“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”.
Most bees have a lifespan of fewer than two months, yet their small life is an absolute must for our survival. Honeybees play an integral role on our planet ensuring that humans and animals have the food to eat – it is not only about the honey that we all know they produce.
Bees have a significant role in our life, it is important that we ensure a safe environment for these little creatures. However, in recent times, bees are experiencing unprecedented decline due to climate change and unsustainable farming practices. Research has indicated that climate change could lead to the development of smaller bees.
Therefore beekeeping is not only done for extracting honey, but also for bee conservation and pollination of nearby crops.
Why bees are important?
The honey bee is the world’s most important species responsible for pollination – the process in which bees land on flowers – collect pollen dust all over their bodies, and then use their legs to discard the pollen, leaving it on other flowers – thereby ensuring fertilization of the fruit and vegetables.
In addition, bees give us beeswax (used to make cosmetics), royal jelly (used as a dietary supplement), bee venom, and propolis (used for medicines & health treatments).
Here is a little video about the significance of Bees (a tribute from Change Started for our little friends).
What is a beehive?
Beehive refers to the enclosed structure in which the bees live and store their food. The beehive is commonly referred to as a man-made structure like a wooden box whereas the bee nest refers to the natural home built by bees in open surroundings.
The group of bees is referred to as a colony and there are three distinct types of bees in the colony – drones (male bees), worker bees (female), and a queen bee (female).
Irrespective of whether they stay in a beehive or bee nest, the way the bees go about their business is riveting and extremely complex. In a nutshell, below is the role of the three bee types:
- Worker bees make up the majority (~85%) of the colony and also do most of the jobs in the colony – Collecting nectar and pollen, producing wax, maintaining the home, moderating the temperature, and removing deceased members from the colony, among others. Worker bees are the only bees that have stings, which they use when they feel threatened. They can live between 6 weeks to 3 months.
- The queen bee is the mother of every bee to be born in the colony. She develops from the large that is fed with special food known as queen jelly. The lifespan of the queen bee is the longest, it can live from 1 to 5 years.
- Drone bees are the male members of the colony and their primary job is to mate with the Queen bee. Drones do not have any stingers or foraging tools.
Why do we need beekeeping?
Though Beekeeping is an age-old practice of maintaining bee colonies in artificial man-made structures to extract honey, it has gained attention in the last few decades for reasons related to bee conservation, pollination, and the discovery of more use cases.
The beehive is kept close to the region where food crops are grown, this not only helps in the quick pollination of crops but also helps farmers gain additional income through honey, beeswax, etc. Studies have shown some fruit crops that are pollinated by bees, the fruits tend to be tastier and healthier. For example the case of strawberries, bee pollination results in brighter and redder strawberries and fewer deformities.
Hobby beekeeping and small-scale beekeeping are also popular with people who are interested to boost bee populations outside of the commercial beekeeping industry.
What is apiary?
Beekeeping is also called apiculture and the location where beehives are kept is called an apiary or a bee yard. The beekeeper is also known as an apiarist. The apiarist keeps are responsible for maintaining the collecting honey and other products that the hive produces.