Apiculture or beekeeping is a kind of occupation that involves nurturing and looking after bees for the purpose of acquiring bee products like beeswax, honey, royal jelly, flower pollen and bee pollen. Apiculture in general implies the maintenance of bees belonging to the genus apis that are honeybees. However, in apiculture, even bees that are not likely to sting are kept for preservation. For example, stingless bees like Melipona are nurtured for honey in the bee colonies maintained by humans. The person who has been given the responsibility to collect honey from bees is called an apiarist or a beekeeper. Their primary duties are to collect flower pollen, bee pollen, honey and beeswax for the purpose of fertilizing crops and to breed bees in order to sell them to other apiarists. An added interesting fact about apiculture is that the location where bees are kept for livelihood is called a bee yard or an apiary.
Products obtained in apiculture
The role of bee products is immense in our daily lives as most of the products that we depend on, like honey and wax, are derived from bees. Bee products are instrumental in supplying human beings with the necessary nutrition and sustaining their daily diet. Moreover, their role in generating an income and a source of livelihood for human beings is a fact that cannot be ignored. In this manner, it can be said that bees provide a lot of ecological services to human beings. So it can be safely assumed that if there were no bees, the environment alongwith its humans would simply fall apart.
The paramount products that come from bees are honey and wax. But bees are also known to produce other useful materials like flower pollen, bee pollen and royal jelly. In many ways, bee products are greatly useful because they can be used in combination with other materials, which in turn increases their credibility as products. The quality of bee products gets enhanced when they come into conjunction with other products and thus that increases their marketing value.
The chief bee products that form a vital part of human being’s livelihood and daily diet are:
Honey: As we all know, bees create honey from the nectar that they derive from flowers. However, not many are aware of the fact that they store the honey in a honey crop, which is an organ that resembles a stomach. The creation of honey takes a collaborative effort by bees. When one bee returns to the colony, the other bee takes the nectar from flowers and distributes it evenly all over the wax honeycomb. Doing so ensures that the water dissipates fast from the honeycomb. The other bee performs another fundamental duty of spreading invertase which is a kind of enzyme. This enzyme helps to bring the sugar molecules to an adjustable level. Once the sugar molecules become thick they are trapped with a wax crap inside a cell.
Pollen: The small male reproduction units that are produced in the anthers of higher flowering plants are called pollen grains.
Propolis: Propolis is an alternative term for bee glue which is a product of the mixture of resins and beeswax accumulated from various twigs and plants. Propolis is used for sealing cracks, shrinking the size of honey combs and to line nest cavities. This product is also known to have germ-destroying properties and a useful disinfectant.
Royal Jelly: This is a bee product that is infused with a lot of protein and is provided as food to larvae. Royal jelly works as a source of growth food for the queen bee as it helps her grow significantly bigger than most other bees in her colony. Royal jelly is produced from a combination of honey and dissolved pollen and contains amino acids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, sugars and fats.
Venom: Venom is made up of an intricate combination of proteins and is used in the bee sting. Contemporary research has proved that venom extracted from bees can be useful to human beings.
There are several challenges that are associated with the prospect of apiculture that can affect the health and durability of the colony. The main problems associated with apiculture are the loss of habitat, agro-chemicals, pathogens and most importantly, climate change. Also, there are several other problems related to cheap marketing that leads to alternatives to bee products. There is also a lack of awareness of policies and knowledge related to the practice of beekeeping which is one of the chief impediments of apiculture.
Importance of Beekeeping
An interesting fact about apiculture and beekeeping is that the products derived from bees’ pollination forms an integral part of the food that we eat everyday.
For the purpose of beverage brewing and sporadically serving in special occasions, honey is one of the most preferred products. In some cultural ceremonies, honey is often served as a special product to guests for showing them high regard and making them feel important. In ancient Egypt, honey was used as a beauty product as well as a medicinal supplement. In particular African cultures, honey is often provided as a source of dowry. Honey is highly regarded as a wholesome and delectable food product. It can be either consumed as a whole or used as a supplement with other products. Bee brood is an important bee product that works as an important source of food for impoverished children. On the other hand, other bee products like royal jelly and pollen are highly preferred for their rich protein value.
Apiculture is an important occupation that involves taking care of bees and nurturing them for livelihood.
Beekeeping has an important significance because some of the most useful products like honey, wax and royal jelly come from bees.
Several bee products like propolis and venom are used for medicinal purposes.
Apiculture is an important source of income for various contributors and shareholders in business as bee products can be marketed quite easily without any extra cost.