Three decades ago, when Bensislas worked as an electronic mechanic, he never imagined that one day he would start beekeeping and be successful there.
Although he was adept at repairing television sets and radios, Bensislas, a resident of Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram, says he had to give up his profession after losing the sharpness of his vision, which was essential to the type of work he did.
“I started working as a mechanic when I was 25. But after a few years I noticed that the sharpness of my vision was decreasing, which started to affect my work. So I had no choice but to quit my job,” says Bensislas, who then decided to try farming.
He started out with rubber farming and experimented with animal husbandry over the years; the breeding of rabbits, ornamental fish, chickens and finally bees. He says beekeeping was the only trade he succeeded in.
Cut to 2022, Bensislas is now a full time beekeeper and through his brand – Amma Honey – has been able to harvest about 1200 kg of honey annually, earning him a decent income in lakhs.
A successful experiment
After leaving his job as a mechanic, Bensislas says he decided to sell his land to buy a rubber plantation in Kalikkad in Thiruvananthapuram, expecting to have a steady source of income.
“I used all my savings to buy three hectares of rubber plantation, and it turned out to be profitable, at least for a few years. Later, at some point, there was a huge drop in the rubber price and I had a lot of trouble because I had no other income or savings. It became necessary to look beyond just rubber cultivation,” says the 58-year-old.
Then he heard about the training of the Livestock Management Training Center in Kudappanakunnu. So, after taking the free training courses, he decided to try his hand at livestock farming.
“I learned how to raise rabbits, fish, goats, chickens and so on from the center and started trying them all. But none of my efforts succeeded. I had to deal with losses one after the other. Finally, I heard about the scope of beekeeping and decided to experiment with that as well,” he recalls.
For example, Bensislas received a beekeeping training in 2010 and set up his first five boxes at his rubber plantation in Kalikkad.
“Although I had an initial training in beekeeping, I eventually realized that it wasn’t enough to make it. In the beginning, there were several cases where I lost boxes full of bees because I was an amateur. But I was determined to try again and keep new boxes,” he says, adding that over time he learned more tricks of the trade and eventually mastered it.
When it comes to beekeeping, there are many things that need to be taken care of, says Bensislas, who now masters beekeeping and owns more than 180 beehive boxes placed in various locations.
“From the quality of the boxes to the placement, there are many nuances that need attention when it comes to beekeeping. I’ve learned it over the years and have had a lot of experiences where I had to endure bee stings ”, he says, recalling an example of the early days when a bee stabbed his face.
“I couldn’t leave my house for two days because of my swollen face,” he laughs over the phone. “But now it’s all a breeze, because I understand their behavior well,” he adds.
Bensislas is currently placing his beehive boxes on his three-acre rubber plantation and on a moringa farm in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu.
“The quality of the honey produced by the bees depends on the species of bees and the source from which they collect the nectar,” he emphasizes, adding that there are different types of bees, among which he currently keeps Indian and stingless bees. bees.
Speaking of the placement of boxes or the sources of nectar, Bensislas says the quality and texture of the honey is greatly influenced by it. “Wherever we put the box, the bees try to get nectar from the immediate vicinity. That is why it is important to look at where we place the boxes. I place my boxes in my rubber plantation as well as in a moringa farm, depending on the season of leaf formation and flowering.” He says that the source of nectar in rubber is the new soft leaves, and for moringa it is the flowers.
What is Moringa Honey?
Moringa honey is something Bensislas specializes in. It is a unique honey that is extracted by the bees from the nectar of moringa flowers during the flowering season.
Moringa honey is thick in consistency, dark in color and has a unique woody flavor. Plus, it contains all the goodness and nutritional benefits of the moringa plant.
The moringa leaves are packed with various nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, amino acids, proteins and so on. They are also rich in antioxidants with strong anti-inflammatory properties.
“The moringa honey is therefore healthier than the normal honey,” says Bensislias, who along with a few other farmers has worked with a moringa farm in Tirunelveli, where they place their boxes every season by giving some money to the owners.
“The season of the moringa flowers is usually in the months of July to December. So, after the harvest of the moringa honey, I place the boxes on my rubber plantation around February to April, the season of leaf formation,” he explains. , adding that in each season he receives about 11 to 12 kg per box of honey from each box.
In addition to the rubber honey and moringa honey, Bensislas also harvests stingless bee honey from those in a few boxes placed around his house and also in the homes of a few relatives. “I receive about 1,500 kg (1.5 metric tons) of honey annually,” says Bensislas, who sells rubber honey for Rs 330 per kg and moringa honey for Rs 750 per kg.
Dr TV George from Thiruvananthapuram is a regular customer of Amma Honey. He says that the quality of the honey is excellent because it is obtained organically. “It’s been a long time since I switched to honey instead of sugar because it’s a healthier option. I have been buying from Bensislas for years and the quality of the honey has always been consistent. I usually buy it in bulk and it’s a relief as it’s usually hard to find unadulterated honey on the market,” says the 70-year-old.
Amma Honey also sells some value added products such as honey garlic, honey bird pepper, honey dates, beeswax and so on. “I’ve never had to do any marketing for honey because it’s through word of mouth and people usually buy it directly from my home. I earn about Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month from sales,” Bensislas says.
Edited by Divya Sethu