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A story from Bangladesh - do not kill bees

The bee is indeed a friend we need. Most people in Bangladesh are not aware of its services to mankind and even many highly educated people do not know about its usefulness. The majority of our people think that this insect has been created to make honey for us. [ asked a number of persons — highly educated, half-educated and illiterate - about the main function of the bee. Replies received from most of them were identical: “the bee makes honey for us.” Some of them however added, “the bee produces wax as well.” The correct reply was received from very few persons. Some readers may not be inclined to believe what I stated with regard to highly educated persons. To make them believe, I take this opportunity to relate a story based on facts.

About five years back I had been to a district headquarters on tour. Having failed to get a seat in the Circuit House, I had to stay at the residence of the District and Session Judge of that district.

After dinner I slept on a comfortable bed in his well-furnished guest room. I got  up early in the morning and stepped out for a morning walk. The official residence of my host was situated on land of over one acre. While walking in the I garden, looked at the fruit trees and flower plants. A very charming spring morning it was and a gentle breeze cooled and refreshed the body and mind.

Varieties of seasonal and perennial flower plants were seen in the garden with blossoms of various colours and fragrance. Some flowers were known to contain both nectar and pollen, some nectar only and some pollen only. But our friends were not seen on any kind of flower. I became a trifle astonished.

White flowers bloomed in profusion on two pomelo trees. I walked close to the trees, but not a single bee was found on the pomelo flowers. I walked through the garden for a while more. There were blossoms on other fruit trees, but bees were also not seen there. I was disappointed and felt it my duty to find out the reason.

When at breakfast with my host and his I family had little attention to the food served. My mind was occupied with only one query, why were there no bees on the plentiful blossoms?

“Well Mr H, your garden abounds in flowers, but I didn't find a single bee on any flower! What's the reason?” I asked my host.

My relationship with Mrs H was one of jest and joke. Sharply she said in jest: “The bees have got information that a man has come here to catch them and he'll raid the garden before the night is out.”

Everybody burst out laughing and I also joined them. I came to myself in the next moment and said: “Well your Honour, I’m not joking. It’s a matter of great concern. I wonder, why not a single bee is found foraging when flowers are in abundance in your garden! There’s no bee’s nest I nearby, suppose?”

“Yes there was one in my garden, in the cavity of a ‘jamrul’ tree.” the host said.

“What happened to it?”

“Only a few days back, my orderly put blazing jute sticks into the hole and killed the bees. He then took out some combs. Onlya little quantity of honey, not even a ‘chhatak’ was squeezed out of the combs.”

I was shocked. The blazing fire seemed to be causing blisters on my

body. I could neither speak nor take anything from the  plate. I came round after a while and asked: “Did you see him collecting the combs?”

“Yes, he did it in my presence.”

I was astounded once more and said: “You are an Honourable Judge. Your Honour is to try cases of crime and punish criminals. Does Your Honour realise that killing of bees amounts to crime?”

“Ive never come across any penal provision for killing bees.”

“It’s true. There is no penal provision for killing bees in our country, but there should have been a law for the protection of this useful insect. This insect is under the protection of law in many countries.”

“The bee is for making honey. What else do they do for us?” asked the hostess.

“In the absence of bees, production of certain fruits and crops will go down. Production of fruits and crops depends on pollination and cross-pollination of flowers by bees and other pollinating agents, such as flies and ants.”

‘Is it? We didn’t know about it!” the host said now in astonishment.

“Then no fruit will grow in our garden!” said the hostess who looked at me in astonishment.

“May not I grow’, said. “And if the fruits grow at all, that may be due to pollination by other insects. Many fruits will be inferior both in size and quality for want of cross-pollination.”

“What is the difference between pollination and cross-pollination?”

“Transfer of pollen from an anther to a stigma of a flower of the same plant or tree is called ‘pollination’. And transfer of pollen from a flower of one plant or tree to a stigma of a flower of a different plant or tree of the same species is termed ‘cross-pollination’. If crops are inadequately cross-pollinated they may become inferior in size and taste.”

“Why should it be so?” asked Mr H. “I never found the reason in any book on apiculture. It is, perhaps, a sort of degeneration due to pollination among flowers of the same plant. It is said that defective children may be born to a couple belonging to the same family or clan related by blood. It is, perhaps, true with regard to the production of fruits and crops.”

“Now I realise, my orderly had really committed an offence.”

“Yes, definitely he had committed an offence. And the Honourable Judge had committed the same offence as an abettor by his wilful omission.”

“Yes, I admit my guilt. Now I understand, why the production of our fruits and crops is on the wane. It is due to indiscriminate killing of bees of our country.”

“Yes, that’s it. The dwindling bee population is a major reason for unsatisfactory production of fruits and crops.”

“Then it is expedient to enact a law immediately for the preservation of bees,” Mr H said emphatically.

‘Yes, it is essential to do that immediately,” I said. 

The time was up for getting ready to go to our respective duties. So we had to close the topic on bees.

(Abu Ishaque, The New Nation, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 28 August 1987)