ISLAMABAD - Environmental and bee keeping experts termed rising temperature and unseasonal rains as the major cause of destruction and loss to honey bees in the country.

Talking to APP they said that the beautiful Pallas valley in Kohistan district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) with its rich flora and fauna is also home to bees. The honey harvested by the locals provide livelihood for the local community,but over the last few years honey production has dropped precipitously, they said.

Dr Mehmood Khalid Qamar, who has his PhD research work in Forests said that a main reason for the decline of natural honey production is the rapid deforestation in KPK and upper Punjab areas.

While deforestation might have reduced honey production, but the unseasonal rains of the last few years have completely destroyed it, Qamar added.

National Agriculture Research Center's (NARC) Honey Bee Research Institute, Senior Scientific officer Dr. Rashid Hussain said that the rains have killed the flower blossoms from which the bees collect the nectar to make their honey.

Dr. Rashid Hussain said thit despite the fact Pakistan has great potential to get itself listed in the major honey producers in the world, the country still falls at number 20th in terms of production.

He said that the quality which makes Pakistani honey so special was that this type of honey was made of the nectar by the honeybees extracted from the flowers of berry tree (Ziziphus) and fortunately berry trees are grown in abundance in the Potohar region.

In Chakwal, Mianwali, Kark and Bannu districts, these trees can be seen on the boundary line of every chunk of land. Unlike many other trees, berry blossoms from mid-September to mid-October and this is the period when honeybees do wonders in their hives by the nectar extracted from the flowers, he said.

Dr Rashid said that the researchers have proved that honey made of the nectar of berry trees has higher medicinal value compared to honeys made of other flowers' necters.

This tree flower is being destroyed due to these unpredicted rains, he said.

Rashid said that when September approaches, the beekeepers from different areas of the country rush towards the Potohar region and establish their colonies at deserted places besides roads.

It takes honeybees at least one month to give final shape to their product. After harvesting honey, the beekeepers take it to Tarnab, the hub of honey trade in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, from where it is sold to traders who export it to Arab countries, he said.

Ghulam Sarwar, Scientific officer at Honeybee Research Institute, said "Honey extracted from the tree of berry and from plant of Kalonji is the best but pathetically the trees of berry are beingy cut down in Chakwal district which is a very discouraging sign for the industry," he said.

"The beekeeping colonies are feared to be washed away by the current floods and beekeepers could face heavy loss and government in this connection should make arrangements to rehabilitate them," he added.

Naeem Qasmi, the president of Pakistan Beekeepers Association (PBA) told APP that he was worried about the cutting of berry trees. "The cutting of berry trees is going on without any check and if it is not stopped, the business of honey would be badly affected," he said. Qasmi said that there were about 35,000 beekeeping farms in Pakistan but only 10,000 of them were registered with the PBA.

He said that the beekeepers find themselves in trouble whenever their bees are attacked by termites. And in such a situation, they cannot find anti-termite medicines at reasonable prices, Qasmi said.

Currently, he said, Pakistan produces 10,000 tons of honey annually but due to lack of proper rules and regulations the state and the beekeepers are not getting the full advantages of this product. According to a report, 20 per cent of honey is lost every year due to untrained beekeepers.

"We are trying our best despite limited resources to improve the industry. We are training many beekeepers and also researching on the topic extensively," Qasmi said. He further said that demand of honey in international market particularly in Gulf is manifold higher than the present supply. For increase in the production, he called for the plantation of berry plants in open places to provide feeding for the bees. In this connection, he especially stressed the active role of forest and agriculture departments.

Abdul Rehman, a honey collector/producer said that in early years he could gather up tens of kilos of honey daily, and he remembers that during 2015, he managed hardly to sell more than 150 kilogrammes in all.

Now, however the honey supply has dwindled massively, he said.

He said that he himself has seen the forest shrink before his eyes. In my experience, he said, the tree from which I collected honey one year was not there the next year. This was happening over the last ten-fifteen years and during the same time my collection of honey reduced every year, he said.

Mushtaq Ahmed , a local bee keeper told APP that due to these climate circumstances his bee production has fallen. He said that a few years back, during the honey season he found his all boxes full of honey and would get 80 to 120 kilogrammes of honey, but during this year he found just 5 kgs honey from one box and other was empty.