Recently, the management of the newly opened Nelum Pokuna Theatre in Colombo had their hands full, trying to rid the building of a swarm of giant honeybees (bambaras) or Apis dorsata as they are scientifically known, colonising the steel structures of the building.
Even though the hives were built high, concerns for the safety of visitors to the theatre, prompted the authorities to have the bee colonies removed from the building.
On expert advice, it was decided to smoke out the bees and this was successful. Sources at the Theatre said that the bees were unharmed in the process, even though the hives were burnt to prevent them from returning.
Sri Lanka’s foremost bee researcher Dr. R.W.K. Punchihewa said that bees play an important role in the ecosystem by pollinating flowers, and hence, need to be protected. “If bees become extinct, there would be famines, with people dying of starvation.” he said.
As a National Action Plan to conserve these important pollinators, a programme called “National Pollinator Initiative” was launched recently by the Biodiversity Secretariat, with Dr. Punchihewa chairing this committee comprising eminent scientists.
Dr. Punchihewa pointed out that the giant boneybee or the bambara is the most important pollinator among other insects in the Sri Lankan context. The bambara moves from the coast towards the central highlands while pollinating flowers in bloom on different trees and plants at different times.
Sri Lanka has over 4,000 flowering plants and insects and primarily bees are responsible for pollinating over 90% of them.
Silence please, if attacked, make a beeline to the cage
By Sonja Candappa
On Friday, the Central Cultural Fund officers held discussions with Wildlife officials on whether or not to move the giant honey bees away from Sigiriya, to protect visitors.
Fund Sigiriya Project Manager Vajira Ferdinando said the main reasons for the bee attacks are the hot and windy conditions and the noisy conduct of the visitors.
The Central Cultural Fund has classified three areas on Sigiriya as high risk areas. They are the top of the rock, the lion’s paws and the frescoes pocket, with the area around the iron ladder, between the lion’s paw and the top of the rock, classified as the most dangerous. “The bees don’t attack unless they are disturbed. They are disturbed by loud noise from visitors,” Mr. Ferdinando said, adding it is mostly local tourists who are noisy.
Mr. Ferdinando went on to say that protective suits are available to be worn before entering these risky areas. These suits are made of rexene and are heavy and most visitors opt out of wearing this protective outfit because of the oppressive discomfort when worn. Hence, in the event of a bee attack, one needs to make a beeline to a cage covered with mesh to escape the attack.