Pakistan may not be the biggest honey producer in the world — China, Turkey and the United States easily eclipse the 7,500 metric tons the country harvests annually — but it's long provided a vital income for thousands of farmers, especially when it comes to the country's famed beri honey, which is mostly sold abroad.
But in recent decades, honey production has been on a slippery slope, with harvests plummeting.
"Last year was especially destructive," a beri honey harvester told thethirdpole.net earlier this year. "My income is at a dead end and the loss is irreparable. It has become hard for us to earn food for our children."
Excessive rainfall, the news site notes, washes away the blooms of the beri tree. And most troubling, the country has lost huge swathes of beri forests to development.
Beri trees, also known as Ziziphus mauritiana, are the main source of beri honey. In the country's rugged, mountainous regions, bees collect nectar from those trees, taking it back to the hive whereharvesters gather the sweet sticky stuff.
But this year, the country is reporting a bumper harvest — an unprecedented 70% increase in honey production. And much of that surge is reportedly due to nature's most reliable hero: the humble tree.
Why are trees good for bees?
Back in 2014, under Prime Minister Imran Khan, the country embarked on an ambitious plan to stave off the ravages of climate change. Dubbed the Billion Tree Tsunami, and costing around $169 million, Pakistan went on a tree-planting spree. According to the World Economic Forum, the country hit its target well ahead of schedule, planting or regenerating trees on about 350,000 hectares of land in just three years. Since then, Pakistan has upped its green ante, pledging to plant 10 billion trees within five years.
That was just what the bees needed.
The trees not only provide more flowers for bees to forage, but even trees that don't flower offer benefits, writes Hilary Kearny for Keeping Backyard Bees. Bees collect saps and resins from nearby trees, using those ingredients to create propolis, which is used to waterproof and sterilize the hive. Plus, trees last a lot longer than a regular garden and don't require as much human intervention.
But probably the best benefit of trees — for all creatures — is the air-cleaning services they provide by absorbing carbon dioxide.
So while those trees will play a critical role in buffering the ravages of climate change, they're also paying dividends for the country's honey industry.
In an interview with the news site ProPakistani, forestry officer Shahid Tabassum officer, noted that with 85% of the trees in the ground, there's been a marked increase in the number of bees.