An Introduction to Beekeeping

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Beekeeping (or apiculture, from Latin apis, a bee) is the practice of intentional maintenance of honeybee hives by humans.

A  beekeeper  may keep bees in order to collect honey and beeswax, or for the purpose of pollinating crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary. 

History of beekeeping 

Beekeeping is one of the oldest forms of food production. Some of the earliest evidence of beekeeping is from rock painting, dating to around 13,000 BC. It was particularly well developed in Egypt and was discussed by the Roman writers Virgil, Gaius Julius Hyginus, Varro and Columella. 

Traditionally beekeeping was done for the bees’ honey harvest, although nowadays crop pollination service can often provide a greater part of a commercial beekeeper’s income. Other hive products are pollen, royal jelly and propolis, which are also used for nutritional and medicinal purposes, and wax which is used in candle making, cosmetics, wood polish and for modelling. The modern use of hive products has not changed much. 

Western honeybees are not native to the Americas. American, Australian and New Zealand colonists imported honeybees from Europe, partly for honey and partly for their usefulness as pollinators. The first honey bee species imported were likely European dark bees. Later italian bees, carniolan honeybees and caucasian bees were added. 

Western honeybees were also brought to the Primorsky Krai in Russia by Ukrainian settlers around 1850s. These Russian honey bees that are similar to the Carniolan bee were imported into the US in 1990. The Russian honey bee has shown to be more resistant to the bee parasites, Varroa destructor and Acarapis woodi. 

Prior to the 1980s, most US hobby beekeepers were farmers or relatives of a farmer, lived in rural areas, and kept bees with techniques passed down for generations. The arrival of tracheal mites in the 1980s and varroa mites and small hive beetles in the 1990s removed most of these beekeepers because they did not know how to deal with the new parasites and their bees died. 

In Asia and Mexico other species of honeybees exist which are used by local beekeepers for honey and beeswax. 

Types of beekeepers 

There are several types of beekeepers: 

  • Hobbyists — have a different day job but find beekeeping fun as just a hobby. 
  • Sideliners — have other income but moonlight as “beekeepers” for extra money. 
  • Commercial — beekeeping is their only source of income. 

The modern hobby beekeeper is more likely to be a suburbanite: he or she tends to be a member of an active bee club, and is well-versed on modern techniques. 

Some southern US and southern hemisphere (New Zealand) beekeepers keep bees primarily to raise queens and package bees for sale. In the US, northern beekeepers can buy early spring queens and 3- or 4-pound packages of live worker bees from the South to replenish hives that die out during the winter. 

In cold climates commercial beekeepers have to migrate with the seasons, hauling their hives on trucks to gentler southern climates for better wintering and early spring build-up. Many make “nucs” (small starter or nucleus colonies) for sale or replenishment of their own losses during the early spring. In the US some may pollinate squash or cucumbers in Florida or make early honey from citrus groves in Florida, Texas or California. The largest demand for pollination comes from the almond groves in California. As spring moves northward so do the beekeepers, to supply bees for tree fruits, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries and later vegetables. Some commercial beekeepers alternate between pollination service and honey production but usually cannot do both at the same time. 

In the Northern Hemisphere, beekeepers usually harvest honey from July until September, though in warmer climates the season can be longer. The rest of the year is spent keeping the hive free of pests and disease, and ensuring that the bee colony has room in the hive to expand. Success for the hobbyist also depends on locating the apiary so bees have a good nectar source and pollen source throughout the year. 

In the Southern Hemisphere, beekeeping is an all-the-year-round enterprise, although in cooler areas (to the south of Australia and New Zealand) the activity may be minimal in the winter (May to August). Consequently, the movement of commercial hives is more localised in these areas. 

Here Something Related With Bees : 

Bee Species 

Bee Species
Bee Species

There are actually seven recognized species of honey bee within the genus Apis, with the most popular and well-known being the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera). Out of the 20,000 different kinds of bees, we often recognize honey bees as the most charismatic representative of the species. However, there are a few other close relatives of the honey bee deserving of our interest and respect. Mason bees (Osmia spp.), the gentle cousins of the honey bee, are also fantastically efficient pollinators native to North America. 

Leafcutter bees (Megachilidae spp.) are hard-working, more solitary pollinators with a specialization in carrying pollen for alfalfa, an important crop for livestock. The bumblebee (Bombus spp.), a hairier and more robust cousin of honey bees, are another popular species often associated with spring flowers and lazy, sunny days. All of these species of bees are unique but share one thing in common – they provide incredibly significant ecosystem services with far-reaching effects on their respective habitats and environments. 

Wild Bees 

Wild Bees
Wild Bee

Bees are in danger of disappearing from our environment. With the expansion of human development, wild bees have been losing their natural habitats as the land transitions into industrial agriculture. Additionally, warming climate conditions have caused major shifts in plant communities, and therefore the behavior and survival of bees.

Conte and Navajas (2008) studied the impacts of climate change on European honey bees and found that climate change could have a significant impact on factors related to stress and disease, and a combination of human-induced environmental changes could hinder the ability of bees to adapt to these changes. In other words, many bee populations are facing a large amount of endangerment at a greater rate than they can adjust to, despite their great adaptability.

In their assessment of pollinator contributions to agricultural crops, Bartomeus et al. (2014) mentioned that the loss of wild bees can partially be mitigated by the presence of managed honey bees; however, wild populations are major contributors and landscape-scale actions should be taken to restore wild bee populations. Ultimately, both domestic and wild bees are important pollinators for industrial agriculture as well as wild ecosystems, and they need our help. 

Bees & Pesticides 

Pesticide use is another major factor that is putting bee populations at risk. Pesticides are meant to keep “bad” bugs, weeds, and fungi out of our crops. However, these pesticides can have unintentional negative side effects on the “good” bugs, including honey bees and other important pollinators. One type of widely used pesticide is called “neonicotinoid”, and it’s causing major issues for both commercial bred honey bees as well as wild bee populations.

When a crop is treated with neonicotinoid chemicals, it becomes toxic to any insects that interacts with it, even non-target species. In an article from Mercola, Dr. Mercola discusses how neonicotinoid pesticides are used on many garden-store plants, even ones that are considered to be “bee-friendly plants”. He goes on to say that negative effects on bees can be mitigated by encouraging manufacturers to stop producing toxic neonictinoids and instead focus on using alternative organic weed and pest control options. 

Varroa Mite 

Varroa Mite
Varroa Mites

Yet another major factor threatening honey bees is the varroa mite (Varroa destructor). This very small, round mite is a terror for honey bees and it can destroy entire colonies if left untreated. A verroa mite outbreak can mean devastating economic impacts for beekeepers, and it is considered to be one of the primary factors involved in CCD.

In a recent press release from University of Maryland, honey bee researchers found that varroa mite infestations are more of a serious problem than previously thought, and infestations appear to be worse in stationary hives. What’s worse is that varroa mites can act as a vector for severe viruses and they can spread diseases between hives. Only appropriate and consistent treatment and care provided by beekeepers can keep colonies alive, so it’s vitally important that beekeepers persistently maintain their bees and stay up-to-date on the latest treatment efforts. Unfortunately, there are many cases where CCD still occurs, despite the beekeeper’s best actions for care and treatment. 

What is Pollination?  

Honey bees are super pollinators, implying that they are truly adept at helping blossoms and plants imitate. At the point when a Honey bees lands on the blossom of a plant, dust from the bloom’s male conceptive organ (the stamen) will adhere to the hairs on the honey bee’s body. The Honey bees will at that point convey that dust to another bloom where it interacts with the blossom’s female regenerative organ (the pistil), along these lines making the open door for treatment.

It’s a success win relationship; the honey bee gets significant supplements from the blossom’s nectar and dust, while the bloom gets an opportunity at propagation. (Different honey bees utilize a dust bin.) honey bees are generalists, implying that they aren’t too particular about which blossoms they decide to visit. This is extraordinary for the honey bee, since they aren’t limited by the need to discover one explicit kind of blossom. This can likewise be advantageous to plants since honey bees will probably visit a more extensive assortment of blossoms over a more drawn out searching period.  

Do you appreciate eating new natural products, for example, strawberries, blueberries, and apples? Are solid dietary staples, for example, broccoli, nuts, and asparagus part of your ordinary dinners? Without Honey bees and other honey bee species, you can bid farewell to most of new, nutritious food choices. Actually, if not for honey bees, around 33% of the food that people eat would not be accessible! On the off chance that that is not reason enough to catch your advantage and worry for honey bees, consider the wide scope of biological system benefits that honey bees give.

Do you appreciate being out in nature while taking in the outside air and inundating yourself in the lovely landscape? Without the administrations of honey bees and different pollinators, our reality would look totally different. Pollinator-subordinate plants would be not able to repeat and spread over the scene. Consider the significance of blossoming plants and organic product trees for different creepy crawlies, fowls, and natural life. Without these wellsprings of food, herbivores and frugivores (plant and organic product eating creatures) would make some harder memories discovering food. This thusly would affect the remainder of the natural pecking order, including carnivores and omnivores, for example, wolves, bears, and people. Because of these extensive, amazing associations, the Honey Bee is a significant supporter of biological systems.  

Why Bees Are Important  

Honey Bees can assume a huge job in creating the most excellent products of the soil that we develop and devour. In 2000, Honey Bee fertilization in the United States agrarian industry was evaluated to have an estimation of $14.6 billion, which is a 36.3% expansion from earlier years (Morse and Calderone 2000). Be that as it may, nectar creation is esteemed around $200 million, which is unimaginably little in the examination. Out of the 115 driving horticultural yield plants around the world, 75% or 87 of them rely upon, or if nothing else advantage from creature fertilization (Klein et al. 2007).

The staying 28 harvests depend on self-fertilization or wind (Klein et al. 2007). This is a gigantic bit of significant harvests that require honey bees and other creature pollinators for their proliferation! Is it true that you are as yet asking why Honey Bee are so significant for developing and creating the food that you eat? Bartomeus et al. (2014) took a gander at how pollinators conveyed advantages to various kinds of regular yields that we expend. They found that if honey bees contribute in the creation of foods grown from the ground, the quality improves and the yield will develop by up to 71% (Bartomeus et al. 2014). At the end of the day, honey bees can help make crops look and taste better, yet in addition help increment the sum that can be developed at a given time. 

Why Are Bees Dying? 

Introduction to Beekeeping - Bees Dying
Bees Dying

Unfortunately, bees have been dying at a terrifying rate. Koh et al. (2016) performed a large-scale analysis for the trends and status of wild bees in the United States, with a focus on correlations with impacts on pollination services. They found that, between 2008 and 2013, “bee abundance declined across 23% of US land area” (Koh et al. 2016). Furthermore, their research indicated that farmers in the US may experience increased costs and destabilization in crop production in accordance with the decline of pollinators (Koh et al. 2016). Unfortunately, domestic bees are showing declining trends as well.

According to Bee Informed, 44% of beekeeper colonies were lost in the United States between 2015 and 2016. These trends, based on a survey looking at commercial as well as small-scale beekeepers, appear to be getting worse. We know that we need bees, and we know that they’re in trouble – so why are bees dying? 


The answer isn’t simple. There are a number of factors that can result in the decline of bee populations and Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. CCD occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony suddenly disappears, leaving behind the queen and essentially collapsing or breaking up the colony. This is a major concern, because while bees are declining, the demand for pollinator-dependent crops is increasing.

In Marla Spivak’s TED Talk discussion “Why bees are disappearing”, she mentions that there has been a 300% increase in crop production that requires bee pollination. This list includes a large variety of fruits and vegetables that we buy every day at the grocery store, as well as crops, such as alfalfa, that feed the livestock that we also consume.

She goes on to mention that having bees naturally pollinate crops results in much higher quality fruit than “unnatural” pollination, such as manually distributing pollen by hand. Despite the massive significance of goods and services that bees provide for us, we now have only half of the number of managed hives in the United States than we did in 1945. This means that the number of managed beehives has declined while crop demand has increased, creating a major imbalance for agriculture as well as ecosystems. Why? 

Helping the Honey Bee 

There is hope! If we dedicate more time an resources to studying bees, spreading awareness, and working toward positive coexistence with bees, we can help both wild and domesticated populations. Brown and Paxton (2009) assessed the major threats to bee diversity and presented a list of strategies for actions we can take to help bees.

Some examples of these strategies include the minimization of habitat loss and degradation, adding bee-friendly features to agricultural areas, increasing studies on bees to answer more questions about their decline, and promoting public education (Brown and Paxton 2009).

Saving honey bees and other bee species starts with collaborating wild bee habitat restoration efforts, improving methods for keeping domesticated honey bees, reducing the use of harmful pesticides, and spreading knowledge about the importance of bees to ecosystems and our daily lives.

Whether you practice beekeeping, enjoy eating food from pollinator-dependent sources, or simply love honey bees – there’s always a reason to help bees! 



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