Rockbee in Nagaland

            Rock bee (Apis dorsoto) is one of the largest, most productive honey bees. Single combs of the giant rockbee are known to hold a population of 40,000-50,000 bees. They thrive in the tropical and sub-tropical regions.

        Its nests are mainly built in the exposed places far off the ground, on tree limbs and under cliff over hangings. In urban areas they are often found in undersurfaces of high rise buildings, water reservoirs etc.

      Rock bees are migratory in nature and migrate over long distances to areas of abundant nectar flow in different seasons. They are known to return back and build their combs in the same spot! site year after year, thus their sites are easily located and identified by the honey hunters.

            One nest can contain as much as 20 kgs of honey and 2 Kgs of wax. In India majority of honey produced is derived from rock bees. Rock bees are aggressive bees and have never been domesticated (as they do not use enclosed cavities for nesting) efforts have been made to domesticate them but it has not been successful. They forage at an altitude of up to 4,100 meters. Rock bees can be extremely dangerous if the colony is provoked. Each colony consists of a single vertical comb (sometimes extending up to a square meter) suspended from above, and the comb is typically covered by a dense mass of bees  Despite its aggressive nature, indigenous people all over the world have traditionally used this species as a source of honey and beeswax.

The latent Rock Bee potentiaLs in NagaLand

        Wild honey hunting is said to be as old as man himself. It is an activity associated mostly with forest dwellers and tribal communities. Their long and close association with nature have made them skilled in harnessing nature’s resources and living off forest and its resources for centuries together. Nagaland with its rich biodiversity, topographical features and ideal climatic conditions offers a veritable habitat for various species of bees to flourish. Rock bees are found in the wild forested hilly regions of the state. It is roughly estimated that there are presently about 30,000 rock bee colonies existing in the wild in some pockets of the state, out of which only about 10% of the colonies is currently being harvested by the few isolated rock bee honey hunters who have persevered their ancient art over the generations in spite of the precarious nature of rock bee harvesting and the hardships that they face. In fact, the wild honey gatherers are fast becoming a vanishing race as few efforts are put forward for preserving and documenting their traditional practice. Going by the estimates, the rest of the existing thousands of colonies go untapped year after year, which otherwise have the prospective to produce tones of honey and wax.

       Rock bees are an excellent source of honey and wax. Bulk honey and wax can be obtained if the existing rockbee resources are utilized in a sustainable manner; this has the potential to generate excellent revenue for the honey gatherers and boost up the production of honey and wax in the state thus paving way for achieving an industry status for honey and wax.


        The Nagaland Beekeeping and Honey Mission is driven towards promoting sustainable livelihood opportunity through beekeeping and also taking initiative for documenting and preservation of this ancient art. Also creating awareness on preservation of the endangered rock bee habitat which is critical for their survival due to rampant degradation of existing forest cover as a result of shifting cultivation, logging etc is on our agenda. At the same time we attempt to connect the economic importance with rock bee honey and wax harvests which are both valuable products capable of fetching a good income for the adventurous practitioners. Towards this, the mission is putting efforts to provide technical support to improve upon their traditional methods in terms of safer and secure methods of harvesting and obtaining of quality honey and wax that can be easily marketed.


          Rock bee honey hunters of Nagaland with special reference to Mimi Rock bee hunting is traditionally practiced since time immemorial by people mainly inhabiting the easternmost part of the state along the Nagaland-Myanmar boundary. The dense forest and steep escarpments provides a critical natural resting place and a home for the Giant Rock Bee, with massive honey cliff present in large numbers, which contributes substantially to the diversity of the forest of this region. Mimi a small village under Pungro sub- division of Kiphire district is home to the rock bee honey gatherers who have carefully preserved the tradition of rock bee honey hunting. Numerous folk lore and myths surround the death defying activity of these dare devils which is deeply rooted in the socio-economic milieu of the villagers, remnants of which are still practiced to this day by the 170 odd families engaged in this age old profession known as honey hunting. For instance, the ownership of rock bee sites is being passed on from families over generations like property transfer from father to son. Further there is a belief that rock bee sites are guarded by the spirits of the land due to which the owners of the site even to this day ensures that the spirits are appeased by worshipping them and offering sacrifices before honey harvesting. Historically, honey hunting was the main profession of this area besides agriculture. The harvested honey is used mainly for domestic consumption as a delicacy and is rarely sold to outsiders due to remoteness and lack of market. In the past the wax were bartered for goods across the boundary in Burma. But today, owing to increased awareness on the economic value attached to this activity, people of this remote hamlet are making efforts to conserve the rock bee habitats for posterity and at the same time willing to sell the produce to markets as local market linkages improves and demand for honey and wax are on the rise.