INTRODUCTION TO APICULTURE
Apiculture is the commercial production of Honey. Honey is mentioned in ancient books like Vedas, purana and epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. It has been an important element in the sweet diet of man. Before knowing the manufacture of sugar, man depended largely on honey as sweetener. Honey is produced by honey bees.
Honey bees have been very closely associated with humans since ancient times and have reached highest degree of domestication. The first evidence of this association between man and bees came to light from the rock paintings made by primitive human. Thousands of years ago, Egyptians were well acquainted with bee keeping before the Christian era.
Apiculture is breeding honey bees for the production of honey and bees wax using modern scientific and commercial methods. The name apiculture is due to the scientific (generic) name of the honeybees which is ‘Apis’. Bee culture or apiculture is practices throughout the world. In India it is practiced in South as well as North India as cottage industry providing employment to lakhs of people. Two institutes namely, Khadi and Village Industries Commission and Indian Council of Agriculture research are making an effort to the raise the industrial status of apiculture in India.
Selection of surrounding flora
The place where the honey bees are kept is called as Apiary. The local surrounding flora is very important for selecting the location of the apiary. It is best practice to choose more nectar-yielding plants like neem, jamun, soapnut etc. in the surroundings. Plants like cherry, sheesham, coconut and guava serve both for nectar and pollen. Best choice of pollen yielding plants is maize, rose and sorghum.
Selection of honey bees
Selection of a good variety of honey bees is an important step before starting apiculture. In general the honey bees for the apiculture must have,
- High honey yielding capacity
- Must be able to form the hive anywhere
- Worker bees must be smart and energetic
- Must be able to protect themselves from the enemies
- Must possess colonial habit
The following is the description of are four common species of honey bee found in India. Out of these four Apis indica is best suited for Indian apiculture industry.
Apis dorsata (The rock-bee or Giant honey-bee)
This is the largest honeybee.
Builds single large open comb on high branches of trees and rocks.
Produces large quantity of honey, but this bee is difficult to domesticate.
This bee is ferocious, stings severely causing fever and sometimes even death.
Apis indica (The small Indian bee)
Medium – sized
Hive consists of several parallel combs in dark places such as cavities of tree
Trunks, mud walls, earthen posts, etc.
This bee is not so ferocious and can be domesticated
Apis florea (The little bee)
small – sized
Builds single small combs in bushes, hedges, etc.
Honey yield is poor.
Apis mellifera (The European bee)
This species has been introduced in many parts of the world including India.
It is easily domesticated.
Importance of bee keeping
There are three main advantages of bee-keeping:
Provides honey- a valuable nutritional food
Provides bees wax- which has many uses in industry
Honey bees are excellent pollinating agents, thus increasing agricultural yields. In terms of actual value this advantage exceeds the other two.
THE BEE COLONY AND ITS MEMBERS
The nest of the honey bee is known as the bee-hive. The population of an average sized colony consists of 30 to 50 thousand individuals. A colony is termed ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ according to the number of worker bees it possesses. There are three types of individuals in a colony, namely the Queen, worker and drone. Due to the existence of several morphological forms, bees are said to be a polymorphic species. The following is the description of each type of member of the bee colony,
The Queen bee
The following are the qualities of the Queen bee
It is a diploid, fertile female.
The presence of queen is a must in a colony
The size of the body of queen is much larger than other castes of bees of the colony
Her legs are strong as she always has to walk about on the comb
The queen has a sting, curved like a sword at the tip of the abdomen, which is a modification of the egg-laying organ known as ovipositor. The sting serves as an organ of defense. She never uses it against anybody except her own caste
The queen is responsible for laying eggs for a colony. She lays about 1000 to 1500 eggs every day and lives for about two to three years. She lays both fertilized eggs (from which females develop) and unfertilized eggs (from which males develop).
Bee colony, female bee, male bee, drone, honey production, members of bee colony