First things first. What is beekeeping?
A lot of people are afraid of honey bees and why not? But these little creatures do a lot for our environment. They’re one of the most prominent pollinators not just in India, but in the world, making them extremely vital to agriculture. Not only do they pollinate, but also make honey and other sellable products such as beeswax, royal jelly, pollen, etc. This makes beekeeping one of the most dynamic and essential industries in agriculture.
Beekeeping, also known as Apiculture, in general is the care and management of colonies of honeybees by humans. They are kept for their honey and other products, their services as pollinators of fruit and vegetable blossoms or even as a hobby!
This field is more exciting and way less scary than it sounds! Beekeeping, if done correctly and systematically, can yield a higher percentage of surplus and can even act as an extra income.
- Beekeeping farming in India
After the Independence of India in 1947, the importance of beekeeping was stressed by even Mahatma Gandhi by including it in his rural development programmes. Being a beginner at beekeeping, you might get confused as to where to start from, quite naturally. But the first step to beekeeping is the season. Although it can be started at any time, honeybees are fond of warm weather and hence spring (before summer) is considered to be the appropriate time to start as flowering also starts in this season.
To start off, you will first require Apiculture equipment and obviously, bees! Start with good honey bees and less colonies in the beginning. After gaining experience, these colonies can be expanded to an entire farm in the future! The first time, the yield of honey might not be as high, but it only increases with every yield.
Now we’ll talk about the 2 essentials to Apiculture: Equipment and bees.
A beekeeper cannot start Apiculture without these tiny creatures! Bees are social animals and live in colonies and hives. One colony consists of one Queen bee (the one who primarily lays fertilized and unfertilized eggs), Worker bees (female bees that are responsible for all activities such as taking care of Queen bee, collecting nectar, protecting the hive, etc.) and the Drones (male bees whose main function is to fertilize the virgin queen by mating). All the 3 types are required for the survival of the hive. Now the question rises, where does one get them from?
Well, there are several ways to get bees. They can be caught from tree branches; wild hives can be captured. But the best and safest way to get bees for a beginner is buying them.
Bee packages or nucleus hives can be bought from a local beekeeper.
A beehive is incomplete without the correct equipment, and the beekeeper unsafe. Hence acquiring the correct equipment should be your next step.
Frames are rectangles shapes within which the bees make their comb. Multiple of these frames will form a hive.
- Bee veil
Bee veil is one of the most important equipment’s. Wearing this protects the face and neck of the beekeeper while he performs tasks like inspecting the hive, removing the honey, etc.
- Bee suit
Bee suits are full suits worn by the beekeepers. A wide range of suits are available in the market but white or tan suits are best. Other colours are also used but bees react adversely to dark hues and suits made of animal fibres.
Gloves protect the hands from getting stung and without them one cannot even go near the hive.
Shoes aid in the protection of the feet and complete the full body protection mechanism.
The bee smoker is the next most essential piece of equipment. The smoker makes the bees feel as if the hive is on fire and the bees first coping mechanism is migration. Hence, they consume large amounts of honey for the journey, which makes them lethargic and hence slow. This makes it much easier for the beekeeper to deal with the hive. Without the smoker, the keeper would suffer way more stings.
- Queen catcher
A queen catcher is a handy tool used to isolate the queen for a while from the bee crowd.
A feeder is an apparatus that enables the keeper to feed honey, pollen or other substitutes like sugar and water to the bees with ease.
- Bee brush
Bee brush is an apparatus used to separate the bees from the frames. Once the frame is removed, you first shake the frame to remove the excess of bees. Then the keeper can use the brush to gently brush off the remaining bees off.
These items can be easily found at a local market, or even online on sites such as Amazon.in
- Beekeeping training in India
IGNOU is offering “Certificate in Bee Keeping (CIB)”
Minimum Duration: 6 Months, Maximum Duration: 2 Years, Fee: Rs 1,400, Eligibility: 8th pass.
Arya Gramodyog Sansthan, Delhi
It is a non-govt. organization and listed with National Bee Board. This Sansthan arranges 7 Days Training Programme on Bee-Keeping for the Farmers, beekeepers, and unemployed Youth.
Bharat Honeybee Centre training Program (Avinissery, Thrissur, Kerala)
This is the lone institution in India that proposes a free one-year certificate course in Apiculture with 45 practical classes. Most of the applicants who did the course from this institution are currently in the beekeeping industry.
Sahara Gramudyog Sansthan, Saharanpur (U.P)
This organization is listed with the National Bee Board and provides training for farmers and beekeepers.
Khadi and Village Industries Commission
This organization offers training programs for beginners, farmers, beekeepers, and wild honey collectors. This institute is one of the top-ranking centers for beekeeping in India and also recognized globally.
- Benefits of beekeeping
- You can locally make honey from your bees. Honey does not expire and has numerous health benefits. It is also used as a natural sweetener in food. This honey can be sold and used yourself as well.
- Wax is a product of bees as wee. This wax can be used in making lip balms, etc. and is extremely popular in the cosmetics industry.
- Bees are excellent pollinators and can help make your plants healthy. Their pollination powers can be used to boost your yields and can help increase local economy.
- Bee hives are extremely low maintenance. Bees work hard without much input. One your hive is set up, it requires around just 30 minutes every week for inspection and maintenance and a little more to collect honey every year.
- Bees are under threats since there are many factors that are killing them. By keeping your own hives, you are promoting and inculcating your new colonies and hence helping in conserving and saving them.
- Summing up
Beekeeping is the new upcoming business, that helps increase the crop yield, provides with additional sellable products and even acts as an additional income source. Starting a bee farm will only enhance your existing agro business and now is the perfect time to get started!