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Honeybee Farming

Honeybee Swarming:

In the third year when the queen gets older, her body gives out a chemical stimulus to the workers to build a few rearing cells for queens. She lays one fertilized egg in each of such brood cells. The larvae then feed on royal jelly (saliva of workers). After that they turn into pupae and then into queens. The first queen develop from the brood cells and kills the remaining ones. Now the old queen proceed to swarming along with a mixture of workers of all ages and leaves the old hive to develop a colony at some new location. The new queen in the old hive takes to mating flight with the drones and returns to the same hive.

Methods of Bee keeping

Indigenous method:

Many villagers make fixed types of hives in rectangular spaces in the walls or movable types of hives in wooden boxes or earthen pitchers. The traditional beekeepers catch clustered swarms from trees, bushes, etc. and transfer them to the above-mentioned spaces. After sometime when the honey is produced, the bees are driven away from the comb generally by smoking the hive. Then the comb is cut away and the honey is squeezed out with the help of a piece of large meshed cloth.



In this type of beekeeping the small scale farmers provides protection for the bee colony in exchange for periodic harvests of honey and bee wax. This protection includes providing a hole in a wall, or attaching a clay pot or a basket to a tree branch so that bees can colonize it. This enables to harvest honey without destroying the colony. But in this method honey is not available on a constant basis.

Modern hives:

The modern bee hive is made up of a series of square or oblong boxes without tops or bottoms. These boxes are set one above the other. This hive has the floor at the end, and a crown board at the top, and a roof over all. Inside these boxes, wooden frames are vertically hung parallel to each other. The wooden frames are filled with sheets of wax foundation and combs are built by the bees on the wax foundation. The only entrance to the hive is below the large bottom box (brood chamber). The queen is usually confined to the brood chamber. The boxes are called “supers” and are used for storage of honey.



The queen is prohibited from going to the supers by the “queen excluder’’ that allows only the workers to move. More advanced forms of beekeeping hive importantly makes it easier to harvest bee products and can be moved with greater ease, for example to provide pollination services for fruit crops. It enables more efficient management and commonly allows for higher yields and more regular supply of bee products for the market.

Catching a Swarm:

Swarm is an old queen along with massive population of workers flying to start a new hive. Swarms are collected from where they are settled. Some kind of a container is needed to collect the bees. The container is usually a straw basket with a lid, usually known as skep.



Hiving a Swarm

It is the process in which the gathered swarm is moved to the hive to build up the colony and produce honey. It is operated in two ways:

i) Traditional method

In this method the hive is set up with brood chamber filled with its number of frames. Each frame has a full sheet of wax foundation and there is a crown board and roof at the top. A sloping board with white sheet is set against the entrance of the hive. Bees in the skep (basket) are knocked out of it on to the slope. The nature of the bees to move upwards onto the dark, moves them to the hive through the entrance.


ii) Quick method

In quick method the crown board and frames of the hive are taken off and the entrance is closed. The skep is closely united with the hive and the bees are transferred into the brood chamber from the top. The frames containing the wax foundation are placed in the hive. The crown board is put back in its position and the entrance is now opened. The queen enters the hive and sugar syrup must be fed to the swarm. This feeding help the bees to settle down to work in their new home.



Bee Pasturage:

The plants that yield nectar and pollen for bees are collectively termed “bee pasturage”. The fruit trees, ornamental plants and forest trees are considered important bee pasturage. Nectar is the sweet secretion of the flowers and it is raw material for honey. The nearby flora is very essential for choosing the location of the apiary. It is best to choose more nectar-yielding plants such as neem, jamun etc. in the surroundings. Plants like cherry, sheesham, coconut and guava are good source of both nectar and pollen. Best choice of pollen yielding plants are maize, rose and sorghum.



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