Bee-keeping or apiculture is the maintenance of hives of honeybees for the production of honey. It has been an age-old cottage industry. Honey is a food of high nutritive value and also finds use in the indigenous systems of medicine.
Honeybee also produces beeswax, which finds many uses in industry, such as in the preparation of cosmetics and polishes of various kinds. The increased demand of honey has led to large-scale beekeeping practices; it has become an established income generating industry, whether practiced on a small or on a large scale.
Bee-keeping can be practiced in any area where there are sufficient bee pastures of some wild shrubs, fruit orchards and cultivated crops. There are several species of honeybees which can be reared.
Of these, the most common species is Apis indica. Beehives can be kept in one’s courtyard, on the verandah of the house or even on the roof. Bee-keeping is not labour-intensive. Bee-keeping though relatively easy does require some specialised knowledge and there are several organisations that teach bee-keeping.
The following points are important for successful bee-keeping:
- Knowledge of the nature and habits of bees,
- Selection of suitable location for keeping the beehives,
- Catching and hiving of swarms (group of bees),
- Management of beehives during different seasons, and
- Handling and collection of honey and of beeswax.
Bees are the pollinators of many of our crop species (see chapter 2) such as sunflower, Brassica, apple and pear. Keeping beehives in crop fields during flowering period increases pollination efficiency and improves the yield–beneficial both from the point of view of crop yield and honey yield.