya (Brassica juncea Czern & Coss), and a summer-flowering crop, Carrot (Daucus carota L). In 27 years, the number of colonies of this honey bee in the study area declined from 221.5±14.1 in 1984 to 53.4±6.6 in 2011. The foraging populations of this honey bee too declined from 31.2±0.3 bees/m2 to 9.2±0.2 bees/m2 on Carrot and from 25±0.3 bees/m2 to 3.3±0.2 bees/ m2 on Raya. This honey bee exhibited a significant decline in its colony number every 6 years. Foraging bees declined significantly every three years. The colony and forager surveys revealed that the red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea F.) seemed to face the threat of extirpation (local extinction) in Northwest India. This decline in the colony numbers and the foraging populations seemed to have caused a pollination crisis in this region. The decline in the colony numbers and the foraging populations seemed to be caused by the poisoning of foraging bees due to the excessive and indiscriminate use of insecticides on the Cotton and/or Rice crops that come in blooms during the floral dearth period of this region. Considered the importance of this honey bee in the pollination of crops, we suggested that this honey bee must be vigorously protected and conserved.

Keywords: Red dwarf honey bee, Apis florea, population, pollination.

Pollination is one of the essential ecosystem services. In recent years, a severe global pollinator decline has been the prime concern of pollination scientists and agriculturalists. The red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea F.) is an important pollinator of the semi-arid to tropical environments of several parts of Asia and Africa. The actual status of the colony numbers and foraging populations of this honey bee are not known. In this article, I examined the status of these parameters of this honey bee in Northwest India. I conducted monthly surveys and counted the total number of colonies of the red dwarf honey bee present at the main campus of CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar (India) (in about 9 km2) from 1984 to 2011 at an interval of three years. I also counted the number of foraging honey bees on two crops, viz. a winter-flowering crop, Raya (Brassica juncea Czern & Coss), and a summer-flowering crop, Carrot (Daucus carota L). In 27 years, the number of colonies of this honey bee in the study area declined from 221.5±14.1 in 1984 to 53.4±6.6 in 2011. The foraging populations of this honey bee too declined from 31.2±0.3 bees/m2 to 9.2±0.2 bees/m2 on Carrot and from 25±0.3 bees/m2 to 3.3±0.2 bees/ m2 on Raya. This honey bee exhibited a significant decline in its colony number every 6 years. Foraging bees declined significantly every three years. The colony and forager surveys revealed that the red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea F.) seemed to face the threat of extirpation (local extinction) in Northwest India. This decline in the colony numbers and the foraging populations seemed to have caused a pollination crisis in this region. The decline in the colony numbers and the foraging populations seemed to be caused by the poisoning of foraging bees due to the excessive and indiscriminate use of insecticides on the Cotton and/or Rice crops that come in blooms during the floral dearth period of this region. Considered the importance of this honey bee in the pollination of crops, we suggested that this honey bee must be vigorously protected and conserved.

Keywords: Red dwarf honey bee, Apis florea, population, pollination.
 

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