The largest honeybees in the world, Himalayan giant honeybees, produce some of the world’s most cherished honey. It’s known as mad honey, a reddish sweet goop with psychotropic properties that in reasonable doses are reportedly pleasant.
Haven’t heard of this delectable treat? That’s probably because it’s extremely difficult to harvest. If the bees’ stings — which can pierce through most beekeeper suits — don’t ward you off, the sheer Himalayan cliffs where the bees plaster their large crescent-shaped hives probably will. Those who dare to gather the honey do so at their own peril, dangling from precarious bamboo rope ladders hundreds of feet above the ground.
But this treacherous cultural practice, perfected by the Kulung people of eastern Nepal, could soon disappear forever. When elder Mauli Dhan, known as the last honey hunter, chooses to retire, his craft could end with him, reports National Geographic.
Mad honey can fetch a hefty price, sold for $60 to $80 a pound (U.S.), but those are black-market prices. You won’t find it at your local supermarket. Even at those prices, however, it’s barely worth the risk to harvest it, not when you consider the time it takes to learn the skills of this highly specialized trade. Luckily, however, a team of filmmakers have documented Mauli Dhan and his honey hunting craft in a new documentary, “The Last Honey Hunter.”