12th Class Biology Domestication of animals For enhancement of Food production Apiculture


Category : 12th Class

Apiculture is the science of rearing honeybees for obtaining honey, wax and venom. It is a profitable money-making hobby. It forms a cottage industry, when carried out on a large scale.

Three species of honey bees are commonly found in india vig. Apis indica (The small indian bee), Apis florea (The little indian bee) and Apis dorsata (the giant bee) other important species include Apis mellifera (the common European bee) and apis adamsoni (the African bee) In india the commonly domesticated species are Apis milifera and Apis Indica.

Honeybee-Apis : Like termites, honeybees are social insects known for producing honey and beeswax, and for living in very highly organized colonies. These feed upon nectar and pollen of flowers, possess “sucking and chewing” mouth parts, and undergo complete metamorphosis.

Social Organisation of Honey Bee A highly organised division of labour is found in the colony of honey bees. A good and well developed colony of bees had 40 to 50 thousand individuals consisting of 3 castes viz. queen, drone and worker.

(1) The Queen : It is a well developed fertile female provided with immensely developed ovaries. Commonly one queen is found to be present in each hive and feeds on Royal Jelly. The queen is 15 to 20 mm in length and can be easily distinguished by her long tapering abdomen, short legs and wings. Structurally she is unable to produce wax or honey or gather pollen nector. By the combination of ovipositor-cum sting, a structure is developed which aids in egg laying. It is said that the queen gets mated only in her life but in a single chance of mating, drone releases two crore sperms which are sufficient for the fertilization of the eggs at the time of laying by the female throughout her life span.

One queen lays about \[1,5002,000\] eggs in day. In the whole life span of 2-5 years a queen lays about 15,00,000 eggs. When the queen in a colony looses its eggs lying capacity, another worker of the same colony starts feeding on queen’s diet i.e., Royal Jelly and develops into a new queen and is provided with the facilities of real queen. At the same time old queen may be driven out but sometimes some workers object that as to why the mother of the colony be driven out so ultimately they also come out with the mother. Sometimes when 2 to 3 queens are developed in a colony, only one takes the position of the real queen and the others come out with some workers to establish new colonies. This phenomenon is known as swarming.

(2) The Drone : The drone is the male member of the honey bee colony which fertilizes the queen so called as king of the colony. They are reared from an unfertile egg in large drone cell. Drone are totally dependent on the workers and have been seen begging for honey from the workers. The sole duty of the drone is to fertilize the virgin queen. At the time of mating flight the drone follows the queen, copulates and dies after copulation.

(3) The Workers : Although the workers are the smallest of the three castes but they function as the main spring of the complicated machinery like honey bee colony. Like the queen, they are also produced from the fertile eggs laid by the queen and live in a chamber called as ‘worker cell’. It takes 21 days in the development from the egg to the adult and the total life span of a worker is about 6 weeks. That is why they are provided with some special structures for particular work.

(i) Long proboscis for sucking the nectar.

(ii) Strong wings for fanning.

(iii) Pollen baskets for the collection of pollen.

(iv) Powerful sting to defend the colony against any attack.

(v) Wax gland for wax secretion.

Like all other insects the body of the honey bee is distinguish into three regions head, thorax and abdomen.



(1) Head : It is a wide triangular structure with the apex pointed below. It bears dorsolaterally a pair of large compound eyes and three ocelli on the middle of its top. From the bottom of the head project the specialized mouthparts. Mouthparts of honey bee are of chewing and lapping type, which is adapted for taking nectar from flowers and moulding the wax. The sugary fluid is sucked up by the sucking action of pharynx, it passes into the crop and regurgited and stored in the cells of comb as honey. Sugary extract of flower is converted into honey by an enzyme which produced by the glands.

(2) Throrax : The thorax is divided into three segments an anterior prothorax, a middle mesothorax and a posterior metathorax. Each of these segments bears a pair of legs and a pair of wings is borne by the mesothorax as well as metathorax. Legs are densely covered with hairs and are variously adapted.

(i) Prothoracic legs : The segments of the prothoracic are (a) an oblong coxa, (b) a short trochanter, (c) a long femur provided with pollen-carrying hairs, (d) a tibia with pollen-carrying stiff hairs, or pollen brush and a movable plate-like velum, and (e) a segmented tarsus, terminating in a pulvillus and a pair of claws. 

(ii) Mesothoracic leg : The legs of mesothoracic segment have all the segments as foreleg. The tibia bears a pollen brush on its inner surface and a spine like pollen-spur on its distal end.

(iii) Metathoracic leg : Segments of the metathoracic legs are the same as prothoracic and mesothoracic legs. The tibia bears pollen basket on its outer concave surface which is partially covered by rows of long curved bristles arising from its margin. Distally the tibia is composed of rows of spines constituting the pecten. The proximal end of the metatarsus bears a concave lip-like structure, the auricle. The pecten and auricle together form a pollen packer to convey and pack pollen into, the pollen basket.

(3) Abdomen : Abdomen is made up six visible segments and possesses wax gland and stings.  

(i) Wax glands : On the last four visible segments, wax cells are situated, which are modified cells on the ventral surface. Wax is produced in the form of scales through small apertures.

(ii) Sting : The sting is the modified ovipositor of the insect and is used for injecting poison. It is composed of two straight grooved stylets or lancets. A pair of filiform poison glands secretes the acidic material that is stored in a sac-like poison sac located at the base of the sting.

Life History : After mating the queen generally lays one egg in one brood cell. The eggs are pinkish coloured, elongated with cylindrical body generally attached to the bottom of the cell. Larvae emerge out from both the fertilized as well as unfertilized eggs. Thus, the larvae from the unfertilized eggs form the drones while the workers are developed from the larvae of the fertilized eggs. Amongst the larvae of the workers one is fed on the royal jelly, a special diet secreted by the young workers in the colony, and becomes the queen of the colony. The royal jelly consists of digested honey and pollen, mixed with a glandular secretion into the mouth of the workers.



(1) Swarming : The behaviour of the honey bee to come out of the hive in large number is called swarming. It takes place during the spring or early summer. It relieves the over crowding and provides a means of colony reproduction, i.e. founding of new colonies.

(2) Supersedure : When the egg laying capacity of the old queen is lost or it suddenly dies, a new young and vigorous queen takes the position of the old queen and is called as supersedure.

(3) Absconding : The migration of the complete colony from one place to another takes place due to some unfavourable condition of life, such as destruction of the comb by termites or wax-moths and scarcity of nectar producing flowers around the hive. The phenomenon is quite different from that of swarming.

(4) Nuptial or marriage flight : The prime swarm is led by the old queen while the second swarm is accompanied by the newly emerged virgin queen. About a week after emergence, the new queen takes her first aerial flight followed by a swarm of drones. The queen flies very high and drones gradually drop out of the race. The last done left in the race, mates with her. Mating occurs in the mid-air, during which the queen receives spermatophores from the drone. The sperms are stored in spermatheca or sperm-resevoir of the queen to fertilize her eggs as long as she lives. The genital parts of the male are forced out with such a great pressure that he dies after mating. Along with the queen, died drone falls one ground and the queen reaches the hive.

Bee-Hive : Honey bee is one of the few domesticated insects. In modern days bee colonies are reared in artificial wooden boxes for maximum production of honey and wax. The artificial box where the bee colony is maintained and managed is called hive. The place where hives are kept and managed is called apiary.

There are different models of hive; but the most common model in use is Newton's hive designed by Rev. Fr. Newton. The hive is in the form of a wooden stand. The hive has two chambers. One is the upper and the second one is the lower. The upper chamber is called super or honey chamber. The lower chamber is called brood chamber. The queen is kept in the brood chamber. The two chambers are separated by a wire grid called queen excluder. The holes in the queen excluder are so smaller that they prevent the entry of the queen into the super, but allows other bees to pass through. As a result the eggs are laid only in the brood chamber. The super chamber is meant for storing honey.

Honey mainly consist of monosaccharides

Both the chambers contain about 7 rectangular wooden frames called comb frames arranged vertically. The vertical frames are filled with comb foundation sheet.  These sheets are made of wax and contain hexagonal imprints. They are detachable. They are available in the market.

Honey extraction : Honey is stored in combs of super frames. It is extracted from the comb by a simple machine called honey extractor. It has a drum containing a rack inside to hold the super frames. It is made to rotate by a set of two-gear wheels, operated by a handle.

The super frames are removed from the hive. The caps of the comb cells are cut off by a double edged knife. Then the frames are fixed in the rack and the rack is made to rotate by operating the handle. The honey is forced out into the drum from the comb cells. From the drum the honey is collected in vessels through an exit present in the drum.

Location of Apiary : The hives should be set, in places where there are plenty of flowering plants. The place should be neat and clean and free from any obnoxious smell. There should be clean drinking water near by because each bee colony requires two glasses of water per day for their survival


(1) Honey bees should be protected from garden lizard and snakes.

(2) Black ants steal honey. So water should be placed at the base of the stand.

(3) Wasps kill honey bees. So protection should be provided against wasps.

(4) Wax-moth damages the combs. So the combs must be ''protected from wax-moths.

Formation of honey : Honey is a viscous sugary fluid formed from the nectar within the stomach of the honey bee. The bees visit flower, suck the nectar, store it in the stomach and return to the hive. In the stomach the nectar is processed. It is regurgitated and swallowed repeatedly for about 240 times. Then the processed nectar is deposited in the comb cells. This processed nectar is called unripe honey or green honey. It contains about 80% water. The unripe honey is converted into ripe honey by evaporation. The ripe honey contains less than 20% water. When the honey becomes ripe, the cells are capped or closed. The honey in the unsealed cell is unripe.

Chemical composition : Honey contains nearly 80 different substances of important to human beings. The important chemical are as follows

(1) Levulose                                      -              38.9%

(2) Dextrose                                      -              21.28%

(3)  Maltose & other sugars         -              8.81 %

(4)  Enzymes & pigments              -              2.21%

(5)  Ash                                                 -              1.0%

(6)  Water                                            -              17.20%

(7)  Vitamins                                       -              \[A,B,{{B}_{2}},{{B}_{3}},{{B}_{6}},C,E,\text{ }and\,K\]

(8)  Minerals                                       -              \[Ca,Na,K,Mg,Fe,P,S\,\,etc\]

Value of Honey : Honey is a valuable food and medicine. Its uses are summarised below:

(1) As it has high content of sugar it is used as a sweetener. Until last century before the discovery of sugar throughout most of human history honey was the only available sweetener.

(2) Honey has a high calorific value. One kilogram of honey has 3350 calories while 1 litre of milk contains only 310 calories.

(3) Many athletes drink honey before games and between events in order to restore the energy used up.

(4) Doctors prescribe honey for old people and children who need to build up their strength quickly.

(5) Honey is used to heal wounds.

(6) It is used to cause free urination.

(7) It is used as a means of easing the belly.

(8) It is a good tonic for ulcer.

(9) It facilitates digestion and improves appetite.

(10) It prevents a running nose. It is a sure remedy for cold and cough.

(11) Honey is used as medicines for children to treat complaints of the liver.

Bee wax : Bee wax is secreted by the abdominal gland of bees. It is used for the construction of comb. It is an yellowish solid insoluble in water. It is used for the preparation of paints, varnishes, candles, models, etc. It is used as a ground substance for the preparation of ointments, creams etc. It has many industrial uses. It is used extensively in engineering industries, railways, textiles, leather industries etc.

Bee venom : Bee venom is secreted by the poison-glands of stings. Bee venom is a curative toxin in humans. It is transparent and it has a bitter burning taste. It is acidic in nature. It contains formic acid, histamine, tryptophan, sulphur, many proteins, volatile oils, enzymes like hyaluronidase and phospholipase and magnesium phosphate. Clinically it has the following uses :

(1) It is an active remedy for rheumatism.

(2) It is used to treat certain eye diseases like keratoconjunctivitis (inflammation of cornea), iris (inflammation of iris), iridocytis (inflammation of iris and ciliary body).

(3) It is used to cure skin diseases like tuberculosis of the skin.

(4) The cholesterol level in blood falls by the treatment of bee venom.

(5) Bee venom controls blood pressure.

Communication and Dance of honey bee : Ernst Spytzner (1788) explained for the first time that honey bees communicate with each other by means of definite movements of their body, now called bee dance. Later on Prof Karl von Frisch (1946 - 1969) studied and decoded the language of the dance of honey bee and he was awarded Nobel Prize for his work. He explained that scout bee performs 2 types of dance :

(1) Round dance : Round dance is performed when a newly discovered food source is close (less than 75 meters) to the hive. There is no indication of direction of the new source in this dance; the smell of flower brought back by the scout bees tells the foragers the kind of flowers for which to search.



(2) Tail wagging dance : It is performed for long distance (more than 100 meters) sources of food. It is also called shuffle dance. By this dance the scout bee conveys the direction of new source with reference to the position of the sun. In the tail wagging dance scout bee swiftly and repeatedly moves along a straight line and then makes two semicircles along the side of this line. If during this dance tail wagging is directly vertically upwards it indicates that the source is present towards the sun. If tail wagging is vertically downwards it indicates that the source is present opposite to the sun. If tail wagging is in oblique direction, it indicates that the source is located at an angle to the position of the sun.

Bee keeping industry : Before1953 attention to bee–keeping was paid only by state governments but in the same year, all India Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) started to pay attention to it and it was controlled by Union Government itself. Due to the functioning of the central organisation, bee-keeping industry was spread in South India in some northern states also. Now-a-days bee-keeping industry is nation wide and is a good source of cottage industry.

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Notes - Apiculture

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