Beekeeping Farming is the art of rearing honey bees for economic benefits and other purposes. Beekeeping Farming is also known as Apiculture. It is a livestock farming venture that is completely sustainable with great income potentials. Beekeeping is easy to start, requires very little capital compared to other agricultural projects and can be from home. Bees do not require feeding as they provide their own food all year round. Commercialization of Beekeeping is yet untapped.
WHAT ARE BEES-
Bees are flying insect commonly known as agents of pollination which produce honey and other products. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen. Bee’s pollination is very important both ecologically and commercially.
A bee colony accommodates about 100,000 honey bees, made up of three castes of two sexes, male and female.
The queen bee (female) lays all the eggs, the workers perform all the activities in the colony, while the drones (males) fertilize the virgin queen during her mating flight after which they die.
The queen and drones do not sting. The worker bee sting in defence of the colony and die after operation.
Worker bee alert other bees to the direction and distance of sources of nectar and pollen by waggle dance. Bees also tend to be aggressive when there is no nectar flow at night time and during windy days or periods of low temperature.
CHARACTERISTICS OF BEES
- Bee’s thorax have three segment and each has a pair of legs. The number of segments is different in males and females. The females usually have twelve segments while male usually have thirteen.
- The Abdomen has nine segments and its last three are modified into a sting.
- Majority have pollen baskets on their hind legs used in collecting pollen.
- The female bees have a segmented abdominal plate divided into two half-plates.
- Its mouthparts have both a pair of mandibles for chewing and a long proboscis for sucking nectar.
- The wings of a bee are wings synchronized in flight and smaller hind wings are connected to forewings by a row of hooks.
- Adult bees range in size from about 2mm to 4cm.
BEES PRODUCTS AND USES
Bee’s products are used extensively in Industries, Medicine, and Food processing and Natural Medicine for a lot of uses.
Common Bee products include Honey, Beeswax, Propolis, Pollen and Royal Jelly.
- Honey: has been known to have some chemical properties like bacteria, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidants and expectorant properties.
Honey is used as a sweetening agent for children’s drugs, treatment f sore throat cough, hay fever, burns and is nutritional supplement for children, athletes and people suffering from diabetes.
Honey is also used in Bakery, Food processing and Beverage Industry because of its sweetness which is preferred over processed sugars.
It is also employed in the production of facial cleansers, lotion and creams in the Cosmetic Industry.
- Beeswax: Is gotten from honey bee’s body. It is a wax-like with much economic benefits.
Beeswax is used in food processing industries as an addictive and making of chewing gum, lip balm, lip gloss, hand cream, moisturizers, eye shadow, blush, eye liners, shoe and furniture polish and candles. It is good raw material in the Skin Care & Cosmetic. Beeswax economic uses is over 100 industries and have ready market locally and internationally.
- Propolis: This is also called Bee Glue. It is a gummy substance collected by bees from leaves, sap, and buds of some trees. Propolis is used in the pharmaceutical industry as an antibiotic and antifungal agent. Medically, it is used to treat inflammation, viral diseases, ulcers, skin burns and scars.
- Pollen: Is the bee’s food. It is used in some expensive dietary supplements due to its valuable medicinal properties.
- Royal Jelly: also called Bee’s Milk. This is the queen bee food and is produced by the worker bees. It is rich in vitamin B. It is used in Beverages Industry and has high medicinal value.
- Honey Bee Venom also called Apitoxin: Is secreted by bees as to repel intruders and attackers from getting into its colony. It is a defensive weapon against predators. It is secreted by the Worker bees who defend the colony stored in their abdomen and this is responsible for the bee’s painful sting. Bee Venom is used in medicine for treatment of rheumatism and other join diseases due to its anti- inflammatory properties.
TYPES OF BEE
There are over 20,000 known species of Bees.
Let’s discuss the 11 common Bee Species.
- Honey Bee-
Honey Bee belongs to genus Apis popularly known as producer of honey. They are distinguished by the storage and production of honey and construction of nests from wax. There sizes is between 10-15mm. There colors are golden yellow with brown stripes.
They feed on nectar and pollen. Pollen is rich source of protein for the honey bees. Proteins from pollen is broken down to amino acid needed for their health.
Nectar is collected by worker bees as a source of water and carbohydrates.
When honey bees collect nectar and pollen, Pollination takes place. The pollen and nectar collected is used to produce honey which is stored in the honeycombs in the nest. Honey is used as food during winter.
Honey bees build their nest on trees, sometimes they can even be found in Chimneys and attics. Honey bees can live for many years. They cluster together during winter and warm up the beehive. Stored honey is used to produce body heat.
There are 3 Common kinds of Honey Bees which are Western Honey Bee, European Dark Bee, and Killer Bees.
- Western Honey Bee
Western Honey Bee also called European Honey Bee is known as Apis mellifera. Apis means “bee” and “mellifera” means “honey-bearing”.
It is most commonly domesticated insects. It is major species breed by beekeepers for both honey production and pollination.
Western Honey Bee has size range from 10mm- 15mm and has golden yellow with dark brown bands.
Worker Bee collect pollen and nectar used in honey production. Western Honey Bee are the most important pollinators from agriculture. They are usually attacked by predators like pests, colony collapse disorder and disease.
Western Honey Bee has queen bee, many workers and a smaller number of drones. Each colony is made up of tens of thousands of bees. Individuals in the colony communicate using odour and dances as signal.
They live in every continent except Antartica.
b)European Dark Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera)
This is another subspecies of honey bee. European dark bee is domesticated in Europe, hives were brought to North America in the colonial era.
The European Dark Bee is characterized with a stocky body, sparse abdominal and abundant thoracal hair brown in color.
Color: Straw yellow with thick black bands.
They feed on pollen and nectar from flowers and use them to produce honey. The produced honey is stored in the hive, and used as food during winter times.
They are very aggressive and dangerous. Its hybrid are defensive and are known to sting people for no apparent reason. They have excellent flight strength even in winter season.
The European Dark Bee builds nests in the crevices of trees, roof eaves and attics.
- c) Killer Bee:
This is used to describe Africanized Honey Bee. It is produced by cross breeding African Honey Bee with several European Honey Bees. It originated from Brazil mainly to increase honey production. It has spread to South America and some parts of North America.
Colour: Golden Yellow with dark brown bands.
The workers collect pollen and nectar used to feed other members of the colony. Under suitable conditions, Africanized Colonies outperform European Honey Bee colonies. They can work in conditions that would often keep European bees hive-bound. They have been noted as superior honey producers. It has been confirmed in some parts in Florida that it honey production is higher.
Also, they have higher resistance to several health issues. They are more resistant to fungal diseases like Chalkbrood, parasites such as Varroa destructor and even colony –collapse disorder.
Killer bees respond faster to disturbance and are much more defensive than other bees. Studies have shown it can chase a person for up to 1km, and have killed around 1000 humans. The victims of their attack receive ten times more stings than from European Honey Bees. The sting of a killer bee is no more potent than a sting of any other honey bee, but they tend to attack in greater numbers which can be deadly for people allergic to bee venom. But they can only sting once.
European hive usually becomes Africanized through cross-breeding during a new queen’s mating flight. It has shown that Africanized drones are greater in numbers, faster and stronger than European drones. Because of that, they can-outcompete European drones during mating flights. The result of their mating is almost always Africanizes offspring.
Killer bees have smaller colonies and they nest in places in boxes, crates, abandoned cars and tires. If you encounter a nest near your home or in a strange place, you might be dealing with killer bees.
Bumble bees have round bodies covered in soft hair called pile. Because of the pile they appear and feel fuzzy. Their coloration often consists of contrasting bands of color. Some species don’t build nests but steal the nest from another colony by killing them. Those bumble bees are called cuckoo bees. Nesting bumble bee can be differentiated from cuckoo bee by the form of the female hind leg. Female nesting bumble bee has a pollen basket, a bare shiny area surrounded by hairs used to transport pollen. Female cuckoo bee has hind leg completely hairy, and pollen grains are transported by being wedged among the hairs.
- Color: Black with yellow bands
- Size: 10 – 23 mm
Bumble bee has a specialized long and hairy tongue (proboscis) used for sucking up nectar. When bumble bee is flying or resting, the proboscis is kept folded under the head. The advantage of having a long tongue is that they can collect nectar from a wider range of flowers than a bee with a short tongue.
Worker bees collect nectar and pollen from flowers and bring it to the hive so it can be used as food for colony members and larvae.
Many bumble bees are social insects that form colonies with one queen. The colonies are usually smaller than honey bee colonies (mostly 50 – 400 individuals).
Bumble bees are very aggressive when they are defending their nest. Invaders who disturbed their nest are even chased for long distances. Since their stingers are not barbed, they can sting multiple times. A sting of a bumble bee is one of the most painful stings; swelling can last for several days.
Bumble bees are mainly found in higher altitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. However, they can also be found in South America, New Zealand, and Tasmania. Because of their ability to regulate their body temperature, using internal mechanisms of “shivering” and radiative cooling from the abdomen, they can be found in colder climates where other bees are absent.
The size of their nest varies depending on the species of bumble bee. Many species build nest underground, often using old rodent burrows or sheltered places. They avoid places with direct sunlight that could result in overheating. Some species also build their nest above the ground near decks and patios, sometimes even underneath roof beams or inside attics.
Unlike organized hexagonal combs of honey bees, bumble bee cells are clustered together without order. Dead bees or larvae are removed by workers and that way they help prevent diseases.
The origin of their name comes from their nesting behavior. Almost all species burrow into hard plant material such as bamboo or dead wood.
Many kinds of bees in this genus are very similar, and it is difficult to tell them apart. They are usually all black or have some yellow or white on a primarily black body. Some species show only subtle differences, such as details of the male genitalia.
Carpenter bees are often confused with bumblebees by non-professionals. The easiest way to differentiate them is to notice that most carpenter bees have a shiny abdomen, while the abdomen of a bumblebee is completely covered with dense hair. Venation of wings is characteristic for carpenter bees. Many males have larger eyes than females which is related to their mating behavior.
- Color: Blue – black
- Size: Large carpenter bees 13 – 30 mm
- Small carpenter bees 3 – 15 mm
Carpenter bees are important pollinators of shallow flowers because they have short mouthparts. For example, orphium and maypop are not pollinated by any other insect. Many carpenter bees “rob” nectar from the flower by slitting the sides of flowers. Such behavior occurs because they cannot reach the nectar from long-tubed flowers. Unfortunately, by “robbing” the nectar, they don’t come in contact with flower anthers, so there is no pollination. As a result, some plants have reduced seed and fruit production, while others developed defense mechanisms against robbing.
These bees are considered solitary bees, even though some species have simple social nests. Male bees are often hovering near nests and might approach nearby animals. However, males are harmless as they don’t have a stinger. Female bees have stingers, but they might only sting if provoked. Carpenter bees are one of the calmer kinds of bees.
Carpenter bees make nests by tunneling into bamboo, wood, and other similar hard plant materials. Tunneling is done by body vibration while rasping their mandibles against the surface. Each nest has one entrance and might have several branches. The entrance is often perfectly circular hole located on the underside of a bench, tree limb, or a beam. Despite the wood drilling, they do not eat wood but discard it or use it for building partitions between cells. The tunnel is both a brood nursery and pollen/nectar storage.
Mining bees are solitary bees, commonly known as Andrena. They are present worldwide, except Oceania and South America.
Males are usually smaller and more slender than females. Females can be recognized by the possession of broad, velvety areas between the compound eyes and the antennal bases.
- Color: Brown to black with whitish abdominal hair bands
- Size: 8 – 17 mm
Mining bees are kinds of bees that forage in the spring. Some species begin foraging in February. Foraging preferences differ depending on the species; some feed only from preferred flower species.
Usually, they are not dangerous and rarely sting. Mining bees are amazing pollinators, and the use of pesticides in lawns to get rid of them is not recommended.
Mining bees build their nests underground, in sandy soil. They often nest near or under shrubs to be protected from frost and heat.
Nests usually have one small, main tunnel and several branches, each containing one egg cell. They emerge from the underground cells when the temperature ranges from 20 °C to 30°C. After mating females seek a site for their nest burrows where they construct small cells. Inside them, the female puts a ball of pollen mixed with nectar so that young bee can have a food supply. After laying an egg in the cell, female seals it. The nests don’t damage the soil or gardens and can be recognized by the tumulus marking the entrance of the nest. The tumulus is a mound of earth that resembles worm casts.
As the name itself says, these bees are attracted to salt in human sweat.
- Color: Metallic blue, bronze or green
- Size: 3 – 23 mm
All kinds of bees from this family are pollen feeders, and some are important pollinators of crops. They often feed in swarms.
Some scientists believe that these bees have a more complex detox and digestive system because of their ability to metabolize grains from a wide range of flowers.
Sweat bees are likely to sting if disturbed, but the sting is minor. They mass-provision their young, meaning that a mass of pollen and nectar placed in the cell with an egg is all the food larva will get.
Most of these bees nest in the ground, though some nest in the wood. Some members of the colony are more solitary than others and might live in individual cells away from the rest of the colony.
- Color: Black with thin yellow bands
- Size: 5 – 24mm
The Megachile family is a group of solitary bees, often called leafcutter bees or leafcutting bees. The name originates from the specific behavior of certain species within Megachile. Most kinds of bees within this family chew leaves or petals into fragments and use them in building the nest. But, some bees neatly cut pieces of leaves or petals and use them to build their nests without chewing them first. Some believe that leaf discs help prevent the extreme drying of the larva’s food supply. This is one of the largest genera of bees, including almost 1500 kinds of bees.
Leafcutter bees are beneficial pollinators who pollinate fruits, vegetables, and wildflowers. Some commercial growers use these bees for pollination of onions, blueberries, and carrots.
Leafcutter bees don’t defend their nest aggressively and will sting only if handled.
Usually, leafcutter bees build their nests in burrows in the ground, hallowed wood, or even plant stems. Some of these bees even build nests in holes in concrete walls and other man-made objects.
Nests contain long columns of cells, and cells are constructed continuously from the deepest part of the tunnel outwards.
The female places one egg in each cell with a supply of food, usually pollen. Later she builds a cap and seals off the cell walls. After larva hatches from the egg, it consumes the food supply, and in the spring an adult bee emerges.
- Color: Black with pale stripes of hair
- Size: 0.7 – 1.5cm
The Colletidae are a family of bees who is often referred to as polyester bees or plasterer bees. Their name originates from the fact that they smooth out the walls of their brood cells with their secretions. They apply the secretions with their mouthparts, and it dries into a lining similar to cellophane. The surprising fact is that created brood cell lining protects from fungal attacks, and also is waterproof!
Colletidae have slender, hairy body and greatly vary in size.
Many believed that this family of bees is the most primitive because of the similarities of their mouthparts to Crabronidae. Crabronidae are a family of wasps who are thought to be ancestors of bees. Recent molecular studies have disapproved this hypothesis and place Melittidae as the most primitive group of bees.
Some bees from this family collect honey only from certain types of flowers, they are specialized pollinators. Colletidae are important pollinators and are only active for three to five weeks. They carry pollen in a pocket on their hind legs.
These bees are not aggressive and won’t attack unless provoked.
Colletidae usually live solitary and build their nests in the ground. They can be found all over the world, but most species live in Australia and South America. Over 50% of bees living in Australia belong to this family.
Advantages of Beekeeping:
Bees pollinate flowering plants and thereby maintain the ecosystem.
Bees pollinate cultivated crops
People everywhere know and like honey, a valuable energetic and healthy food and income source.
- Beeswax and other products
Beeswax, propolis, pollen and royal jelly. These products have many uses, and can be used to create income.
- Few resources are needed
Beekeeping is feasible even for people with minimal resources.
Bees are obtained from the wild.
Equipment and tools can be made locally.
Bees do not need the beekeeper to feed them.
- Land ownership not essential
Hives can be placed anywhere convenient, and so beekeeping does not use up valuable land.
Bees collect nectar and pollen wherever they can find it, so wild, cultivated and
Wasteland areas all have value for beekeeping.
- Nectar and pollen are otherwise not harvested
Nectar and pollen are not used by other livestock: only bees harvest these
Resources, so there is no competition with other crops. Without bees these
Valuable resources could not be harvested.
- Different sectors and trades benefit from a strong beekeeping industry
Other local traders benefit by making hives and equipment, and from using and
Selling the products.
- Beekeeping encourages ecological awareness
Beekeepers have a financial reason to conserve the environment: ensuring that Flowers are available and bees are protected.
- Everybody can be a beekeeper
Bees can be kept by people of all ages.
Bees do not need daily care and beekeeping can be done when other work allows.
- Beekeeping is benign and environmentally friendly
Beekeeping generates income without destroying habitat.
Encouraging beekeeping encourages the maintenance of biodiversity.
Photo Credit: ecofriend