For adopting bee keeping on commercial scale, at least two and more year experience required. A minimum unit of 300 bee colonies should be established in a apiary.
The key to success of beekeeping lies mainly in following things:
- Selection of good apiary site
- Selection of Good Bee.
- Proper management
1. Selection of good apiary site
While selecting apiary site following points should be taken into consideration:
2. Selection of Good Bee
- Fresh running water should be available near the apiary
- The apiary site should have natural or artificial wind breaks to protect bees from strong/chilly wind
- The site should receive early morning and afternoon sunshine, during summer provision of shade should be made.
- Area where the bee colonies are to be placed should be rich in bee flora providing forage for most parts of the year. There should be high density of honey follow sources near the apiary site.
- The apiary site should not be marshy and there should not be other commercial apiaries with in 2to 3 km from the apiary site.
Beekeeping can be taken up with either of the two domesticated honey bees. i.e. with Indian bee Apis cerana or exotic bee Apis mellifera depending upon floral conditions and capability of investment. Apis cerana is more frugal and does well even in areas, which are not very rich in bee flora. Farmers who are incapable of doing more investment I bee keeping with Apis mellifera can take bee keeping with apis cerana since it needs less investment. In south India Apis cerana beekeeping is successful.
3. Proper Management
Success of beekeeping also depends upon proper understanding of the bee behavior and manipulation the colonies accordingly. For manipulation of colonies in modern hives, as per needs of the bees, examination of bee colonies is frequently required.
All the management practices being undertaken in modern beekeeping revolve around following four basic principle of bee management:
- Ensuring build-up of foraging force of bees at right time for collection surplus nectar.
- Providing space for storage and ripening of nectar into honey.
- Removing/Extracting honey from the hive at right time.
- Preparing the colonies to withstand any period of dearth and menace of bee enemies.
To undertake these management practices it is important to know annual cycle or seasonal activities of a bee colony which may vary according to forage and environmental conditions of different areas.
Best period for starting bee keeping
Best period for starting bee keeping is the spring when the disease free bee colonies can be purchased from leading reputed bee keepers and or Government agencies. The purchased colonies should have at least four frames full of bees with brood, good queen and sufficient amount of food stores (nectar/honey and pollen).
Placement of bee colonies in the apiary:
The colonies are generally placed in rows. The hives should be placed about 1-2 meters apart from each other with 3-4 meters distance between row to row. Entrances of the hives should preferably face east direction.
Examination of bee colonies:
The aim of examination of a bee colony is to check its working and to determine what are its requirements at a particular time, since these requirements vary during different parts of the annual cycle of a bee colony. When a bee colony is opened, see the following.
How to handle bee colonies ?
Whether a bee colony has sufficient food or it needs artificial feeding. Each colony should invariably have 2-5 of stores all the time.
Whether the queen is present or not ? if present whether laying satisfactory. If absent colony needs a new queen.
Whether there are sufficient combs for egg laying by the queen and to store nectar or not. If not provide more frames.
Whether there are any of the enemies or diseases in the colony. If yes properly manage them. It is to be mentioned here that honey bees do not like much of interference since it affects their normal working. Therefore, the colonies should be disturbed as little as possible. It is suggested that during build-up period of the colony it is examined every week whereas during off seasons only once or twice a month.
Maintenance of Apiary records:
- Hive should not be opened on a windy, chilly or very hot day.
- Before handling bee colonies it is better to wear a bee veil.
- Donít wear black or dark clothing as bees are furious to black colour.
- Donít use perfume or strong smelling hair oils before handling the bees.
- Donít be shaky while handling bees. Take care and avoid quick and jerky movements.
- If a bee strings, do not get nervous. Gently pull out the sting with the hive tool from the base and not from the top.
- Donít crush any bee while taking out or putting the frames back in a colony.
- Be careful about queen and avoid crushing it.
Keep the record of every colony and enter your observations whenever the colony is examined. These observations can be recorded in the following Performa.
Bee flora and floral calendars:
Before starting bee keeping it is very important to know the availability of flora to bees in the surrounding area. For this purpose floral calendar of nectar and pollen yielding plants of the area is prepared.
Floral calendar is a time table which depicts period of bloom as well as whether source of nectar of pollen or of both. To prepare a floral calendar of an area a general survey of flowering plants is done. Data are collected on initiation and cessation of bloom of the flora within flight range of honey bee colonies. Observations are made during different day hours whether these are being visited by honey bees for collection nectar or pollen or both. Such information is gathered for whole year. The floral calendars thus prepared will indicate honey flow and death period of the flora and the management of the colonies can be done accordingly.
Honey bees gather nectar and pollen from plants as their food. The bees, however, do not visit all the plants since they have their own floral preference depending upon the availability of different amounts of nectar and pollen. The plants from which bees collect nectar and pollen are known as bee flora or bee plants or bee forage or bee pasturage. The flora of an area is characteristic of its agro climatic conditions and as such varies from place to place.
A beekeeper should know nectar potentialities of a locality where he is going to set up an apiary. For this purpose following information should be collected:
List of bee flora with I radius of 1-2km of the locality.
Whether a particular flora is source of nectar or pollen or both.
How long is the blooming period ?
How long is the dearth period during a year ?
Whether a plants is major source can be determined by intensity of bee visits. How much flora is available is determined by the density of plants.
For collecting surplus honey of about 20kg one colony will need access to 100 blooming trees or 2-4acre of crop of honey flow sources. It is not possible, rather economical to undertake large scale plantation exclusively for honey bees. However, such plantations can be undertaken under social forestry and agro forestry by landing flora having multipurpose uses.
Honey bees do not collect surplus hone from every nee flora. Broadly speaking bee flora can be classified as:
Important honey flow sources in India.
Build-up flora: The flora which is used by bee colonies to build-up their strength.
Honey flow flora: When colonies are strong, they exploit available rich nectar sources to collect surplus honey.
Dearth period flora: Flora used by bees for colony survival.
Acacia, Bottle brush, berseem, Buckwheat, Cirtrus, Cotton, Eucalyptus, Jamun, Litchi, Plectranthus (chichri), Rubber, Robinia, Sunflower, Sarson, Shisham, Soapnut, Toon, Toria.
Important honey flow sources in South India
Cotton, Rubber and Sunflower.
Beekeeping as a income generation business
Honey bees are domesticated in India primarily for honey production. Apart from honey, bees provide several others valuable hive products such as pollen, propolis, royal jelly, bees wax and bee venom. Mass queen rearing is another potential income generating activity. In addition to this bees provide valuable pollination service which benefits both farmers and beekeepers. For commercial bee keeping, there is a need to diversify the output of the apiary by producing different bee products. From this enterprise beekeepers can get net returns of about IRS 500 per colony under stationery and IRS 1500 per beehive under migratory bee keeping. However, the net returns are likely to vary from year to year, area to area and management skills.