The hives of giant bees are found on the slopes of the Himalayas in Nepal, and the process of collecting honey is fraught with extreme dangers when climbing the high cliffs more than 91 meters high, on a ladder of thin ropes. And things get even more difficult when you face angry swarms of Apis laboriosa bees to get the precious honey.
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The mad honey in Nepal
In the foothills of the Nepalese Himalayas, live a brave tribe of Jurong people, risking their lives climbing cliffs to harvest honey from one of the largest and most dangerous bees in the world. This tradition dates back hundreds of years, and holds great religious and cultural significance for the people who live there.
The tribe includes about 200 people in the dense forests, and most of the population grows rice, corn and vegetables for their own use, but the hunting process is only twice a year. They go out to the forest with ropes and wooden ladders, and climb thousands of miles without insurance against the stings of wild bees.
According to the locals, about 200 years ago, two tribes of the Gurong and Galle people left Tibet and settled, then they began to collect wild honey from the steep cliffs and began to trade in it.
The importance of wild honey is due to its multiple uses in medical formulations, which is why they called it crazy wild honey, and its price reaches $1 per gram.
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Everything about the most dangerous honey in the world “Mad Honey”!
The remote, obscure high Hills of Nepal have their fair share of remarkable things. While the existence of some of the beings said to be living in the Himalayas is controversial, such as the Yeti, there are others whose existence will hit you like a brick wall should you ever come across it. Believe it or not, Nepal’s dangerous cliffs are also home to a one-of-a-kind wild honey bee that will make you hallucinate with their psychedelic honey. This honey is reportedly found only in certain altitudes of Nepal, China, and Turkey!
Image of a honey hunter in action by gorkhe1980 is available under the Pixabay License
The Himalayan Cliff Bee, or Apis dorsata laboriosa, is an ally to humans in the manufacturing of hallucinogens from substances found in nature. It is the largest honeybee and is found exclusively in the mountainous areas of Nepal, India, and Yunnan, reaching up to 4000 meters above sea level. Also found at similar altitudes is Nepal’s national flower, Rhododendron or the “Lali Gurans”, which provides pollen for these gigantic bees. The pollen of only three specific rhododendron species contains a compound called grayanotoxin that makes this honey “trippy. While the compound as the “toxinâ” in the name suggests â€“ is toxic, the honey can provide a pleasant experience if taken in small amounts. However, it is famously referred to as “mad honey” due to the light-headedness and hallucinations it causes even in small quantities.
The workers of the Gurung tribe are suspended from ropes dangling from the Himalayas at an altitude of more than 6 to 19,000 feet. Although this is dangerous, it is a millennia-old tradition that is practiced by men rather than women. The people of the tribe named their slopes after the hunters who died during the honey harvest.
It is worth noting that this wild honey is extracted from the nectar of the toxic rhododendron flowers!
In fact, eating honey causes painful cramps for those who eat it in large quantities, so it is taken in small doses until the body gets used to it. When you eat this honey in small quantities, and after about 15 minutes, you begin to feel hallucinatory symptoms as if you are taking narcotic substances, when you feel agitated, high and cold extremities. The higher the dose, the greater the symptoms.
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The stories of the Gurung tribe and their journey in collecting this honey are documented in “The Last Honey Hunter”, a film that is currently showing at festivals and will be officially released in 2018.
But the traditional honey hunts, which are conducted in an environmentally sustainable way, may not be around for much longer. The village documented in this film has no one to replace lead hunter Mauli, since young people are less interested and more likely to move away to cities.
In 2013, photographer Andrew Newey traveled to Nepal to document the hunts and said honey bee populations there are declining due to tourism and government policies that award hunting privileges to contractors that don’t harvest sustainably.
Some form of the hunt may continue, but the traditional sustainable harvest — and perhaps the hallucinogenic honey itself — may not last long.
Hunters collect honey in a bucket of hives and transport it down the slope to another person, and it may take 2-3 hours or more to harvest a single colony depending on its location and size.
Locals use small doses of honey as an antiseptic, as a cough medicine, and as a pain reliever. This honey is sold on the black market for $130-$175 per kilogram.