Beekeeping (Apiculture) Startup Guide

Beekeeping (or apiculture, from Latin apis, a bee) is the practice of intentional maintenance of honeybee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans. A beekeeper (or apiarist) 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.

What is it? – It is something you can do as an extension to your farming activities.It involves keeping bees to get honey and wax as a final product.

What can I earn? (gross, net) – The more the number of bees you keep, the more the quantity of honey produced and hence more the profit. What is the market for it? – Honey and wax have the potential of being sold at a local market as well as in the national market because of their demand in the household as well as the industrial sector.

What is required? (raw materials, skills, technology) – A little bit of space, a queen bee and some flowers around. Your family can run this business. But you can have a larger farm by adding as you go.

Can someone help? (training, tech. support, loans, raw material, and marketing) Yes (see related post at the bottom) The Enterprise The enterprise is based on the conversion of nectar of flowers into honey by the honeybees. The worker honeybee collect the nectar from the flowers over a period of time and convert it into edible honey. The honeybees store the final product in the combs of the hive. The conversion of nectar into honey by the honeybees is by a biological process.

The harvesting of honey from the forest has been in practice since long and huge profits from this enterprise promoted rearing bees in the farms. In the recent past this practice has been adopted gradually by rural communities while diversifying their agricultural practices. Market Potential The products of be keeping are honey and wax. These are the sources of income from local market and can be marketed from the local haat to a big market. Honey has been used extensively by the pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies as an ingredient of medicines and cosmetic.

Most of the medicines of ayurveda are honey based. Honey is also used as an astringent. Even at an household level ,honey is consumed daily due to its medicinal properties as has been recommended in the traditional medicinal system. It is also considered beneficial for diabetic patients. Wax is another product from this enterprise which has a flourishing rural market due to its different uses.

Production of honey from farmlands can be a secondary activity for farmers as it requires less time as compared with other activities and can be carried out by women and children in a house. Technology Beekeeping can be initiated by individuals or groups .It requires limited capital and minimum dependence on foreign technology. Its manufacturing process is described below.

Production / Manufacturing Process

Honey is a delicious and highly nutritious food .By the traditional methods of honey hunting, many wild colonies of bees are destroyed. This can be prevented by raising bees in boxes producing honey at home.

Following preparations are required for starting beekeeping:

Hive: It is a simple long box covered with a number of slats on top. The rough measurements of the box should be around 100 cm of length , 45 cm of width and 25 cm in height. The box should be 2 cm thick and the hive must be glued and screwed together with entrance holes of 1 cm wide. The slats (top bars ) must be as long as the hive is wide in order to fit across and the thickness of about 1.5 cm is sufficient to support a heavy honey comb. The width of 3.3 cm needs to be given to give the bees the natural spacing they need to easily build one comb to each separate top bar.

Smoker: It is the second important piece of equipment. This can be made from a small tin. We use the smoker to protect ourselves from bee stings and to control the bees. Cloth: to protect our eyes and nose from stings at the time of work near the apiary. Knife: It is used to loosen the top bars and to cut of the honey bars.

Feather: To sweep the bees from the comb.

Queen Excluder:

Match box: Protection Protection from sunlight is important in order to maintain an optimum temperature in the hive, also care should be taken to prevent against overcrowding and drought by taking suitable in order to make this enterprise sucessful. Apart from this, there are pests like ants, bee pirates (a kind of wasp ), wax moth, honey badger, spiders and large hive beetles which also attack honey combs over a period of time so it is necessary to take adequate protection against them.

Production Flowchart

  1. Prepare a home for the bees by taking a single longer box covered by a number of slats . this is called the hive. 2. Before putting a swarm or even a colony in a prepared hive ,it would be beneficial to make the hive smell familiar by rubbing old brown comb pieces.
  2.  Capture the Queen bee from a natural swarm hanging from a tree into a match box.
  3. Place the queen under a hive and let it spread its special scent to attract the other bees and then place the swarm into the hive.
  4. Feed the hived swarm for a few weeks by diluting a half cup of white sugar in half a cup of hot water as this will also help in building the comb along with the bars rapidly. 6. Harvest the honey by smoking the bees off the parts which needs to be harvested and cut the combs carefully.

Harvests are normally possible during and shortly after the two main flowering seasons , namely October/November and February-June .A ripe comb is light in colour and filled with honey. More than half of the honey cells on both the sides are sealed with wax.

Financial Viability

1. Social Viability- A beekeeper need not own land to realise a cash crop from this part time rural enterprise. Honey and beeswax can be produced from an area of little agricultural value The Honey bee does not compete for resources with any other agricultural enterprise. Beekeeping can be initiated by either individuals or groups. It allows the farmer to earn additional income to support his family.

2. Legal/Statutory Requirements- Since the unit proposed can be set up at the household level, with no major investment, no legal formalities are required for setting up the unit.

3. Environmental Viability – Beekeeping has positive ecological consequences .Bees play an important role in the pollination of many flowering plants , thus increasing the yield of certain crops such as beans, melons, sunflowers and various fruits. Honey is a delicious and highly nutritious food. By the traditional method of honey hunting many wild colonies of bees are destroyed. This can be prevented by raising bees in boxes and producing honey at home.

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