Guwahati: With six species of stingless bees reported from Nagaland, the state is now the stingless bee diversity hotspot of the country.

Stingless bees are a large group of bees having about 500 described species comprising the tribe Meliponini and sub-tribe Meliponina. They belong to the family Apidae and are closely related to common honeybees. Stingless bees are reported to be found throughout most of the tropical and subtropical regions of the world such as Australia, Africa, Southeast Asia, and tropical America.

study on Mapping of stingless bee fauna in Nagaland by Avinash Chauhan and  Hemant Kumar Singh of the Entomology Department of Nagaland University says six species from different districts of Nagaland have been reported and a new species of stingless bee, Tetragonula gressitti Sakagami was recorded for the first time.

This was the first attempt in the country to map the stingless bee diversity.

“Nagaland is a stingless bee diversity hotspot since out of a total of nine species reported in India,  6 are present in Nagaland. Many more species could be present that require a more extensive collection of bees from forest areas,” Avinash Chauhan of the Department of Entomology, Nagaland University told EastMojo.

“These bees do not sting but they can bite. But as their mandibles are very small they do not cause any problem to handlers,” he said.

Stingless bees are important pollinator bees found in northeast India, south India and several states of central and north India.

“One new species of stingless bee, Tetragonula gressitti Sakagami, was recorded for the first time from Phek district in Nagaland and from the second state after Arunachal Pradesh in India,” Chauhan said.

Among all the districts, a maximum of five species were recorded from Peren, followed by 4 from Mokokchung district, 3 species each from Mon and Kiphire districts. Kohima, Zunheboto, Tuensang, Noklak and Wokha districts were least diversified for stingless bee fauna with only 2 species recorded from each district.

The survey was conducted from 2019-to 2020 from March to December in different districts of Nagaland. A total of 1,568 samples were collected from forests and nesting hives.  In northeast India, only in the second decade of the present century, the stingless bee exploration started. The samples were collected between 0700 to 1600 hours from a variety of flora and nesting sites.

Nagaland is one of the biodiversity hotspots in the Northeast with 80 per cent of the land covered with forests. The climate ranges from sub[1]temperate to tropical hence harbouring huge floral and faunal biodiversity.

“The honey derived from stingless bees is considered to have medicinal properties since it forages on ground flora and herbs. The price of honey varies from Rs 2000- 5000 per kg depending upon season and region,” he said.

“Mapping of stingless bee in Nagaland is one of its first kind of attempt in the country to know the stingless bee fauna since in other parts of the country very less attempts has been made and the focus of the study was confined mainly on one species i.e. Tetragonula iridipennnis for honey and pollination. This study will provide a base for further investigation on the fauna of stingless bees in the country,” he said.

The study says the findings will provide the opportunity for stingless bee researchers around the globe to explore the biology and nesting behaviour of some of these species, which are still unknown to the rest of the world.

“Stingless bees are important pollinators of many crops like cucumber, ash gourd, mango, citrus etc as per the observations of our experiments. If properly managed, these bees provides both good quality honey and also help in biodiversity conservation through pollination services” H K Singh, co-author of the study, told EastMojo.

Peren district, from where the new species Tetragonula gressitti Sakagami was recorded. has plains, low hills and mid-hills and was found very rich in stingless bee species diversity.

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