Allied Agri Apiculture

Buzz-ing Info about Apiculture – Unfolding vector and nectar

We are very much aware about the concept “Survival of the fittest“, Do you have any idea about survival due to the tiniest ? Before you jump into a conclusion, let me give you some other cues. These creatures are yellow brown in color, they are known for their stinging behavior and also they are the largest producer of honey and wax. Yes, you got it right ! It’s “honey bee”.

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years left to live.” this reveals the fact that about 80% of the world’s pollinating insects are honey bees, ensuring food security. Now we can understand the importance of 5-15 mm sized Bees and our role in protecting them. Technically beekeeping is termed as Apiculture and the place where the bees are reared is called an Apiary and the person who pursue these activities is known as Apiarist or simply Bee Keeper.

Featured in Image –Arunprakash

The different kinds of honey bees are:

  1. Indian or eastern bee       –       Apis cerana indica
  2. Italian bee                        –       Apis mellifera
  3. Little bee                          –       Apis florea
  4. Rock bee                          –       Apis dorsata
  5. Sting-less bee                   –      Trigona iridipennis


Bees are social insects living in colonies.  A Bee hive is the structure inhabited by honey bees and divided among themselves based upon their status and work they do. A colony consists of a queen, few hundred drones and several thousand workers. There is division of labor and specialization in the performance of various functions like Queen bee, Worker bees and drones. Let’s look into that in detail.

The Royal being

The eggs laid by the Queen ensures existence of bee population over the generations. There is usually a single queen per hive. If the queen dies, emergency queen takes the place. New queen are selected from adult females who are fed with a special diet of royal jelly for a larval period of 5 days. This royal jelly is made up of mandibular secretions and honey that enables the adult female worker to develop into a fertile queen. Queen also regulate the activities of other bees by producing a pheromone called Queen Substance.

queen bee
                                               Queen cell

Queen bees can be identified by its gigantic figure and pointed abdomen. They are perfect females capable for reproduction. Unlike workers who are also females but are not involved in the progeny generation due to their underdeveloped female features. The queens are placed in a special cup shaped cells in the lower edge of the combs. The major distinction between the emergency queen and a queen is its quality of larval diet.


queen with worker
                        Italian Queen bee with Workers

Benevolent employees

Bees that do all the works of colony irrespective of any expectation are labelled as worker bees. And the bees that we witness usually belong to this group. These bees are females that are not sexually developed. These workaholics are subdivided among themselves as nurse bees, attendants and Field bees. Nurse bees are those who feed the larvae until they are old enough to fend for themselves. The bees that clean the old cells, takes care of the queen’s and young drone’s needs and caps the cells are called attendants. Field bees are involved in gathering of pollen and nectar as bee bread and create propolis using its saliva, beeswax and other plant sources. This propolis is used as glue to seal the cracks and crevices of the combs.


worker collecting pollen
  Worker bee collecting pollen


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Potent labourer

Large blunt ended abdomen is the prominent feature of the drones; in addition they have large compound eyes. Male honey bees are otherwise called Drones. Several centenary drones occupy each hive. These drones are developed from unfertilized eggs, since the fertilized egg develops into workers. These drones are nurtured inside a dome shaped cell with a central hole.

The drones mate with the queen to continue the bee clan. Pollen and nectar serves as the staple food for honey bees. The protein and vitamin requirements are satisfied by pollen whereas the water and sugar requirements are met out by the consumption of nectar.         

Honey to money        

Different types of beehives are pot hive, Madhusagar hive, house hive, single walled and double walled Dadant hives, British standard hive, Langstroth hive, Jeolikote hive and Newton hive. Of all these types, the one designed by Newton is the most popular in South India. Langstroth hives are suited for rearing Italian bees. Newton’s hives, BIS hives and Marthandam hives are suited for rearing Indian bees. 

 Marthandam hive (Indian bee - Apis cerana indica)
    Marthandam hive (Indian bees)

A typical hive setup consists of Top cover, Super chamber, brood chamber and Bottom board. The bottom board is the place where the hive is set up. The queen lays the egg in a box called ‘super chamber’ and the swarm is raised by the workers in the ‘brood chamber’ allocated for brood raising. The supers can be removed and passed through a honey extractor, which extract the honey and the comb remains intact. Moreover these combs can be reused. It is advisable to use smoke while harvesting honey as it disrupts its flight and reduce stinging.

  –  Sushma Balasubramanian, Horticulture student.

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