Beehives on a simal tree in Bermo that Birhor tribal youths tried to destroy on Wednesday night. They will again attempt on May 28. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Birhor tribals who are traditional honey gatherers have been asked to destroy beehives nestling on a magnificent red silk cotton (simal) tree in Bermo, which stands near a Carmel school and a Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) colliery, 36km from Bokaro city.
These are the same beehives from where angry swarms had fatally attacked a CCL employee Mohammad Israfil Ansari this March. Since then, the bees have seriously injured over six persons in the area. Every honey bee has a painful stinger that releases the highly acidic peptide melittin.
Repeated pleas made by hundreds of Bermo residents to CCL and district administration to save them from bees — small sting attacks are fairly regular — have spurred officials to embark on a unique mission.
Rather than felling the giant simal tree outright, they have asked Birhor tribal youths to take care of the beehives against a one-time payment of Rs 17,000 for the job.
However, Birhor youths, who tried to dispose of beehives on Wednesday, a full moon night, failed to do so despite working on it till Thursday morning. They told the administration they would try again on new moon night, May 28, which according to Birhor elders is more propitious.
CCL’s Bokaro & Kargali (B&K) colliery assistant project officer P.C. Sethi admitted Wednesday’s mission was unsuccessful but added Birhors would again attempt the task on the coming new moon night.
It means that Bermo residents would have to wait another fortnight. The administration has also requested children and adults not to provoke the bees by throwing stones.
The beehives, seen as an irritant till the insects fatally stung CCL employee Ansari and injured his colleague on March 13, now cause many to quail. Most residents staying nearby said they did not open windows despite the stifling summer heat.
The tree which hosts dozens of bee hives stands very near to a prominent Carmel school of Bermo and the general manager office of Bokaro & Kargali colliery of Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) which is about 36km from Bokaro steel city.
Bokaro deputy commissioner Uma Shankar Singh’s OSD Rajesh Rai had contacted Gomia BDO Kamleshwar Singh to get in touch with the Birhors in Tulbul area under his block.
Gomia BDO Singh said that this was a novel attempt. “The beehives have proved lethal for one person and injured many. They have to go. But we are trying to save the simal tree,” he stressed.
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