3 minute read

Zooming in on Nepal


14 7181 km² (56 827 square miles)


17.5 million


$150 per capita (one of the financially poorest countries). Agriculture accounts for 65% of GNP.

Main agriculture

Jute, maize, millet, oilseeds, potatoes, rice, sugar, wheat.

Honey bees

Apis cerana, Apis dorsata, Apis florea, Apis laboriosa. Apis mellifera (recently introduced by man).

Interviews conducted by BETRESP (see below) indicate that the number of honey bee colonies is decreasing: this reflects the environmental degradation which is occurring throughout Nepal.


Traditional beekeeping practices in log and wall hives. The latter are cavities within house walls where bees build their nests: this type of hive offers good protection against pine martens.

Various frame hives for Apis cerana have been introduced, and in recent years low-technology top-bar hives have been developed and promoted. Comb spacing for Apis cerana is 30 mm.

Honey hunting of Apis dorsata/laboriosa colonies is widely practised.

Melliferous vegetation

Most of Nepal lies on the southern slopes of the Himalayas extending down from the highest peaks, through hill country to the northern edge of the Ganges Plain. The country can be divided into distinct zones: the Himalayas which are forested up to the tree line, the hilly central area (500-1000m)} and the Terai. As honey bees are native pollinators there is an abundance of melliferous vegetation. Forests are Nepal's major natural resource, but these are disappearing rapidly. In the Himalayas are Rhododendron spp and many other flowering trees. In the cultivated valleys are Brassica sp and other temperate crops and herbaceous plants. At the foot of the Himalayas are sal Shorea robusta woodlands. In the Terai are all the usual tropical bee plants including litchi Litchi chinensis and mango Mangifera indica.

AAA chapter

Beekeeping Training Extension Support Project, Godawari, Kathmandu.

Beekeeping department

Industrial Entomology Centre, Kathmandu.


Current: Beekeeping Training and Extension Support Project (BETRESP). Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture in co-operation with The Netherlands Development Organization. Duration: six years, 1987-1993. BETRESP, SNV/Nepal, Kumaripati.

Lumle Agricultural Centre c/o BTCO, Kathmandu.

Other activities have been funded by Save the Children Fund/USA and ActionAid Nepal. Many NGO's in Nepal are involved with beekeeping promotion. The Exploration of genetic diversity in Himalayan honey bees is regional project to conserve Apis cerana. Further details in Beekeeping and Development 20, page 6.


Gordon Temple organises training courses using Apis cerana kept in top-bar hives.

Contact Gordon Temple, Community Progress Nepal, Kathmandu.


Nepal Beekeepers’ Association, Kathmandu

Equipment manufacturers

Himalayan Bee Concern, Kathmandu.

Honey bee predators and diseases

Mites: Tropilaelaps clareae, Tropilaelaps koenigerum, Varroa jacobsoni, Varroa underwoodi, Thai sacbrood virus (in the early 1980s this virus killed an estimated 90% of all Apis cerana colonies in Nepal).

Pine martens Martes flavigula are regarded as the most serious predators of colonies kept in hives. Ants, wasps and hornets also cause problems.


The average yield from one traditional hive containing Apis cerana is about 5 kg per year. Plundering of Apis dorsata/laboriosa colonies yields greater amounts of honey - typically 20 kg honey per colony.

Further reading

There is relatively large literature on the bees and beekeeping of Nepal: many articles, papers and reports are held in the IBRA library. Two particularly relevant, recent publications are:

VERMA, L R (1991} Beekeeping in integrated mountain development. Aspect Publications Ltd; Edinburgh UK by Oxford and IBH Publishing Co Pvt Ltd, India); 367 pp.

VALLI, E; SUMMERS, D (1988) Honey hunters of Nepal. Thames Hudson; London, UK. 104 pp