The next time you feel like your job sucks or that having to make that trip to the supermarket is a chore, spare a thought for the Honey Hunters of Nepal.
The practice of honey hunting has been dated back to 13,000 BC and, in Nepal, is not only thousands of years old but is also a part of Nepalese culture. Nepal is home to the biggest honey bee on earth, Apis laboriosa, twice the size of normal bees and found only in the Himalayas.
These bees live in giant hives built high in the Himalayan foothills. Different types of honey are found at varying altitudes - spring honey, red honey and autumn honey - with red honey, made solely by these Himalayan bees and located at the highest altitudes, being the most valuable for having both intoxicating and relaxing qualities.
Twice a year Nepalese Gurung men harvest the honey from such bees and hives. Using harnessed ladders and ropes secured at the tops of the cliffs, they harvest the honey in the same manner as Gurung men have done for thousands of years. Smoke is used to drive the bees from their hives and the men then use the ladders and ropes to suspend themselves in the air opposite the honeycombs, which are cut into pieces and dropped into baskets. The retrieved honey is sold and the income used to buy food and other necessary items.
Notwithstanding the use of plastic coverings and scarves, the hunters still get stung. As each new hive and honeycomb is harvested, the hunter faces a new attack by the bees.
In 1987 Eric Valli did a photostory “Hunters of Nepal”, which was later also published as a book. He also made a documentary about the Honey Hunters.
Following are some of Valli’s photographs. No commentaries are necessary. . .