As soon as the winter chill gives way to the warmer days of the spring, the verdant mid-hills of Nepal veil themselves in the fiery red colors of rhododendron blooms. Amidst this floral explosion, some very unassuming creatures are frenetically busy collecting nectars from one flower after another. These are none other than famed nomadic wild bees of Nepal who migrate to the mountains to build their hives on inaccessible precipices for the season and raise their offspring. As the nectar of the ‘red’ honey comes from the flowering Himalayan herbs, resulting syrup is hallucinogenic and has significant medicinal properties. The honey from these wild bees is in high demand across Asia.
This natural spectacle takes place twice every year, in Spring and Autumn, in the most of the hills and deep mountain valleys of Nepal. The annual migration of these feral bees comes as a great respite for the rural communities who practice their ancient ancestral tradition of harvesting honey from these wild hives. The annual harvests bring in much needed supplementary income to the people to aid their harsh lifestyle.
However, this does not come without its perils. The honey hunting activity is considered highly tricky and dangerous. Only a few brave-hearts are adept enough to embark on the highly specialized hunting trip, supported by their usual helping hands. The group often travels a long distance to a desolate location after their priest and astrologer ascertained an auspicious day for the hunting. Once on the site, they perform some religious rituals, at times with animal sacrifice, before they start the collection. Then these highly skillful honey hunters collect honeycombs on a basket while dangling on bamboo ladders and hemp ropes on cliffs at times over few hundred meters. To watch these men in action is quite a spectacle.
Recently the activity is gaining popularity as a new tourism product in some trekking areas such as Annapurna Conservation Area, Arun Valley in Makalu, Ganesh Himal area, Dhading, Langtang region, etc. People from far and wide are now visiting these areas to witness the spectacle.
Spring March / April and Autumn November / December are the proper time to see this activity.