Did you know that the bee is the only insect in the entire world that can produce something that we can eat? So you understand why beekeeping is a very important activity. But what is beekeeping or apiculture and what is it that bees produce? Are all their products edible and useful? Let’s look at answers to all these questions now.
Apiculture and Apiary:
The word ‘apiculture’ comes from the Latin word ‘apis’ meaning bee. So, apiculture or beekeeping is the care and management of honey bees for the production of honey and wax. Bees are bred commercially in apiaries that are areas where a lot of beehives can be placed. Apiaries can be set up in areas where there are sufficient bee pastures which are flora consisting of some wild shrubs, fruit orchards and cultivated crops etc.
Bees are mainly reared for an edible product i.e. honey. Besides that, we also obtain beeswax through beekeeping. Bees produce honey from the sugary secretions of plants. Although honey is an important ingredient in many food dishes, beeswax holds a lot of commercial significance too. It is used in cosmetic and medical industry, as well as a coating for cheese and as a food additive. It is also an ingredient for candles, shoe polish, furniture polish, etc.
Uses of the bee:
As mentioned before, bees are used commercially for obtaining honey and wax. They are also pollinators for many crops. Apart from this, it has been discovered recently that their venom can kill the HIV virus that causes AIDS leaving surrounding cells intact in the human body.
Working of the Beehive:
In a colony, there are 10000 to 60000 bees! But all of them do not collect nectar- there is a strict division of labor. The queen bee lays thousands of eggs that hatch to become the new bees in the hive and are fertilized by the drones. The drone bees are male and their job is only to help in fertilizing the eggs laid by the queen, and the worker bees do the actual work of collecting nectar.
Common varieties of bees:
Common species of honey bees that are reared are Apis dorsata (rock bee), Apis indica (Indian bee), Apis florea (little bee) and Apis mellifera (Italian bee). Note that beekeepers mostly take care of only species whose names start with “Apis”- that is because only these species produce honey.
- Apis dorsata: It is a giant bee and yields about 37 kg of honey per colony.
- Apis indica: It can be easily domesticated and is most commonly used for honey production. The annual yield of honey is 2 to 5 kg per colony.
- Apis florea: It rarely stings and thus honey extraction from its hive is easy. It produces about 1 kg of honey per colony per year.
- Apis mellifera: This species has a very typical dance routine to indicate food availability, and like the little bee, stings less. As the common name suggests, this species is not local. However, because of the high amount of honey produced, it is often reared by beekeepers.
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