Honey in the Comb

(My friend Nagrajan narrated to me two true first-hand experiences. I told you one last week. Here is the other. I am sure you will like it.)
A young man named Jugnu of the Solige tribe of south India was guiding a group of trekkers in the Nilgiri Forest. Nagrajan was one of the trekkers.

On a tall tree they saw a huge bee hive. It was very active with bees hovered all over it. Most of them were bringing nectar from flowers in the forest. This then is fanned to dry into honey. All the trekkers stopped and watched with fingers in their mouths. No one had seen such an active hive of this size. Some suggested that one of them should go up and bring some honey. The Solige guide told them that the bees would attack and can even kill. One needs appropriate skills to get honey from an active hive. He further told them that he knew how to do it. Hearing this everyone wanted him to climb the tree.

He hesitated but then agreed. With great skill he went right to the big active hive and stopped dead for several minutes. Then very carefully and with perfect calm he cut a small part of the hive with his knife and carefully wrapped it in his shawl. The bees sat over his face and arms but they did not bite him. Spirit of friendliness seemed to prevail between Jugnu and the bees. The bees who came to the tribal youth seemed to understand that he was a friend who would not harm the hive. So they did not hurt him.

So Jugnu brought down a big piece of hive brimming with honey. But it was only a small part, perhaps no more than a fifth of the whole hive. Many members of the group felt disappointed. A bold one among them asked, “Jugnu, why did you not take the whole hive, or at least half of it? Why let good honey go to waste?”

Jugnu seemed to be stunned to hear the question. He was quiet for a long moment. Then he answered: “For two main reasons, of course. One, I wanted to take only a small part of the honey for it belongs rightly to the bees. They worked very hard to collect it and will need it to survive in the lean season. And two, there are other claimants to the largesse of the bees-- the bears, monkeys and many others who have good fur that can provide protection from the bee stings.”

Jugnu also told the trekkers how beneficial the bees were to the forest and to all animals and plants. In fact the honey was only a minor part of what the bees gave us. They carry pollen on their wings and cross-pollinate all big and small plants. Without the bees the plants would be weaker and far less productive. Therefore, we adivasis are taught to be very gentle and leave enough for the bees. For only then they will survive to carry on their important service to the community of life. Also, we must take only the honey filled cells and not to destroy or harm any cells that have little babies in them. He then showed the trekkers what he had cut and brought down. The city youth were amazed and much impressed to see how careful and considerate Jugnu had been.

March 21, 2009