NEET Biology Domestication of animals For enhancement of Food production Apiculture


Category : NEET


Apiculture is the science of rearing honeybees for obtaining honey, wax and venom. It is a profitable money-making hobby. It forms a cottage industry, when carried out on a large scale.


Three species of honey bees are commonly found in india vig. Apis indica (The small indian bee). Apis florea (The little indian bee) and. Apis dorsata (the giant bee) other important species include Apis milifera (the common European bee) and apis adamsoni (the African bee) In india the commonly domesticated species are Apis milifera and Apis Indica.

(i) Honeybee-Apis: Like termites, honeybees are social insects known for producing honey and beeswax, and for living in very highly organized colonies. These feed upon nectar and pollen of flowers, possess “sucking and chewing” mouth parts, and undergo complete metamorphosis. Each colony has its own nest called honeycomb or beehive. The hive is thirty to ninety centimeters. It comprises thousands of small, symmetrical and hexagonal chambers, called “cells”, made up of beeswax. Karl Marx Commented that the architectural arrangement of “cells” in a beehive puts the best of human- made architecture to shame. The ''cells'' are used for storing honey and pollen breads, as well as, for rearing the brood.

Beehives are found upon tree branches, or hanging from ceilings of old abandoned houses, or inside caves and hollow stems of old trees.

(ii) Division of labour and polymorphism: Each beehive harbours a colony of thousands of polymorphic bees belonging to a single family. The polymorphic individuals are of three main types (i) a single queen (fertile female) (ii) one to a few hundred drones (fertile males) and (iii) thousands (up to 60,000) of worker bees (sterile females).

(a) The queen: She is the Supreme Being in a colony, because all the main activities in the hive revolve around her. She normally lives for about five years, and does nothing except laying eggs. That is why, she possesses immensely developed ovaries, a large abdomen, and a body which is nearly five times larger and about three times heavier than that of a worker bee. In other features, she is degenerate, having small wings and poorly developed legs, mouth parts, sting, brain, etc. She has no salivary or wax glands. Hence she can either produce honey or wax nor can she fly out of the hive. She therefore, depends for food completely upon worker bees. Although she can use her sting, but it is mainly used as an ovipositor for laying eggs. She lays about fifteen lac of eggs during her lifetime. Normally one to three thousand eggs are per day. Egg-laying is a seasonal activity occurring during winters and spring in our country.

(b) The drones: These are smaller, but stouter than the queen, with broader abdomen, longer appendages, and larger wings, brain and eyes. These also lack salivary and wax glands, and depend for food upon worker bees. These even lack a sting and, hence have no defense. Their sole function is to fertilize the queen. Hence, during breeding season, these are well-fed by the workers, and can be often seen flying near the hive, enjoying or chasing and mating with young queens in fight. After breeding season, in the following summer, the drones are neglected and eventually driven out of the hive to die of hunger and heat.

(c) The workers: These are considerably darker and smaller, and most robust with strongest mouth parts and well- developed wings. Their body is densely covered with hair like bristles. These possess four pairs of pocket-like wax- secreting glands upon ventral surface of second to fifth abdominal segments. The wax is chewed by means of mandibles and, then used in constructing new ''cells'' in the colony. The legs of worker bees are modified to collect pollen. When these bees visit flowers for sucking nectar, numerous pollen grains stick to their bristles and mouth parts. The legs are equipped with "pollen brushes" of stiff bristles which brush off the pollen from various parts of body and collect these in two ''pollen baskets''. The latter are pit like concavities upon dorsal surface of the wide tibia of hind legs (= metathoracic legs).

Due to their heavy-duty life, the worker bees live only for two to four months. Each worker bee spends its life in tireless tail. We can say that it has no childhood, because as it becomes an adult bee, it starts working for the colony from the very first day. Its functions change with age. Accordingly, the worker bees of a hive fall under age-groups or castes as follows:

(1) Scavenger or Sanitary bees: For the first three days, each worker bee acts as a scavenger, cleaning the wall and floors of abandoned, empty ''cells'' of the colony for reuse.

(2) House or Nurse bees: From the fourth day onwards, each worker bee feeds the earlier brood, like a foster mother, with a mixture of honey and pollen. At times, it flies out but only around the hive just to become familiar with its surroundings. From the seventh day, the maxillary glands of a worker bee begin to function. These secrete ''royal jelly'' with which the bee now starts feeding young larvae, the queen and those older larvae which are destined to develop into future queens, From the twelfth to the eighteenth day, each worker bee develops wax glands and works upon the architecture of the hive. Wax is secreted in the form of thin scales. Middle legs scrap the scales, bring these in between the mandibles for chewing and mixing with saliva and, then, mould and use these in constructing new ''cells''. These bees also repair old cells, filling, cementing and varnishing cracks and crevices of these cells by means of a bee-glue called propolis. Propolis is prepared from resins collected by the bees from.

(iii) Life History: Queen Lays about 2,000 eggs a day. The eggs are laid in the comb, one in each cell. They hatch out into larvae in three days. They are fed on royal jelly for a few days. But the larva which develops into the queen will be fed on royal jelly continuously.

During breeding the queen bee flies in the air along with the males. This phenomenon is called nuptial flight. During nuptial flight the queen copulates with a male Copulation occurs in the air. Then the bees return to the comb and the queen starts laying eggs.

(iv) Bee-Hive: Honey bee is one of the few domesticated insects. In modern days bee colonies are reared in artificial wooden boxes for maximum production of honey and wax. The artificial box where the bee colony is maintained and managed is called hive. The place where hives are kept and managed is called apiary.

There are different models of hive; but the most common model in use is Newton's hive designed by Rev. Fr. Newton. The hive is in the form of a wooden stand. The hive has two chambers. One is the upper and the second one is the lower. The upper chamber is called super or honey chamber. The lower chamber is called brood chamber. The queen is kept in the brood chamber. The two chambers are separated by a wire grid called queen excluder. The holes in the queen excluder are so smaller that they prevent the entry of the queen into the super, but allows other bees to pass through. As a result the eggs are laid only in the brood chamber. The super chamber is meant for storing honey.

The brood chamber is placed on a bottom board. This board extends forwards as an alighting board on which the bees rest for some time before entering the hive. The brood chamber has an entrance through which the bees enter. The super chamber has a ventilator. The super is covered ovary by a roof.

Honey mainly consist of monosaccharides

Both the chambers contain about 7 rectangular wooden frames called comb frames arranged vertically. The vertical frames are filled with comb foundation sheet.  These sheets are made of wax and contain hexagonal imprints. They are detachable. They are available in the market.

A set of bees with a queen is introduced into a hive. They construct the comb in the vertical frames starting from the comb foundation sheets. Honey is collected in the combs of super and the eggs, larvae and the young ones are kept in the combs of brood chamber. When all the cells are filled with honey, the cells are capped or closed by a thin layer of wax.

(v) Honey extraction: Honey is stored in combs of super frames. It is extracted from the comb by a simple machine called honey extractor. It has a drum containing a rack inside to hold the super frames. It is made to rotate by a set of two-gear wheels, operated by a handle.

The super frames are removed from the hive. The caps of the comb cells are cut off by a double edged knife. Then the frames are fixed in the rack and the rack is made to rotate by operating the handle. The honey is forced out into the drum from the comb cells. From the drum the honey is collected in vessels through an exit present in the drum.

            (vi) Location of Apiary

  • The hives should be set, in places where there are plenty of flowering plants.
  • They should be placed in shady places.
  • The place should be neat and clean and free from any obnoxious smell.
  • There should be clean drinking water nearby because each bee colony requires two glasses of water per day for their survival


            (vii) Protection

  • Honey bees should be protected from garden lizard and snakes.
  • Black ants steal honey. So water should be placed at the base of the stand.
  • Wasps kill honey bees. So protection should be provided against wasps.
  • Wax-moth damages the combs. So the combs must be '' protected from wax-moths.


(viii) Formation of honey: Honey is a viscous sugary fluid formed from the nectar within the stomach of the honey bee. The bees visit flower, suck the nectar, store it in the stomach and return to the hive. In the stomach the nectar is processed. It is regurgitated and swallowed repeatedly for about 240 times. Then the processed nectar is deposited in the comb cells. This processed nectar is called unripe honey or green honey. It contains about 80% water. The unripe honey is converted into ripe honey by evaporation. This evaporation is facilitated by two methods. They are 1. The workers set up an additional circulation of air in the comb by beating their wings and 2. The worker bees carry nectar several times from one cell to another until the unripe honey becomes viscous. The ripe honey contains less than 20% water. When the honey becomes ripe, the cells are capped or closed. The honey in the unsealed cell is unripe.

(ix) Chemical composition: Honey contains nearly 80 different substances of importance to human beings. The important chemicals are as follows:

  • It contains a large amount of glucose or fructose.
  • It contains proteins as well as fats.
  • The vitamins present in honey are and K.
  • A variety of enzymes are present in honey. They include diastase, inverses, saccharide, catalase peroxidases and lipases.
  • It contains many organic acids. The most important organic acid is formic acid; other organic acids are malic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid and oxalic acid.
  • It contains a variety of minerals like Ca, Na, K, Mg, Fe, Cl, P, S etc.

            (x) Value of Honey - Honey is a valuable food and medicine. Its uses are summarised below:

(a) As it has high content of sugar it is used as a sweetener. Until last century before the discovery of sugar throughout most of human history honey was the only available sweetener.

(b) Honey has a high calorific value. One kilogram of honey has 3350 calories while 1 litre of milk contains only 310 calories.

            (c) Many athletes drink honey before games and between events in order to restore the energy used up.

            (d) Doctors prescribe honey for old people and children who need to build up their strength quickly.

(e) Honey contains biogenic stimulators i.e., substances that heighten the activity of organisms. It has been proved that cuttings from trees, planted after treatment in a solution of honey, take root easily and grow well.

            (f) Honey is used to heal wounds.

            (g) It is used to cause free urination.

            (h) It is used as a means of easing the belly.

            (i) It is a good tonic for ulcer.

            (j) It facilitates digestion and improves appetite.

            (k) It prevents a running nose. It is a sure remedy for cold and cough.

            (l) Honey is used as medicines for children to treat complaints of the liver.

(m) Honey is good for kidney patients. People suffering from kidney stones are a divised to take a table spoon of honey, lemon-juice and olive oil.


(xi) Bee wax: Bee wax is secreted by the abdominal gland of bees. It is used for the construction of comb. It is an yellowish solid insoluble in water. It is used for the preparation of paints, varnishes, candles, models, etc. It is used as a ground substance for the preparation of ointments, creams etc. It has many industrial uses. It is used extensively in engineering industries, railways, textiles, leather industries etc.


(xii) Bee venom: Bee venom is secreted by the poison-glands of stings. Bee venom is a curative toxin in humans. It is transparent and it has a bitter burning taste. It is acidic in nature. It contains formic acid, histamine, tryptophan, sulphur, many proteins, volatile oils, enzymes like hyaluronidase and phospholipase and magnesium phosphate. Clinically it has the following uses:

            (a) It is an active remedy for rheumatism.

(b) It is used to treat certain eye diseases like keratoconjunctivitis (inflammation of cornea), iris (inflammation of iris), iridocytis (inflammation of iris and ciliary body).

            (c) It is used to cure skin diseases like tuberculosis of the skin.

            (d) The cholesterol level in blood falls by the treatment of bee venom.

            (e) Bee venom controls blood pressure.

(xiii) Waggle Dance of Honeybees: The exploitation of food sources by honeybees has been studied for decades, but its study still offers important challenges for zoologists. One of these areas of research concerns the extent to which honeybees communicate the location of food to other bees.

The communication of honeybees is remarkable because the so-called language of the bees uses a variety of stimuli to impart information about the environment. Karl von Frisch, famous ethnologist, carried out many detailed bee experiments in the 1940 and was able to determine that when a foraging bee returns to the hive, it performs a waggle dance.

  • Waggle Dance: A worker bee that returns to a hive laden with nectar and pollen stimulates other experienced workers to leave the hive and visit productive pollen and nectar sources. Inexperienced workers are also recruited to leave the hive and search for nectar and pollen, but stronger stimuli are needed to elicit their searching behavior. In the darkness of the hive, the incoming bee performs what researchers have described as a round dance and a waggle dance. Throughout the dancing, other workers contact the dancing bee with their antennae and mouth parts, picking up the odors associated with pollen, nectar and other objects in the vicinity of the incoming bee's food source.
  • The dance, which indicates the distance and the direction of a food source, has a figure pattern. As the bee moves between the 2 loops of the figure it buzzes noisily and shakes its entire body in so-called waggles. Distance to the food source is believed to the indicated by the number of waggles and or the amount of time taken to complete the straight run. The straight run also indicates the location of the food. Outside the hive, the dance is done on a horizontal surface and the straightaway indicates the exact direction of the food. Inside the hive, the dance is performed on the comb, which is vertical, and the angle of the straightaway to that of the direction of gravity is the same as the angle of the food source to the sun. In other words, a angle to the lefts of vertical means that food is to the left of the sun.

As mentioned, honeybees can use the sun as a compass because their biological clock allows them to compensate for the movement of the sun in the sky. In the dark hive, bees use a combination of the tactile and auditory communication. Through touch, bees can determine the direction and waggles of the dance. Not only the waggles but also the buzzing noises of the dancer tell the distance to the food source.

These observations indicate that bees communicate information regarding distance, direction and kind of food to other bees when returning from a foraging trip. Thus, the exploitation of pollen and nectar is a very efficient process and is one source of evidence of the highly evolved nature of the honeybee colony.

Other Topics

Notes - Apiculture
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