Apiculture or beekeeping is care and management of colonies of honeybees. They are kept for their honey and other products or their services. As pollinators of fruit and vegetable blossoms or as a hobby. The practice is widespread. Honeybees are kept in large cities and villages, on farms and rangelands, in forests and deserts. From the Arctic and Antarctic to the Equator. Honeybees are not domesticated. Those living in a man-made domicile called a beehive. These are not different from those living in a colony in a tree.
In antiquity people knew that bees produce delicious honey, that they sting, and that they increase their numbers by swarming. By the 17th century they had learned the value of smoke in controlling them. And had developed the screen veil as protection against stings.
From the 17th cenntury, the key discoveries the mystery of the queen bee as the mother of nearly all the occupants of the hive. Also her curious mating technique, parthenogenetic development, the movable frame hives, and the fact that bees rear a new queen if the old one disappears.
Given this knowledge, people were able to divide a colony instead of relying on natural swarming. Then the development of the wax-comb foundation. The starter comb on which bees build straight, easily handled combs. Identification of bee diseases and their control with drugs, the value of pollen and pollen substitutes in producing strong colonies, and the artificial insemination of queens have increased the honey-production efficiency of colonies.
Get to know more about Apiculture read out some interesting facts by Pritish Halder below:
Honeybees and their colonies
Honeybees belong to the order Hymenoptera and to one of the Apis species. Honeybees are social insects noted for providing their nests with large amounts of honey. A colony of honeybees is a highly complex cluster of individuals that functions virtually as a single organism. It usually consists of the queen bee, a fertilized female capable of laying a thousand or more eggs per day. From a few to 60,000 sexually undeveloped females, the worker bees. And from none to 1,000 male bees, or drones. The female of most species of bees is equipped with a venomous sting.
Honeybees collect nectar, a sugary solution, from blossoms and sometimes from leaves or stems of plants. Nectar may consist of 50 to 80 percent water. But when the bees convert it into honey it contains only about 16 to 18 percent water. They also collect honeydew, an exudate from certain plant-sucking insects. The primary carbohydrate diet of bees is honey.
They also collect pollen from the anthers of flowers. Which provides essential proteins necessary for the rearing of young bees. By collecting nectar and pollen the bees pollinate the flowers they visit. Honeybees also collect propolis, a resinous material from buds of trees, for sealing or covering cracks in the hive. They collect water to air-condition the hive and to dilute the honey when they consume it.
When the colony becomes crowded with adult bees,there are insufficient cells in which the queen can lay large numbers of eggs. The worker bees select a dozen or so tiny larvae that would otherwise develop into worker bees. Larvae are fed copiously with royal jelly, a whitish food with the consistency of mayonnaise. These produced by certain brood-food glands in the heads of the worker bees.
Swarming usually occurs during the middle of a warm day. When the queen and a portion of the worker bees suddenly swirl out of the hive and into the air.
Back in the parent colony, the first queen to emerge after the mother queen departs with the swarm immediately attempts to destroy the others. If two or more emerge at the same time, they fight to the death. When the surviving virgin is about a week old, she soars off on her mating flight. To maintain genetic diversity within a colony, a queen frequently mates with more than one drone (called polyandry) while in the air. The queen can live up to five years, although many beekeepers replace the queen every year or two.
Worker bees live about six weeks during the active season but may live for several months if they emerge as adults in the fall and spend the winter in the cluster. As the name implies, worker bees do all the work of the hive, except the egg laying.
Drones are reared only when the colony is populous and there are plentiful sources of nectar and pollen. They usually live a few weeks, but they are driven from the hive to perish when fall or an extended period of adversity comes upon the colony. Only duty of the drone is to mate with the queen.
Queen can lay drone (unfertilized) eggs in the drone cells. If she is not allowed to mate or if her supply of sperm is exhausted, she will lay unfertilized eggs in worker cells. And the development of unfertilized eggs into adult drones is known as parthenogenesis.
Occasionally a colony may become queenless and unable to develop another queen. Then some of the worker bees begin to lay eggs, often several to a cell, and these develop into drones. A colony that has developed laying workers is difficult to requeen with a laying queen.
Honey: Bees create honey from the nectar and they store the honey in a honey crop, which is an organ that resembles a stomach. The creation of honey takes a collaborative effort by bees. When one bee returns to the colony. Other bee takes the nectar from flowers and distributes it evenly all over the wax honeycomb. Doing so ensures that the water dissipates fast from the honeycomb.
The other bee performs another fundamental duty of spreading invertase which is a kind of enzyme. This enzyme helps to bring the sugar molecules to an adjustable level. Once the sugar molecules become thick they are trapped with wax crap inside a cell.
Pollen: The small male reproduction units that are produced in the anthers of higher flowering plants are called pollen grains.
Propolis: Propolis is an alternative term for bee glue. Which is a product of the mixture of resins and beeswax accumulated from various twigs and plants. Propolis is used for sealing cracks, shrinking the size of honeycombs, and lining nest cavities. This product is also known to have germ-destroying properties and a useful disinfectant.
Royal Jelly: This is a bee product that is infused with a lot of protein and is provided as food to larvae. Royal jelly works as a source of growing food for the queen bee. As it helps her grow significantly bigger than most other bees in her colony. Royal jelly is a combination of honey and dissolved pollen and contains amino acids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, sugars, and fats.
Venom: Venom is made up of an intricate combination of proteins and is used in the bee sting. Contemporary research has proved that venom extracted from bees can be useful to human beings.
Importance of Beekeeping
An interesting fact about apiculture and beekeeping is that the products derived from bees’ pollination form an integral part of the food that we eat every day.
For the purpose of beverage brewing and sporadically serving on special occasions. Honey is one of the most preferred products. In some cultural ceremonies, honey is often served as a special product to guests. For showing them high regard and making them feel important. Ancient Egyptian used honey as a beauty product as well as a medicinal supplement. On African cultures, honey is often provided as a source of dowry.
Honey is highly regarded as a wholesome and delectable food product. It can be either consumed as a whole or used as a supplement with other products. Bee brood is an important bee product that works as an important source of food for impoverished children. On the other hand, other bee products like royal jelly and pollen are highly preferred for their rich protein value.
There are several challenges that are associated with the prospect of apiculture that can affect the health and durability of the colony. The main problems associated with apiculture are the loss of habitat, agrochemicals, pathogens, and most importantly, climate change. Also, there are several other problems related to cheap marketing that lead to alternatives to bee products. There is also a lack of awareness of policies and knowledge related to the practice of beekeeping. Which is one of the chief impediments of apiculture.