12 Aug, 2023
Apiculture is the technique or farming practice which involves the production of honey, beeswax, royal jelly, flower pollen, and bee pollen. The process is also known as
beekeeping. So, Technically Apiculture is farming honey bees. This process of farming involves the cultivation of bees of the genus Apis ( honeybees). In addition to this, honey bees also contribute to the preservation of nature by collecting flower pollen, bee pollen, etc from the flowering plants.
Moreover, bees are considered useful social insects as it provides us with honey and wax. In addition, They also induce pollination of flowers of the majority of damaged bee larvae, pollen grains, etc. of commercially important plants. The most common Indian honey bees that exist and are used in Apiculture are Apis (Megapis) dorsala, A. (microapis) florea and A. indica.
In short, Apiculture is the process of rearing honey bees for generating honey and wax from their comb or beehives. Apiculture involves the Selection of sites for good quality honey and the protection of bees and combs from pests and other diseases.
So, let's explore more about apiculture meaning or apiculture definition, its importance, advantages and disadvantages in detail.
Apiculture is also known as beekeeping. This process involves the maintenance of bee colonies, which are kept mostly in man-made beehives. For apiculture, the most common honey bees used are genius Apis, but other honey-producing bees are also used like Melipona stingless bees. Beekeepers rear and manages bees to generate honey and other products of the hive such as beeswax, propolis, bee pollen, and royal jelly, etc. Moreover, beekeepers can also earn an income from other sources of beekeeping, which include the Pollination of crops, raising queens, and production of package bees for sale. Furthermore, Bee hives are kept in an apiary or "bee yard" for rearing honey bees. An apiary is a commercial area where the bees are reared and maintained in artificial beehives, and such areas are called apiaries. Honeybees collect nectar naturally from flowers and stored it in their hives. Moreover, Beehives are also a good source of wax that is used in many medicinal preparations.
Most importantly, in the present scenario, apiculture is also used for crop pollination and the production of other products, such as wax and propolis. The large scale apiculture operations are conducted for agriculture businesses whereas small-scale beekeeping is practised as a hobby. Because of various modifications in apiculture techniques, rearing honey bees is more accessible now and urban beekeeping is also growing. Many studies have concluded that honey bees reared in cities are healthier than the rural ones because of fewer pesticides and greater biodiversity in cities.
There are different categories or species of bees which are present as follows:
1. Rock bee - Apis Dorsata - Apis dorsata is also commonly known as the rock bee which is a giant bee and as it has a huge size it produces around 40 to 42 kgs of honey per colony.
2. European Bee - Apis Mellifera - Apis mellifera was commonly known by the name of European Bee it is a little bee which is stingless. This bee is not easily available in the local environment, and it produces higher amounts of honey therefore it is often reared by the beekeepers.
3. Indian Bee - Apis Cerana Indica - It is additionally known as the Indian bee. It is frequently used to produce honey and is simple to domesticate. Each colony produces 2 to 5 kilograms of honey annually.
4. Little bee - Apis Florea - The little bee is another name for it. Since it rarely stings, getting honey out of its hive is simple. Each colony makes roughly 1 kg of honey a year.
1. Worker’s bees - are the female members who are incapable of procreation. They are recognized as the colony's most active inhabitants. Age affects how worker bees perform their jobs; they can live for three to twelve months. They carry out inside tasks like scavenging, acting as nurse bees, etc. for the first half of their lives. As scout bees and forager bees, they carry out outdoor tasks in the second half of their lives.
2. Queen bees - referred to as the colony's mother, and the centre of activity inside the hive. She can live for two to five years and produces about 2000 eggs. These eggs may or may not be fertilized. Unfertilized eggs develop into drones, while fertilized eggs develop into both the queen and worker bees.
3. Drones - Drones are the male members of honey bees that fertilize the young queens in apiculture. Further, it develops into larvae and then matures into an adult. Drones are smaller but stouter than the queen honey bees.
Besides honey, Bee Apiculture can also provide various byproducts that are economically important and useful. The other byproducts obtained are as below:
1. Honey - Besides being sweet and edible, honey is also packed with various nutrients such as sugar, water, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and some pollens. Moreover, honey has good mineral content such as calcium, iron, manganese and phosphate, etc. in addition, Vitamins obtained from honey are Pantothenic acid, Biotin, Pyridoxine, Ascorbic acid, Thiamine, Riboflavin, etc. Honey is also an energy-rich and anti-oxidant food.
2. Bee Wax - Bee wax is obtained from the secretion of worker bees from their wax glands. These have a very high melting point and it is used in many ways. It can be used in manufacturing cosmetics and ointments such as cold creams, cosmetics, shaving cream, ointments, lipsticks, polishes, etc.
3. Propolis and Balms - Propolis and balms are also obtained from the apiculture process. These products are utilized in repairing the comb. Propolis ( Bee glue) are developed from the mixing of saliva and beeswax with exudate taken from tree buds or sap flows. Propolis works by bridging the gaps in the beehive. They have dark brown colour but can even vary sometimes.
4. Royal jelly - Worker honeybees generate a milky secretion called Royal jelly. It includes proteins, vitamins, sugar, fats, water, salts and amino acids. Other bees utilize it to nurture queen bees and thus it is called royal jelly. Royal jelly also has medicinal properties like honey. It is even used in making homoeopathic and ayurvedic medicines.
5. Bee Venom - Bee venom is a poisonous product obtained from honey that makes the bee stings painful. It also has medicinal properties, it can be used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
Apiaries are set up for the large-scale production of honey. To get better results and good quality honey and honey bee products from apiculture, the following steps should be taken into consideration.
1. Pasturage - The taste and odour of honey depends upon crop, flora or pasturage available for the nectar and pollen collection. Flora of honey bees has various flowering plants such as mango, coconut, almond, etc.
2. Beehive - A beehive is a type of box where honey bees are raised. The box has a wire gauze placed inside with a multi-frame honey chamber that helps in laying eggs and gathering honey. There are mainly three types of beehives available in India namely - Langstroth, Newton and Jeolikote.
3. Apiary Location - It is a fixed area or location where beehives are set up to allow maximum nectar and pollen collection in desirable locations. Majorly areas rich in vegetation and flowering plants are chosen as apiary locations. Moreover, hives should be placed on the east side. In addition, it also requires water nearby.
4. Honey Flow and Seasons - the quantity of honey produced by honey also depends on the duration for which abundant flora is available. The honey flow period is defined as the total time taken by honey bees to gather nectar and pollen. Enough quantity of flowers is required to obtain a large quantity of honey.
5. Swarming (Reproduction) - reproduction is a natural process in which all the honey bees locate from one place to another. It is generally carried out in spring for better reproduction in honey bees. The queen leaves the old hives with their workers and drones and migrates to a new shelter. The cost of maintenance of hives is quite high and frequent transfer can also affect the yield and quantity of products.
Apiculture is practised on a large scale due to its increasing demands in various health and cosmetics sectors as well as due to the many benefits of honey and beeswax. Some important uses of honey and its production are described here:
1. Honey is highly beneficial and used majorly in many human illnesses and its treatment products are related to digestion, dysentery, vomiting and stomach or liver ailments, lung diseases, etc
2. Honey is also an important blood purifier, it's the best for treatment related to cough and cold, sore throat, and ulcers of the tongue, stomach and intestine.
3. Bee wax is also mainly utilized in making cosmetics, creams and ointments.
4. Royal jelly on the other hand is consumed as an invigorating tonic.
5. Propolis is a utilized as health supplement with many antibiotic properties beneficial for getting rid of harmful bacteria in the body.
6. Bee venom is used in treating rheumatism, arthritis and certain central nervous system diseases in humans.
7. Honeybee venom is highly used in destroying the AIDS virus as it includes some important mixtures of proteins.
8. Pollination is also increased with the help of honeybees leading to growth in the yield of several plants.
1. Indigenous methods
The Indigenous method is further divided into two techniques, immovable structures and movable structures.
- Immovable structures
This method is practised in villages since ancient times. Small structures are developed in protected places. When dwelling houses are constructed, they also made small chambers in the outer wall of the house for bees to make combs. Many times chambers are also constructed exterior to the chamber and a horizontal slit is made for the entry of bees, on the other side, a large opening is built on the interior side for removal of the comb.
- Movable structures
In this structure, chambers are made up of hollow bags, empty wooden boxes, earthen pots, and others. This is considered less satisfactory as the comb is lost in the process of extraction of honey. Moreover, the good quality of honey is lost due to exposure to dust, tissues of damaged bee larvae, pollen grains, etc. in it.
2. Modern methods
In modern apiaries, Longs Troth’s frame hive is commonly used in commercial the production of honey.
1. It has a two-tier structure where the chambers can also be removed from or added as required. Moreover, the hive is made up of a wooden box. Next, the roof is placed on an inner covering above the honey chamber.
There are several benefits of apiculture such as they act as great pollinating agents, it provides the best nutrition in the form of honey, it also provides beeswax in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, as well as their venom is used in the treatment of arthritis and snake bites. It is explained in detail in the following points.
1. Plant pollination
Bees move pollen from plant to plant as they gather nectar to bring to their colonies, aiding in the pollination of flowers, vegetables, and fruits in the garden. Honeybees' fuzzy bodies attract pollen, which they then smear on the flowers they visit for nectar. The pollen exchange promotes plant reproduction and the development of fruit and seeds. Fruit and seed harvests will be minimal if feral bees aren't there to pollinate flowers and crops.
2. They help in getting useful by-products
Raw honey is always in demand, and wax and propolis are valuable by-products of bee production. Making candles, waxing wooden furniture, shining concrete worktops, protecting bronze and copper, and waterproofing leather are among the things that can be done using beeswax. Furniture wax and vehicle wax are frequently created from propolis, resin-like material bees produce from tree sap. Propolis, raw honey, pollen, beeswax, and raw honey can all be purchased as natural antibiotics and health supplements.
3. Beekeeping is for profit
Up to 100 pounds of harvestable honey might be expected from a vigorous hive each year. A reduced yield, however, might be brought about by a variety of circumstances. Less honey may be produced because of temperature, weather, and illness.
1. Non-Native Bees
Honey bees are non-native species. Therefore, many beekeepers who raise them for their ability to pollinate and honey, there is a quite concern that they will take over native species.
2. Getting Stung
Honey Bees have stings to protect themselves. It gets attached immediately when perceived as a threat. However, honey bees don't only string for the sake of it. Honeybees also die a horrific death when they use their stinger.
3. Having To Wear A Beekeepers Suit!
You cannot manage your beekeeping task without wearing a beekeeper’s suit, without it, you are likely to get stung.
4. Getting Through The First Year
In the first year, it is difficult to get enough results from the honeybees, as they simply won’t have had a chance to produce enough to feed the colony and you.
The first year only includes making wax, raising their young and generating honey for food over winter. So, it requires patience while the hive establishes itself.
5. Risk Of Disease
The main problem that arises in rearing bees is disease. Bees with diseases can quickly spread and kill off the entire colony. Further, the infected bees from one hive can spread the disease to neighbouring hives.
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