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You are here: News & Events News from the States General Beekeeping with Apis mellifera in India

Beekeeping with Apis mellifera in India

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Beekeeping with Apis mellifera in India
Earlier work
Distribution and types of vegetation
Migratory routes suggested
Migratory routes for Orissa and West Bengal
Migratory routes in South India
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Pune, August 18, 2011: Beekeeping with Apis mellifera is now popular in several regions in India, including Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Management of mellifera bee colonies involves their migration to locations with rich forage potential. Though beekeepers are undertaking migration for production, there is a great scope to increase the efficiency and improve honey production. This can be facilitated with a knowledge of floral resources and evolving appropriate migration schedules for different beekeeping regions. K. Lakshmi Rao and K. Subba Rao, researchers at the Central Bee Research and Training Institute, Pune made a detailed study of the floral resources for A. mellifera in India and seasons for honey production in different regions. They suggest various migration schedules for different phytogeographic regions in the country in a paper presented at the State-level Seminar on 'Awareness, Motivation and Technology Transfer for Development of Beekeeping in Andhra Pradesh', held on January 8-9, 2011 at Jangareddygudem, West Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh. Reproduced hereunder is the paper taken from the Souvenir issued on the occasion by the National Bee Board, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.

Management of floral resources to increase honey production through migration*

K. Subba Rao and K. Lakshmi Rao

Central Bee Research & Training Institute, Khadi and Village Industries Commission, 1153 Ganeshkhind Road, Pune 411016


Beekeeping has been practised in India since ancient times mainly for the precious honey stored by the bees in combs. It has been practised in its simplest form inthe rich forest regions along the sub-Himalayan mountain ranges, the Eastern and the Western Ghats. The indigenous oriental honey bee, Apis cerana, has been kept in wall niches, clay pots or other receptacles. With the introduction of modern beekeeping into the country, the bees are kept in wooden bee boxes, designed to sit the local bee type.

Efforts to introduce the European bees into India were made periodically since 1880s. In fact modern beekeeping was introduced in the country through import of the Italian race of the European honey bee, A. mellifera ligustica, in Langstroth and British Standard hives. The present day A. mellifera colonies in the country have descended from the successfully introduced colonies during the sixth decennial of the last century. Side by side with the development apiculture using the indigenous bee, A. cerana, apiculture using the European bee gained popularity in Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and West Bengal. This has been greatly  facilitated by large-scale destruction of beekeeping with the indigenous bee due tot he Thai sacbrood disease.

Successful introduction of A. mellifera bee species has revolutionized beekeeping and honey production in the country. There are many attributes that make A. mellifera more successful and better suited than the indigenous bees for commercial beekeeping. Its worker bees are larger than those of A. cerana, and have larger foraging range and high forage carrying capacity. However the bees need plentiful floral sources and cannot survive in the regions with scant supply of pollen and nectar.

During the past few years, A. mellifera beekeeping has made rapid progress and production of honey has been on the increase. Beekeepers need new vegetation regions to keep the bee colonies for production. Likewise, they need information on the availability of pollen and nectar from the corresponding plant species. The important constraint for progress of A. mellifera beekeeping has been the scanty information available on their floral resources. The present article aims at giving information on the floral resources for A. mellifera beekeeping on the following lines.

  1. Inference of season of nectar availability in different regions of the country.
  2. Identification of migratory sites for effective production.
  3. Preparation of migratory schedules for different regions of the country.

Unlike beekeeping with  A. cerana, commercial beekeeping with A. mellifera is possible only by adopting migration as a regular management practice. The important reasons for this are: (i) the bee is adopted well to farms and orchards with large areas under a single crop; (ii) the colonies need a large amount of pollen and nectar for their survival and growth; (iii) productive efficiency can be achieved only when a large number of colonies are maintained in an apiary in good strength. It is difficult to get adequate bee forage for these colonies in one location throughout the year. it is necessary therefore for mellifera beekeepers to have detailed information on the availability of different floral sources near their apiaries, seasons of their availability and migration schedules for optimal utilization of the available floral resources.


*Reproduced with slight editorial revisions from the Souvenir, State Level Seminar on 'Awareness, Motivation & Technology Transfer for Development of Beekeeping in Andhra Pradesh,' January 8-9, 2011 issued by the National Bee Board, Government of India.

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