Bee Keeping Project
Agriculture is changing from small business to big business. Agricultural and horticultural production is increasing. We all know that the total cultivable land is decreasing. For the development of agriculture, apart from abundant production of crops, vegetables and fruits, good income from other occupations is also necessary. Beekeeping is one such business which is benefiting mankind. It is a low-cost domestic industry, which has the potential to generate income, employment and keep the environment clean. It is such an employment, which can be availed by the people of the section of the society by adopting it. Beekeeping also has the potential to increase agriculture and horticulture production.
Pollination is an essential part of the production cycle for the plants and is an important factor in Agriculture. Most of the crop plants need to receive pollen from other plants of the same species which is only possible with external agents who will carry the pollen from one species to another.
Farmers use Honeybees as their external agent which not only acts as an agent but it also produces honey, beeswax and royal jelly and Beekeeping is one of the oldest traditions for collecting Honey. It is a growing trend in India because of its demand in national as well as international markets as it not only produces honey but also increases agricultural productivity through pollination.
Beekeeping – An Introduction
Beekeeping, also called as Apiculture, is a tradition of Honey bees rearing. It is a maintenance of bee colonies in man made hives. The location of these hives are called ‘apiaries’. An apiarist or beekeeper keeps the bees for collecting honey or other products including beeswax, flower pollens, bees pollen, and royal jelly so as to pollinate crops or to produce bees for selling it to other beekeepers.
Presently beekeeping has taken the status of low cost cottage industry. Home has become a source of income for rural landless unemployed farmers. Employment opportunities are also available in the work related to beekeeping like carpentry, blacksmithing and honey marketing. Farmers can double their income by adopting bees.
Bees play an important role in pollinating many plants. The plants such as Sunflowers are highly dependent on them for pollination. The colony of bees consists of a Queen, several thousand Workers and a few hundred Drones. Each of them are specialised to do various functions. The wax glands of worker bees secrete wax from which they build up their nests called ‘combs’. Honey is stored in the upper part of these combs and under it are the rows of pollen storage cells, worker brood cells and drone brood cells.
Types of Honey bee
There are three types of Honeybees in the hive.
- Queen – There is a single queen in every colony which is a fertile and functional female. The main task of Queen is Reproduction and it lays 1500 eggs (fertilized & non fertilized both) per day on an average and its productive life span is 2 -3 years.
- Worker – There are thousands of worker caste bees who are sterile females who secrete wax from its wax glands. They don’t have the egg laying capacity but they perform all the activities of the hive like cleaning & polishing the cells, feeding the brood, caring for the Queen, removing debris, handling nectar, building bee wax etc.
- Drones – There are a few hundred drone caste bees in a colony who are male bee insects. Their main work is to fertilize the Queens and die instantly after mating. They depend on the worker bee for their
Species of Honey bee
There are 5 species of honey bees that are listed below:
- The Indian hive bee (Apis Indica)
- The rock bee (Apis Dorsata)
- The little bee (Apis Florea)
- The European or Italian bee (Apis Mellifera)
- Dammer bee or Stingless bee
Prerequisites for starting Honey Bee Farming
Before Beekeeping we need to keep certain things in mind. They are:
- Become familiar with the bee human relationship by involving practically
- Work with local beekeepers if you have no experience and follow their advices
- Learn to introduce improved methods and make a plan for when and where to use the equipments
- Start with 1 or 2 individuals in the area
- Start with at least 2 hives and compare the progress between a number of hives
- Access the availability of needed inputs and the technical aids with respect to the area and type of bees selected
- Identify peoples who can coordinate the equipments together
- For marketing, contact the local agent or already established market
Apart from all these a beekeeper should also have:
- Knowledge & Training on Beekeeping
- Knowledge of flora for Honey bee farming
- Sufficient flora on local area for farming
- Knowledge of migratory Beekeeping
Equipments required for the Bee Farm
The equipment depends upon the size of the farm, the number of colonies, type of honey, etc.
The equipments required in most of the commercial Honey bee farming are as follows:
- Thick & Thin Beekeeping brushes
- SS knives
- SS & Iron hive tools (L & curved shaped)
- Food grade plastic to make queen cage
- Queen gate
- Hive gate
- Honey extractor
- Queen excluder
- Pollen trap
- Propolis strip
- Royal jelly production
- Extraction kit
- Queen rearing kit
- Bee venom collector
- Hive stand
- Bottom board
- Hive bodies
- Frames & Combs
- Inner & Outer covers
- Protective wear
- Hive tool
Site Requirements for Beekeeping
There are certain recommendations for selecting a good apiary site for Beekeeping so as to get maximum profits on a commercial business. These are:
- The selected site should be free of dry leaves and should be cleaned before starting the farming so as to avoid any type of accidental fire
- The selected area should be far away from power stations, train tracks, etc
- The hives should be provided with shade, but should receive mild sun rays
- The hives should be provided with clean natural or artificial water and should be away from dirty chemical waters
- The selected area should be protected by wind breaks
- There should be plenty of plants that yield pollen and nectar to the bees, around the apiary site
- The selected site should be dry without dampness as high RH will affect bee flight and will also cause ripening of nectar
- The selected site should have rich Bee flora and should be away from other commercial Beekeeping sites
Selection of the Bees
Honeybees are farmed depending upon the floral conditions of the selected area and the resources that are available and the success of the farm depends upon the quality of bees that are selected, especially the Queen Bee. There are two varieties of Bees that are selected generally – Apis Cerena and Apis Mellifera. The recommendations for selecting a good Bee colony are:
- The colonies should be free of diseases
- The queen bee should have high egg laying capacity and other bees should have high yielding capacity
- The good quality bees can be captured from the natural forest areas to increase the chances of excellent breeding
Feed for the Bees
The Honey Bees feed on pollen, nectar, honey and water. The pollens provide proteins, vitamins, minerals and fat content, whereas honey provides carbohydrates to the bees. An emergency feed should always be available at the farm which should consist of 15 to 20 pounds honey from an established colony of bees. This emergency feed is very important during winter & spring seasons but excessive sugar syrup is prohibited as it may result in dysentry due to too much moisture. Emergency feed can be combs of honey, dry sugar or sugar candy.
Management of apiary in autumn : Autumn is particularly prone to frost, with temperatures sometimes dropping below 1–2°C. In such a situation, it becomes necessary to protect the bees from the cold. To avoid the cold, beekeepers should make two folds of sackcloth and lay them under the inner lid. This work should be done in the month of October. Due to this the temperature of the bee house remains uniformly warm. If there is time, then the entire box should be banked with polythene except the entrance or the boxes should be covered by making thatch of thatch or puwal.
At this time, the bee boxes should be kept in such a place, where the ground is dry or there is sunshine throughout the day. As a result the bees will work longer. In the month of October, it should be seen that the queen is good and is not more than a year old. If so, then a new queen should be given to that colony so that the need for workers remains in autumn so that the bee does not become weak. In areas where there is a cold wave, it should be ensured before its onset that the honey bee box contains the required quantity of honey and pollen.
If there is little or no honey in the bee box, then after boiling a solution of sugar and water in the ratio of 50.50, honey should be kept inside the bee box after cooling. So that the bees do not lack food. If the bee box has become old or broken, then they must be repaired by October-November. So that they can be protected from winter. At this time the bee lineages should be kept at the flowerbed. So that more and more nectar and pollen can be collected in less time. The bee box should not be opened when it is too cold because there is a fear of death of baby bees due to cold. Simultaneously, the worker bees start stinging.
Bee management in spring
The spring season is considered the best for beekeeping. At this time, pollen and nectar are available in sufficient quantity in all places, due to which the number of bees doubles. As a result, the production of honey also increases. At this time, the need for care is as much as it is in other seasons. At the end of autumn, the packing of the bee box should be removed gradually. The bee box should be emptied and cleaned thoroughly. If possible, sulfur powder or formic acid should be used in the cracks to kill the mites. A white belly should be put on the bee box from outside, so that the temperature of the bee box can be kept low in the heat coming from outside.
Giving artificial food to bee offspring in spring increases their number and capacity. So that more production can be taken. If the queen has become old, then it should be removed and given a rigid frame so that a new queen can be made who can start the creation of the lineage. If the number of bees has increased in the bee box, then an additional frame with wax should be given. So that bees can make hives. If honey is filled in the hive, then honey should be taken out with a honey removal machine. So that the bees can work with more efficiency. If the number of males has increased, then their number should be controlled by setting up a male trap.
Bee Management in Summer:
Taking care of bees is more important in the summer season. In areas where the temperature exceeds 40°C, the bee box should be kept in a shady place. But the morning sunlight is necessary to fall on the bee boxes, so that the bees can be active from morning and start doing their work. At this time there are some places where berseem, sunflower etc. are cultivated. There it may be honeydew time. from which honey can be produced. At this time the bees need clean and running water. Therefore, proper arrangement of water should be around the honeycomb. Bees should use thatch to avoid the heat. So that hot air cannot enter directly inside the bee box. The extra frame should be taken out and stored properly. To avoid the infestation of waxy moth. If there is no shady place in the honeycomb, then by putting thatch or straw over the box, it should be soaked morning and evening. Due to which the temperature of the bee box remains low.
In the form of artificial food after boiling sugar and water in the ratio of 50:50, it should be kept in a bowl or feeder inside the bee box. Clean and fresh water should be added daily in the bowls of the stand of the bee box. If the number of bees starts increasing more then additional frame should be added.
Bee Management in Rainy Season:
In the rainy season, there is an outbreak of strong rain, wind and enemies like ants, waxy moth, birds. Remove hives to prevent infestation of waxy moths. Clean the floor board and sprinkle sulfur powder. To prevent the bee box of ants, keep the stand in a vessel filled with water and add 2-3 drops of oil to the water. Hives affected by waxy moths, old black hives and moldy hives should be removed and separated.
Crops benefited by Bee pollination
Bee Pollination helps other crops to increase their productivity. Some of the crops that are benefited in Honey bee farming are:
- Fruits & Nuts – Almond, Apple, Apricot, Peach, Strawberry, Citrus and Litchi
- Vegetables – Cabbage, Coriander, Cucumber, Cauliflower, Carrot, Melon, Onion, Pumpkin, Radish and Turnip
- Oilseeds – Sunflower, Mustard, Safflower, Niger, Rape seed and Gingelly
- Forage seeds – Lucerne, Clover
Management of Bees for Pollination
There are certain recommendations to follow for better management of bees:
- Place the hives very near to the field in order to save bee’s energy
- Migrate colonies near the field at 10% flowering
- Place the colonies at 3/ha for Italian bees and 5/ha for Indian bees
- The colonies should have atleast 5 to 6 frame strength of bees with sealed brood cells and young mated queen
- It should have sufficient space for pollen and honey storage
Pests & Diseases in Bee Farming and their Control Measures
The common pests found in Honey Bee Farming are:
- Wax moths
- Wax beetles
- Tracheal mites
- The parasitic mite Varroa destructor
- Bee mites
- Brood mites
Some ways to protect Bee colonies from pests are:
- Apply less harmful or low concentration pesticides
- Avoid dust formulation
- Avoid spraying of pesticides during flowering stage as it could increase the mortality rate of foraging bees
- Apply pesticides during evening when there is no forage activity
- Shift the bee colonies temporarily when heavy spray is required
- Use biological methods instead of chemical methods
The main diseases found in Honey bee farming are:
- Nosema disease
- European foulbrood disease
- American foulbrood
- Sac brood disease (SBV)
- Thai sac brood virus (TSBV)
- Chalk brood disease
- Stone brood disease
There are many reasons for the cause of diseases and abnormalities in the Honey bees and it is advisable to diagnose the exact cause before taking up any control measures. Some of the management techniques to follow to control these diseases are:
- The selected site should be dry, shady, open, clean and properly maintained & hygienic
- Isolate the infected bees from the healthy ones and any abnormality or change in behavior should be corrected immediately
- Avoid migration when disease symptoms are noticed
- Reduce the use of antibiotics for disease control as could contaminate the honey
- Use shaking method to remove contaminated bees and burn them completely
- Supply proper food to the bees for keeping them healthy
- Sterilization of the combs & the equipments should be done when necessary
- Bee colonies should have good prolific Queens and the queens should be caged for 15 days to create broodlessness
Harvesting of Bee products
The honey from the frames is removed only when it is fully capped and smokes are used to remove combs. The bees are first removed from the combs by brushing away or shaking the hive or a high volume, low pressure forced air Bee blower is used.
The main bee products are – Honey, Bee wax, Royal jelly, Bee venom, Propolis & Pollen. Honey is extracted at the end of a flowering season only from super combs using honey extractor equipment. After extracting the honey, it can be stored in many forms and it involves granulation, re-liquifying granulated honey, fermentation, etc. in the post extracting process.
Beekeeping is an important agribusiness in India that promises good returns to the farmers and it also increases agricultural productivity. It is a good source of income for the farmers and a good training and trials are equally important for a successful honey bee farm.