Meet India’s honeyman who travels from Tamil Nadu to Kashmir

Getting stung by a bee is irritating, and it can hurt, but that’s not the case for S Jayakumar. His tryst with the flying insect began early on— a sting while at school in Tamil Nadu’s Tenkasi district made him curious. A couple of friends who were into beekeeping urged him to know more.

Soon, Jayakumar picked up beekeeping — the maintenance of bee colonies in manmade hives — and started making money by selling pure honey. Starting with just six boxes, today Dhalavaipuram (TN)-based Jayakumar is a migratory beekeeper, who travels across India, covering states like Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, besides Tamil Nadu.

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Jayakumar picked up the art of beekeeping even though his father was against it. “My father was a two-wheeler dealer. He told me to help him in his business, but I was interested in bees. I did not get any support from my family,” he says.

In 2005, Jayakumar entered the Limca Books of Records for covering his entire body with bees for 24 hours. He went on to break another record by keeping 175 bees (existing record was 105 bees) inside his mouth for three minutes and seven seconds. That’s not all. Jayakumar is now getting ready to break the Guinness World Record held by a Chinese man who carried bees weighing 63kg on his body. “I want to break this record by increasing the weight to 80kg. It is a contest of how many bees you can carry. I will be doing it in 2021. The idea is to create awareness about pure honey,” he says.

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Ask him how many times he’s been stung by bees and he replies with a smile. “I don’t know. Thousands of times, maybe … but bee venom has great anti inflammatory properties. Bee sting therapy is popular in many places,” says Jayakumar, who is bound for Rajasthan next with his wooden boxes.

As a migratory beekeeper, Jayakumar travels from one state to another depending on the season. “Summer season and dry climate is good for honey. That’s why the honey you get in Tamil Nadu tastes better than what you get in Kerala,” he says. From Rajasthan, he will move to Himachal Pradesh. “The bees in Himachal are bigger in size compared to other places. The most fascinating experience one can enjoy is in Srinagar where beekeeping is a unique experience,” he said. “We stay in makeshift tents and cook our food. We have to stay at a place for three to four months,” says Jayakumar, whose Majju Honey brand is popular across the country and abroad.

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For this 39-year-old, beekeeping is his passion. Calling it an art, he says the aim is to provide the best honey to people at a time the market is populated with adulterated honey. He also conducts free awareness classes to promote the health benefits of honey. “Many people come to my farm in Dhalavaipuram in Virudhunagar district to train in beekeeping. I provide them a day’s training. Those who more interested come again to clear doubts,” he says.

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