THE HONEY HUNTERS OF NEPAL – [by Brad Woodard]
“This is not just any honey, and it does not come from just any bee. The Himalayan honey bee, or Apis dorsal laborious is the world’s largest honey bee – measuring up to 1.2 inches. They exist only in the Himalayas and build their nests in high altitudes (from 8,200 to 13,500 ft). The nests can contain as much as 130lbs of honey and interestingly different types of honey can be found at different altitudes. Himalayan honey bees make spring honey, red honey, and autumn honey. Red honey, made solely by Himalayan honey bees and found at the highest altitudes, is the most valuable because of its intoxicating and relaxing qualities. The Gurung men can import this honey to other parts of Asia for five times the price of the other honey.
Harvesting the honey is a tradition that the men of Nepal have been doing for generations. They go twice a year, dropping harnessed ladders and ropes from the top of the cliff to a base below where a fire is lit to help smoke the bees away from their hives. A “honey hunter” then descends the ladder and cuts the large honeycomb nests down in chunks. This dangerous mission brings food and money to their villages when the honey is sold.