Apiculture Notes PDF for AFO & NABARD
Apiculture Notes PDF

Apiculture is the scientific approach to caring for and managing honey bees. While bees are highly active throughout the year, they become less so in winter and are at their most active during spring.

Honeybees are a type of social insect known for their polymorphism and well-organized division of labor. A typical bee hive measures between 30-90 cm in diameter and is home to an estimated 50-60 thousand bees.

  • Bee-Hive: Honey bee is one of the few domesticated insects. In modern days, bee colonies are reared in artificial wooden boxes for maximum production of honey and wax. The artificial box where the bee colony is maintained and managed is called hive. The place where hives are kept and managed is called apiary.
  • The hives should be set in places where there are plenty of flowering plants. The place should be neat and clean and free from any obnoxious smell. There should be clean drinking water nearby because each bee colony requires two glasses of water per day for their survival.
  • Bees are pollinators for sunflower, Brassica, apple and pear.
History of Beekeeping
  • Modern beekeeping developed between 1500 and 1851.
  • Prior attempts to domesticate bees in different types of hives failed due to comb attachment to hive walls
  • L.L. Langstroth discovered the principle of bee space in 1851, which led to the first truly movable frame hive
  • Subsequent innovations, including comb foundation mill, honey extractor, and smoker, further developed modern beekeeping
History of Beekeeping in India
  • The first attempt to keep bees in movable frame hives was made in India in 1882 in Bengal and 1883-84 in Punjab
  • Rev. Newton in South India developed the “Newton hive” for indigenous bee Apis cerana based on the principle of bee space
  • Beekeeping started in Travancore state (now Cochin) in 1917 and in Mysore in 1925
  • Modern beekeeping with indigenous honey bee A. cerana started in 1934 in Kullu and in 1936 in Kangra in Himachal Pradesh.
  • Exotic bee A. mellifera was successfully introduced in India in 1962 at Nagrota Bagwan (then in Punjab and now in Himachal Pradesh) due to its potential to produce more honey.
Species of Honeybee
  1. Apis dorsata (Rock Bee): Also known as the Sarang Bee, this species is the largest in size and has the potential to produce the highest yield of honey. However, due to its aggressive nature and migratory habits, it is not suitable for human rearing.
  2. Apis indica (Indian Mona-Bee): This bee species can be found throughout India and is smaller in size compared to the Sarang Bee. Its mild temperament makes it easy to manage during rearing, and it produces approximately 3-4 kg of honey per hive.
  3. Apis florea (Bhringa-Bee): This bee is the smallest in size and has a timid nature. It only produces around 250 g of honey per hive, making it unsuitable for commercial use.
  4. Apis mellifera (European Bee): This bee is known for its mild demeanor and has the potential to produce 9-10 times more honey than the Mona Bee. The Italian variety of this species is the most important and useful for commercial purposes.
Social Organization of Honeybee
  • A highly organized division of labor is found in the colony of honey bee.
  • Each colony has 40,000 to 50,000 individual consisting of 3 casts – queens, drones and workers.
  • It is about 15-20 mm long and its body is about three times larger and 3 times heavier than a worker bee. It lives only for 5 years. The legs and wings are short but crop is long. It has ovary which is filled with eggs.
  • Only one queen develops from fertilized egg (i.e. it has 32 chromosomes). It feeds on Royal jelly. Its sole function is reproduction. It lays 2000 eggs everyday. One queen lays approx. 1500000 egg in its whole life time.
  • Drones are male bees that mate with the queen
  • The number of drones in a colony is small
  • Drones have a smaller body than the queen, with a wider abdomen, longer legs, and larger wings
  • Drones develop from unfertilized eggs and have 16 chromosomes
  • Drones lack salivary and wax-secreting glands and stingers
  • Drones have a lifespan of 45 days or 5 weeks
  • Drones rely on worker bees for food, just like the queen
  • The primary duty of drones is to fertilize the queen
  • Workers are the most numerous bees in a hive
  • They are the smallest and darkest bees in the colony
  • Workers have strong wings and mouthparts
  • Their mouthparts are modified for sucking nectar, and their legs are modified for collecting pollen
  • Workers have a pollen basket on their hind leg and pocket-like wax glands on the base of the 2nd to 5th abdominal segment
  • Workers are sterile females, developed from fertilized eggs
  • Due to their high labour, the lifetime of a worker bee is about 6-8 weeks.
Life Cycle of Honeybee
  • Swarming occurs when the colony becomes overcrowded and the old queen leaves with some workers and drones to establish a new colony.
  • Swarming takes place in spring or early summer, and a new queen is formed in the old colony.
  • The new queen undertakes a nuptial flight with drones, and mating occurs in the air.
  • Drones die during copulation, and the queen mates only once in her lifetime.
  • The queen generally lays one egg per brood cell after mating.
  • The eggs are pinkish, elongated, and attached to the bottom of the cell.
  • Larvae emerge from both fertilized and unfertilized eggs, with drones developing from unfertilized eggs and workers from fertilized eggs.
  • One larva fed on royal jelly becomes the queen.
  • Royal jelly is a special diet secreted by young workers and consists of digested honey, pollen, and glandular secretion.
  • The life cycle of honeybees includes complete metamorphosis or holometabolic development.
  • Workers have a pollen-collecting apparatus, honey-storing mechanism, and wax-secreting glands.

Dance Language of the Honey Bee

Honey bee dance language is important because it provides accurate information about food sources, guiding the hive to sustenance and assisting colony survival through successful foraging. There are three types of dances that honey bees use to communicate the location of food sources to other members of the hive:

1. Round Dance: Round dance in honey bee is used to indicate the distance, direction and quality of the food. It indicates the food is in short distance (less than 50 Meter). The bee runs in circle, first in one direction and then in opposite direction.

2. Sickle Dance: This dance is intermediate between the round dance and the waggle dance. It indicates food sources located between 75 and 150 metres from the hive.

3. Wagle Dance: It is also called Wag tail dance or Tail wagging dance. This dance is indicates food sources more than 150 metres away from the hive.

Economic Importance
Formation of Honey:
  • Honey is formed from nectar within the stomach of the honeybee.
  • Bees visit flowers, suck nectar, store it in their stomach and return to the hive.
  • The nectar is processed and regurgitated repeatedly in the stomach.
  • The processed nectar is then deposited into comb cells as unripe or green honey containing 80% water.
  • Unripe honey is converted to ripe honey through evaporation, which contains less than 20% water.
  • Ripe honey is capped or sealed in cells, while unsealed cells contain unripe honey.
Bee Wax:
  • Bee wax is secreted by the abdominal gland of bees.
  • It is used for the construction of a comb.
  • Bee wax is a yellowish solid, insoluble in water.
  • It has many industrial uses, such as the preparation of paints, varnishes, candles, models, etc.
  • It is used as a ground substance for ointments, creams, etc.
  • It is used extensively in engineering, railways, textiles, leather industries, etc.
Bee Venom:
  • Bee venom is secreted by the poison glands of stings.
  • It is a curative toxin in humans.
  • Bee venom is transparent, has a bitter burning taste and is acidic in nature.
  • It contains formic acid, histamine, tryptophan, Sulphur, many proteins, volatile oils, enzymes, and magnesium phosphate.
  • Propolis is a resin derived from plants’ axillary buds.
  • It has antiseptic and antibiotic properties.
Important Facts of Apiculture/Bee Keeping
  • Father Spitzner in 1788 described bee dances as a method of communication in the hive
  • In 1973, Karl von Frisch won the Nobel Prize for his research on the honey bee waggle dance and wrote the book “The Dancing Bees: An Account of the Life and Senses”.
  • Anton Janša is considered to be the pioneer of modern beekeeping.
  • Sweet Revolution: Promotes sustainable beekeeping, honey production, and bee conservation.
  • Robbing is when bees steal food from other colonies
  • Absconding is when the whole colony leaves the hive, and A. cerana is more prone to it than A. mellifera
  • The Central Bee Research and Training Institute (CBRTI) is located in Pune, Maharashtra
  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research launched the “All India Coordinated Project on Honeybee Research & Training” in 1980-81.
  • World Bee Day is celebrated on May 20th every year. It was first observed in 2018 to raise awareness about the importance of bees and other pollinators for our ecosystems and food supply.
  • International Bee Research Association (IBRA), Monmouth, UK (1949).
  • Apimondia: International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations, Rome, Italy (1895)
  • National Beekeeping & Honey Mission (NBHM): The National Beekeeping & Honey Mission (NBHM) is a scheme launched by the Government of India as part of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat package in 2020 to promote beekeeping and honey production in the country.

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