Introduction to Honey Bee Farming Project Report:
Maintaining Bee colonies in man-made hives is called Honey Bee Farming or Bee-Keeping. The practice of Honey Bee farming is termed technically as ‘Apiculture’ and the location where these man-made hives are maintained is called an ‘apiary’. Bees are generally farmed for their honey and other products like Bee wax, Propolis, flower pollen, royal jelly, Bee pollen, etc. This practice also produces Bees which are sold by the Beekeepers for income generation. Bee farming was believed to have begun thousands of centuries ago in North Africa. It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 species of wild Bee species around the world. Bee farming is practiced with the social species of Honey Bee variety, which live in colonies. Two widely known varieties of Bees from the Apis genus are Apis Mellifera and Apis cerana. The mellifera species are mostly managed by Bee keepers of Europe and America and hence this species is also known as a Western Honey Bee. The cerana is managed by the Bee keepers of the tropics and is also known as Asiatic Honey Bee. There are two major ways in which these Bees are farmed, they are: the traditional Bee keeping way like the fixed comb hives and the modern Bee keeping techniques like the top-bar hives, horizontal frame hives and the vertical stackable frame hives. This Honey Bee farming project report describes the activities of Bee Keeping and at the end it discusses about the cost involved to maintain a small farm of Bees and the profits linked to it.
Scope and importance
Commercial Bee keeping is possible in India because of a vast forest cover facilitating the presence of nectar and pollen on its grasslands. It is known that 160 million hectares of land is under farming in India out of which 55 million hectares of land is under entomophilous crops that need cross-pollination by Bees or other pollinators. The production of honey is about 10 million tonnes and that of Bee wax is about 10,000 tonnes. So if roughly estimated there is a scope of keeping 200 million Bee colonies in the country which can provide self-employment to over 10 million families of the rural population. Currently, there are 1.8 million colonies in the country and there is a need to expand the area under Honey Bee farming such that the required target is met. With increasing demand for honey in the country as well as in the international market, the potential for Honey Bee farming should be tapped so as to create employment opportunities for the people in the rural areas and generate good income. Honey Bee farming has remained a minor unit of cottage industry and there is being little scientific support and infrastructure provided for this sector. It is important to recognize the demand for Indian honey in the local and international markets and start exploring new ways to increase the production so as to meet the growing demand.
The colony of Bees
Honey Bee belongs to the category of social insects, which dwell in organized groups. While living in these groups they show some typical behavioural traits such as communication, nest construction, defence, division of labour, environmental control etc. These activities among the group make them excellent creatures on earth. A colony of Honey Bees generally has three types of Bees; the workers, drones and a Queen. Each Bee category has its own working structure, but survival and reproduction can happen only when all the Bees work in coordination with each other. The size of the colony is directly responsible for the efficiency of the colony.
- Only one Queen exists for the entire colony.
- The main task of the Queen Bee is reproduction.
- Most of the eggs are laid in spring and early summer.
- Average no. of eggs laid per day are 1500 eggs (include both fertilized and unfertilized).
- Queen can be recognized by her elongated body during the egg-laying period and has short wings. Has a curved stinger and large thorax. Its productive life span is 2-3 years.
- Queen also produces pheromones (gives identity to a Bee colony).
- If fertilized eggs develop new Queens, then these are raised under 3 circumstances: emergency, supersedure and swarming.
- The colonies of Bees prepare a new Queen if the old Queen accidently gets killed, lost or removed.
- Supersedure Queen Bees are better than emergency Queens because they receive sufficient food during development.
- Emergency and supersedure Queens are raised on the comb surface where as Bees produced through swarming are found along the bottom of the frames or in between the gaps in a comb.
- These are the male Bees and are present in large numbers in a colony.
- Present only during late spring and summer.
- The head of the drone Bee is large with eyes meeting at the top of the head. They have no stinger, pollen baskets or wax glands.
- The main task of the drone Bee is to fertilize the Queen and die instantly after mating.
- They depend on the worker Bee for food and are considered to eat 3 times more than the worker Bee.
- Drones never take food from flowers and almost starve during cold weather.
- Bee colonies without the Queen Bee can help the drone Bee stay indefinitely.
- They are the smallest bodied adult Bees in a colony, but are found more in number when compared to the other two.
- These are mainly the female Bees which have no egg laying capacity, but have special structures like the brood food glands, scent glands, wax glands and pollen baskets due to which they perform all the activities of the hive.
- Some activities of the worker Bee involve cleaning and polishing the cells, feed the brood, care the Queen, remove debris, ventilate the hive, handle nectar, build Bee wax etc.
- The life span of a worker Bee is 6 weeks during summer and 6 months during winter.
- This indicates that the colony has been Queen less for several weeks.
- Laying workers are also found in colonies during swarming season, where the Queen is poor.
- They lay 5-15 eggs per cell on the sides instead of at the base and are reared in worker sized cells.
Development cycle of a Bee
All the Bees pass through different stages of growth before becoming adult Bees. These developmental stages are: egg, larvae and pupae. ‘Brood’ is a term used to define all these three stages. It is to be noted that unfertilized eggs turn drones and fertilized eggs become either Queen or workers. Feed or nutrition is most important for female Bees. Solid pattern of the healthy capped worker brood frame can be easily recognized. The areas which are brown in colour, convex and have no punctures are called cappings.
Equipment for the farm
The factors on which the requirement of equipment depends are the size of the farm, the number of colonies, type of honey, etc. The basic farm needs are hive components, protective wear, smoker, hive tool etc. The components of a hive are:
- Hive stand
- Bottom board
- Hive bodies
- Frames and combs
- Queen excluder
- Inner cover
- Outer cover
- Plastic hive equipment
- Hive tool
- Protective wear
Selection of the apiary
There are some recommendations for selecting a good apiary site for a profitable commercial Bee Farming business. These are:
- The site selected should be free from dry leaves and should be cleaned before starting Bee farming so as to avoid accidental fire.
- The land should be far away from power stations, train tracks etc.
- The area should be shaded, but should be able to receive mild sun rays in the early morning and afternoon. Also, it should be easily accessible by road.
- It should have a supply of clean water.
- The area should be protected by wind breaks either naturally or artificially.
- The apiary should have rich Bee flora and should be away from other commercial Bee keeping farms. It is also important to choose a place where there is no risk of dirty chemical water from the industries.
Selection of the Bees
Generally Honey Bees of two varieties are farmed depending upon the availability of resources and the floral conditions of the area. The two varieties are Apis Cerana and Apis mellifera. The success of the farm depends majorly on the quality of Bees selected for the farm especially the Queen Bee. The following can be done to select good Bee colonies;
- Bee colonies should be disease free.
- Queen should have a high egg laying capacity and other Bees should be of the high yielding variety.
- Capturing Bee colonies from natural forest areas can help in getting good quality Bees and increase the chances for excellent further breeding.
Feed for the Bees
The Honey Bee feeds on pollen, nectar, honey and water. These are a source of energy to the insects. Pollen provides the Bees with proteins, vitamins, minerals and fat content, whereas honey provides them with carbohydrates. Emergency feed should always be available at the farm and consists of 15-20 pounds honey from an established colony of Bees. This emergency feed is of utmost importance during the winter and spring seasons. Excess sugar syrup is not recommended as a substitute for feed because it may result in dysentery due to too much moisture. Emergency feed may be combs of honey, dry sugar or sugar candy.
- The hives should be made of locally available light weight wood and should meet the BIS or the ISI specifications. Hives should not be made with unseasoned and heavy wood. Care should be taken not to nail the bottom board with brood chamber. The average no. of colonies per farm should be in the range of 50-100. The row spacing between colonies should be 10 ft and the box spacing should be around 3 ft.
- Cleanliness in the apiary is of utmost importance and any change in the behaviour of Bees should be immediately attended. The colonies should be inspected wearing a protective dress, during the sunny days with temperatures between 20-30˚C and not during cold, windy days. The smoker is used to subdue the Bees. The colonies should be handled very carefully; they should not be jerked or crushed. Healthy and diseased colonies should be handled separately by isolating the diseased colonies.
- Bee farmers should keep fresh water for the Bees in shallow containers all the time because water is needed to maintain the humidity of the colony for incubation of eggs, for feeding Bee bread and for keeping the colony cool during high temperatures.
- The Bees should be provided with 50% sugar syrup during dearth periods when there is no availability of nectar in the area. The syrup should be provided in shallow vessels so that the Bees don’t drown in it. This should be provided in the evening to all the Bee colonies at the same time. Pollen can be made from soya bean, brewer’s yeast, skimmed milk powder, sugar, honey, etc. and is provided to the Bees when there is no adequate pollen available in the area. If there are extra frames in the colony then they should be stored in airtight containers and fumigated regularly. Old dark combs should be removed and burnt.
- While extracting honey, clean and better grade materials should be used and degraded materials should be avoided. Super chambers are highly recommended for honey extraction. Frames with 75% sealed cells containing ripened honey should be selected for extraction. Extraction should be done in a closed area by covering the gate of the colony with branches and twigs to avoid robbing. The extracted super and frames should never be left open at the farm and care should be taken not to spill honey in the apiary.
- Migration of the colonies should be done when there is non-availability of flora in that particular area. The migrated area should be checked and surveyed thoroughly and there should be abundant flora available there. Honey is extracted before migration. The colonies are closed when Bees go inside it in the evening and are packed before migration so as to avoid jerks. Migration is done during the evening and it should be ensured that the destination is reached within 10-12 hours. It is important to place the colonies properly faced in the vehicle and take breaks if the migration is too long.
Colony management during different seasons
The apiary has different rules for management during different seasons and these are mentioned here in detail:
The colony of Bees has to be kept in thick shade during the summer and water has to be provided near the apiary at all times. The temperature of the farm can be regulated by using wet gunny bags to cover the top or by sprinkling water around the colonies during the noon. The entrance of the apiary has to be widened, additional gates have to be included into multi chambered colonies, thin and small sticks between adjacent chambers has to be placed for passage of fresh air. All these can improve ventilation in the farm.
Some activities during the monsoon include clearing the debris, removing the unwanted vegetation, supply of artificial feed like the sugar syrup and pollen, check robbing, putting together weak laying worker colonies and finally control the incidence of pests in the Bee farm.
After the monsoon sufficient space has to be created in the apiary and the strength of the colony has to be increased to stimulate drone brood rearing. The control of pests is recommended and honey extraction should be essentially done before the winter.
The colonies farmed in the hilly areas have to be examined carefully and should be provided with winter packings. Artificial feed is provided to weaker colonies, so as to initiate brood rearing. Windbreaks are installed to protect the colonies from chilling winds and weaker colonies are made to unite with the stronger ones.
When the spring arrives, the colonies are unpacked and cleaned by removing the worn out parts and sufficient space is provided. Extra feed is provided to increase brood rearing and extra frames are raised through comb foundation sheets. The old Queen has to be replaced with new Queen in the colony by mass Queen rearing. During spring, Honey has to be extracted regularly and swarming has to be prevented.
Honey Bee Disease and pest management
There could be innumerable reasons for the cause of disease and abnormalities in Honey Bees. It is advisable to diagnose the exact cause before taking up any control measures. There are some recommended management techniques to follow in order to control or prevent the occurrence of these diseases such as:
- The site selected for apiary should be open, dry and shady.
- Cleaning the place regularly and maintaining proper hygiene.
- Multiplication of Honey Bees should happen only through disease resistant stocks.
- Bee colonies should have good prolific Queens.
- The Queen Bee has to be caged for 15 days to create broodlessness.
- Any abnormality or change in behaviour should be corrected immediately.
- Isolating the Bees with disease from the healthy stock is highly important.
- Proper food supply is important to keep the Bees healthy.
- When disease symptoms are noticed, migration or other activities should be avoided.
- Use shaking method to remove contaminated combs and burn them completely.
- Sterilizing the combs and equipment should be done when necessary.
- Reduce or eliminate the use of antibiotics for disease control as this could cause problem in export of honey due to contamination.
Honey Bees are threatened by pests such as tracheal mites, varroa mites, small hive Beetles, wax moths etc. chemical treatment of these pests is not recommended so as to preserve the quality of raw honey. Some ways to protect Bee colonies from pesticides are:
- Recommending less harmful pesticides or low concentration of pesticides.
- Dust formulations should be avoided.
- Information about the proper use of pesticides can prevent poisoning of Bees.
- Spraying pesticides during flowering of crops can increase the mortality rate of foraging Bees.
- Pesticides can be used in the evening when there is no forage activity.
- When heavy pesticidal spray is required, Bee colonies should be temporarily shifted to other areas else it is recommended to feed the Bees with 200 ml sugar syrup and protect the Bees by a wire screen on the day of spraying.
- Biological methods can also be used instead of chemicals. One such bio-technical method is creating a sticky board that is sprayed with some oily substance and covered with a screen so that when mites fall off the Bees they land at the bottom and stick to the board, the screen then prevents them from crawling back to the Bees.
The most suitable time for removing honey is during the summer when the honey is adequate for the Bees. Some rules for honey extraction are:
- Leave the super with full honey at all times.
- Robbing behaviour is controlled by removing the capped supers before the honey flow stops.
- Removing honey before the goldenrod flow helps to separate the honey by flavour.
- Summer honey is light and mild where as fall honey is dark, rich in flavour and crystallizes rapidly
- The honey from the frames and supers has to be removed only when fully capped.
- Using smoke to remove combs and supers are one technique to extract honey and is expected to add flavor to it.
- A practical way of harvest is to shake or brush away the Bees from the comb.
- Another method of removing supers from large colonies is to use high volume, low-pressure forced air Bee blower.
- After extraction, honey can be stored in many forms and the post extract processing involves granulation, re-liquefying granulated honey, fermentation etc.
Cost and profit analysis of Honey Bee Farming / Honey Bee Farming Project Report
The cost analysis is made on 50 Bee colonies and the approximate values have been presented here for reference. The values may change depending on the location and availability. It is important to understand that there could be some extra costs involved for land and maintenance, which have not Been included into this estimation, but have to be definitely needed for practical implementation of the project.
Assumptions of Honey Bee Farmig Project Report:
No. of Bee hives: 50.
Cost of comb foundation sheet: Rs 700/kg.
Cost of sugar: 45/kg.
Cost of nucleus box: Rs 1200 for Cerana and Rs 2000 for Mellifera.
Cost of hive stand: Rs 300.
Cost of honey extractor: Rs 5000/ piece for cerana and Rs 7000/piece for mellifera.
Labour cost per day: Rs 250.
Cost of cerana Bee colony: Rs 2500.
Cost of mellifera Bee colony: Rs 3500.
Initial capital investment:
|Material||Investment in Rs (cerana)||Investment in Rs (mellifera)|
|Cost of 50 Bee colonies||1,25,000.00||1,75,000.00|
|Cost of 25 nucleus box||30,000.00||50,000.00|
|Cost of honey extractor||5000.00||7000.00|
|Cost of 50 Bee hives||50,000.00||1,00,000.00|
|Cost of 300 ant wells||6000.00||6000.00|
|Cost of 75 feeder frames @ Rs 100/ frame for cerana and Rs 120/frame for mellifera||7500.00||9000.00|
|Cost of farm equipment (hive tool, swarm net, Bee veil, smoker, wire embedder, storage drums and other miscellaneous)||5000.00||8000.00|
|Cost of 75 hive stands|
|Cost of 100 Queen gates||4000.00||–|
|Cost of 50 Queen Bee excluder sheet||–||10,000.00|
|Material and labour||Investment in Rs (cerana)||Investment in Rs (mellifera)|
|Cost of comb foundation sheet||2800.00||21,000.00|
|Cost of sugar for feeding @ 100 kg for cerana and 200 kg for mellifera||4500.00||9000.00|
|Charges for survival and pollination||10,000.00||25,000.00|
|Labour charges for 300 days||75,000.00||75,000.00|
Honey produced from cerana is: 500 kgs.
Honey produced from mellifera is: 1250 kg.
Cost of raw honey per kg: Rs 200 (average).
Wax produced from cerana is: 4 kg.
Wax produced from mellifera is: 10 kg
Cost of Bee wax per kg: Rs 300 (average).
25 Honey Bee divisions can be sold as:
Cerana: Rs 62,500 (Rs 2500 for per division).
Mellifera: Rs 87,500 (Rs 3500/division).
The total income from cerana Bee farming: Rs (1, 00,000 + 1200 + 62,500) = Rs 1, 63,700.
The total income from Mellifera Bee farming: Rs (2, 50,000 + 3000 + 87,500) = Rs 3. 40,500.
The profit earned on working capital or recurring capital is:
Cerana farming: Rs 71,400.
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Mellifera farming: Rs 2, 10,500.
Loans and subsidies for Honey Bee Farming
The National Bee Board (NBB) in association with NABARD has schemes for financing the Bee keepers in India and also provides assistance for women‘s employment in these sectors. It is recommended to visit the National Bee Board website or the nearest office to understand the nature and terms or assistance being provided for Bee Farming in India.
Read: Raising Free Range Chickens.