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Beekeeping, Comparison of bees, wasps and hornets Practice Problems and FAQs

We all like honey, don't we? Well, it is sweet and delicious. So what's not to like about it? Do you know where this honey comes from? Yes, honey is produced by honeybees. They obtain nectar from the flower and bring it back to their hives where they pass it mouth to mouth from one indoor bee to another reducing its moisture content, finally producing honey. 

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Honey is high in its nutritive value, it contains vitamins, water, minerals and the important enzymes which supplies energy to the body. It is majorly used as a sweetening agent containing two sugars namely, dextrose and levulose. It is also a demanding resource in the medicine industry. Do honey bees produce something other than honey? Yes, you are correct. They also produce beeswax. Beeswax is obtained from honeycomb. It is mostly used to obtain polishes, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.

With increasing population and industrial generation, the demands of products obtained from bees are increasing. Is there any effective way in which honey and beeswax production can be increased? In this way we can protect the different species of honey bees also. Well, the practice of apiculture or beekeeping has made this possible. Let's take a deep dive into the details of beekeeping in depth in this article..

Table of contents

  • Beekeeping
  • Common species of honey bees
  • Products obtained 
  • Social organisation of honeybees
  • Method of beekeeping
  • Advantages of beekeeping
  • Comparison of bees, wasps and hornets 
  • Practice Problems
  • FAQs

Beekeeping

The care and management of honey bees in the beehive for the commercial production of honey and wax is known as apiculture or beekeeping. Bees are professionally reared in apiaries, which are areas where a large number of beehives can be placed. Apiaries are typically established in regions with sufficient bee pastures, such as areas with flowering plants, cultivated crops, and wild shrubs. 

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Common species of honeybees

In beekeeping, several species of honeybees are reared. It includes both the local varieties and exotic varieties. They are as follows:

Apis indica

 The most popular species of honey bee is Apis indica, which can produce between 2 and 5 kg of honey per colony. It is commonly called the Indian bee. 

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Apis dorsata

 It is a massive bee that produces between 38 and 40 kg of honey from each colony. It is commonly called the rock bee. They are aggressive, and they have the potential to sting humans.

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Apis mellifera

It is a honey bee species that produces a lot of honey. Beekeepers typically maintain it for the honey it produces. It is commonly called the Italian bee. It is an exotic variety. It shows less swarming. Swarming is considered as the natural method honey bees use for multiplying their colonies. In this method a new honey bee colony is formed when the original colony normally replaces the old queen. They leave the bee hive with about half of the worker bees and the amount of honey they can carry. 

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Apis florea 

They rarely sting because of this property, honey extraction from its hive is easy and simple. Each colony generates roughly 1 kg of honey every year. It is commonly called the little bee or Indian red dwarf honey bee. 

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Products obtained

Honeybees are mostly reared for their honey. In addition to this, beekeeping provides us with beeswax. 

Honey 

It is made by bees from sugary plant secretions called nectar. Although honey is a common sweetening agent and component in many recipes. Honey possesses 15-20% of water. It contains several minerals (sodium, potassium, phosphorus etc.) and vitamins. Vitamins mainly include B vitamins. It also contains antibiotic-rich inhibine, amino acids, proteins, and micronutrients phenol antioxidants. The sugars in honey are sweeter. It gives more energy than the normal artificial sweeteners. Fructose is the most abundant sugar in honey. 

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Beeswax 

Beeswax is considered as a naturally occurring wax secreted by honey bees for constructing honey combs mainly. It has a significant commercial value also. Unhydrolyzed beeswax contains 71% esters, 8% free fatty acids, 15% hydrocarbons, and 6% other components. It is utilised in cosmetics and medicine. It is used in model and mould making industries. It is also used in the printing industry. It is commonly used in the labs for block preparation of tissues (histopathology). 

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Social organisation of honeybees

The social organisation or structure of honeybees is built by all individuals within the colony. They display mutual cooperation among colony members as well as overlapping generations. There are 10,000 to 60,000 bees in a colony. There is a rigorous division of labour, so not all of them harvest nectar. In a honey bee colony, there are three types of honeybees as follows:

  • Queen
  • Worker
  • Drone

Queen honeybee

Queen is a large bee and usually one of them is present in a colony. It is a diploid, fertile female bee that lays thousands of eggs. The eggs are either fertilised or unfertilised. 

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Drone honey bee

Drones are smaller than queen honey bees. They develop from the unfertilised eggs laid by the queen. Approximately, 200 to 300 drones are present in each colony. They are haploid, fertile male honey bees that fertilise the eggs of the queen. They are produced by parthenogenesis. 

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Worker honey bee

The duration of time that larvae are fed royal jelly determines whether they will be workers or queens. Workers are the smallest member of a bee colony. Approximately 20,000 worker bees are present in a colony. Their abdomen has sting and wax glands. They possess chewing and lapping type of mouth parts. They are sterile females and their job is to feed drones and queens. They perform a variety of functions. Worker bees are responsible for collecting nectar from the flowers. 

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Method of beekeeping

In the modern method of beekeeping, the honeybees are raised in brood chambers in wooden boxes. Brood chambers possess a wooden platform with an opening for the entry and exit to the bees at the bottom. 

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Normally a few frames coated with wax sheets with hexagonal imprints are placed in the chamber vertically. It is done with the help of wires. The bees once transferred make cells along the margins of the given hexagonal imprints. Each wax sheet is commonly called the comb foundation. It provides a foundation for the bees, so that the honey bees can build combs on either side of the wax sheets. A chamber will have more farmers for expanding the colonies. A super is an upper-story hive box placed normally over the brood chamber. It is used for storing surplus honey. In order to provide proper ventilation, light and protection a cover having holes is placed over the super. 

Honey is stored in frames on which bees build their comb.

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Points to consider for successful beekeeping

The following points should be taken into consideration for successful beekeeping:

Knowledge of bee habits

First, a thorough understanding of honey bee habits and behaviours is required. The queen honey bee, for example, is completely responsible for reproduction through mating and depositing eggs. Worker bees are responsible for collecting nectar, nursing larvae, and building the comb, among other things. The main aim of drones is to undertake mating.

Selection of suitable location

Suitable location should be selected for keeping beehives. Depending on the season, the hive is set up early in the morning to allow the bees to leave their hives earlier to go for collection of nectar. In hot climates, hives must be put in the shade to avoid being overheated. Bee farms can be established in areas where there is sufficient bee pastures of some wild shrubs, fruit orchards and cultivated crops. This plays an important role in the quantity and quality of the honey produced. 

Management of beehives in different seasons

Flowering happens during specific seasons. Nectar is available to bees only in these periods. During other seasons, there is a scarcity of nectar due to limited blossoming. In such instances, beekeepers usually keep sugar syrup to meet the demand.

Proper collection of beeswax and handling of honey

Beekeepers must wear protective gear and use smoke to ward off bees while extracting honey and beeswax. They must also ensure that the hive has sufficient honey to harvest.

Catching and rearing of the honeybees

The natural colonies of bees can be captured or can be acquired from any government or private organisations for rearing.

Advantages of beekeeping

The main benefits or advantages of beekeeping are as follows:

  • Honeybees are the best pollinating agents and they increase the pollination efficiency within the flowers which boosts the yield of crops.
  • It provides the most nutritional food in the form of honey.
  • It also provides beeswax which is used in polishing, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries.
  • Drug prepared from the body of honey bees is used in the treatment of diphtheria. 
  • The venom of honey bees is used in the treatments of arthritis and snake bites. 

Comparison of bees, wasps and hornets 

Bees, wasps and hornets belong to the order Hymenoptera in the class Insecta under the phylum Arthropoda (with jointed legs). 

Bees are smaller than wasps and hornets. They have a body with hairs and yellow and black stripes. Their bee hive will have three types of individuals like a queen (fertile female who lays eggs), drones (males) and workers (sterile females). They are beneficial to humans because they pollinate plants, and help in the production of honey and beeswax. 

Nectar and pollen from the flowers is the main source of carbohydrates for honey bees. Queens will be fed with royal jelly by worker bees. Royal jelly is a white secretion produced by young, female worker bees. Drones eat honey, pollen and gland secretions from worker bees. Worker bees eat nectar and pollen. They will not eat insects. 

Wasps and hornets possess hairless bodies which are similar. Hornets are larger than bees and wasps. Wasps possess rings of black and yellow, whereas hornets possess rings of black and white. Wasps and hornets help human beings by eating other insects including pests (predation). Hornets and wasps help in pollination also. 

Honey bees, wasps and hornets will sting if they feel their nests are in danger. Their sting can be dangerous to those allergic to their venom. Bees normally die after they sting. Unlike bees, hornets and wasps will not die normally after they sting someone. When the honey bee stings, it cannot pull the stinger back. It leaves behind the stinger along with a part of its digestive tract, muscles and nerves. This massive abdominal rupture kills the bee. 

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Practice Problems

Q 1. If you are planning to turn to beekeeping for livelihood and want to procure more honey, which of the following species of honeybee will you consider to rear in beekeeping?

a. Apis indica
b. Apis florea
c. Apis mellifera
d. Apis dorsata

Answer: Beekeeping is the management of honeybees to obtain products commercially like honey and beeswax. There are many species of honeybees which can be reared for beekeeping, but the most advantageous one is Apis mellifera, the Italian bee. It is a gentle species of honeybee that has a good capacity of collecting nectar and production of more honey compared to the other species. It shows less swarming also. Therefore, Apis mellifera will be advantageous for beekeeping. Hence, option c is correct.

Q 2. Which of the following is not a significant use of honey?

a. As a nutritional food source
b. As a natural sweetener
c. As a medicine
d. As a polishing product

Answer: Honey and beeswax are the major products which are obtained by beekeeping. Honey is used as a natural sweetening agent, a nutritional supplement, and as a medicine to treat colds, skin inflammation and wounds. The beeswax obtained is used in industrial products, such as polishes, cosmetics, and also in pharmaceuticals. Beeswax polishing is done on furniture to provide lustre and protection. Hence, option d is correct.

Q 3. How does beekeeping increase the yield of crops?

a. It ensures the flowers bloom well
b. It facilitates the pollination in flowers
c. It provides necessary nutrition to crops
d. It reduces the dependency on fertilisers

Answer: Honeybees are the best pollinators. They increase the pollination efficiency in flowers of cultivated crops. The increased pollination helps in fertilisation which later results in more fruits and seeds, thus increasing the yield in crop plants. Hence, option b is correct.

Q 4. How is beekeeping done?
Answer: The act of rearing honey bees is known as beekeeping or apiculture. Bees are commercially bred in apiaries in this method. An apiary is a space that can accommodate a significant number of beehives. The bees are cared for and controlled here in order to generate wax and honey.

Q 5. State the importance of beekeeping?
Answer: The importance of beekeeping are as follows:

  • It produces honey, which is the most nutritious food available.
  • It produces bee wax, which is utilised in a variety of industries such as cosmetics, polishing, pharmaceuticals, and so on.
  • It contributes significantly to crop pollination and yield.

FAQs

Q 1. Honey bees live in social groups. Give reasons?
Answer: Honey bees live in huge, well-organised family groups and thus are sociable insects. A solitary honey bee cannot survive or flourish on its own. In a colony, there are three types of honeybees: queen, worker, and drone. Worker honey bees are usually non-reproductive females. In their colony, workers are responsible for all brood care, hive maintenance, and hive defence. The queen is the reproductive female responsible for laying eggs. The drones are fertile males and their sole responsibility is to mate with the queen. 

Q 2. Define the keys for successful beekeeping?
Answer: The keys for successful beekeeping are as follows:

  • Knowledge of the habits and nature of the bees.
  • Selection of locations which are suitable for keeping the beehives.
  • Catching and rearing of suitable honeybees.
  • Management of beehives in different seasons.
  • Proper collection of beeswax and handling of honey.

 Q 3. State the modern method of beekeeping?
Answer: In the modern method of beekeeping, wooden boxes with brood chambers are used to raise honeybees. In the frames of the brood chambers, honeycombs form which contain honey. 

Q 4. What is the best month to start bee keeping?

Answer: Spring is considered as the best period to start beekeeping. Once the cold season ends, an increase in forage makes the environment perfect for a new hive to thrive. Expanding colonies are also possible in this period.

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