Honey bee feeding
tube through which nectar is drawn
The honeybee feeds on nectar and pollen, both of which are collected from flowers
The nectar is sucked from the nectaries in flowers by means of a proboscis.
The proboscis is tucked back under the thorax when not in use
Jaws for cutting
the wax capping
of hive cells
Structure of the proboscis
Head of honey bee
When a bee visits a flower, its body becomes dusted with pollen.
The hind legs are adapted to comb the pollen off the body, compact it and store it as ‘pollen sacs’.
These are pushed into cells in the hive when the bee returns
pollen pushed in between the two rows of bristles to form pollen
pollen comb collects pollen from body
Bees hind leg
A bee returning to the hive from a good source of nectar performs a ‘dance’ on the vertical comb.
The dance follows a track like a squashed figure. The angle between the central line and the
vertical represents the angle between the source, the hive and the sun. The degree of ‘waggle’
in this line indicates the distance; more waggle means greater distance.
Other workers, in the darkness of the hive follow the dancing bee and so learn the direction and
distance of the nectar source
If the food resources are very close to the hive, they may also exhibit a less specific dance commonly
known as the "Round Dance". . Honey bees also perform tremble dances, which recruit receiver bees to
collect nectar from returning foragers.
The waggle tail dance
Honey bees-different species present
Five important species of honey bees are as follows.
The rock bee, Apis dorsata (Apidae).
The Indian hive bee, Apis cerana indica (Apidae).
The little bee/dwarf bee, Apis florea (Apidae).
The European or Italian bee, Apis mellifera (Apidae).
Dammer bee or stingless bee, Melipona irridipennis (Meliporidae).
Rock bee (Apis dorsata)
Apis dorsata laboriosata, the Himalayan honey bee, differs little from the giant honey bee in appearance, but has
extensive behavioral adaptations that enable it to nest in the open at high altitudes despite low ambient temperatures.
It is the largest living honey bee.
1. They are giant bees found all over India in sub-mountainous regions up to an altitude of 2700 m. These bees are the
largest among the bees described.
2. They construct giant single comb in open about 6 feet long and 3 feet deep. The comb is fully exposed and huge from
inaccessible branches of trees, along the sides of steep rocks in the forest and even from the walls, rafters and other
parts of buildings
3. They shift the place of the colony often.
4. Although they produce highest amount of honey among many other Indian species (36 Kg honey per comb per year)
they are ferocious and difficult to rear. The rock bee honey represents a major portion of the honey sold in our
markets collected by hive hunters.
Little bee (Apis florea)
They are also known as dwarf honey bees. They are native to India and are distributed only in plains
and not in hills above 450 MSL.
1. The size of the bees is smallest among four Apis species described
2.They build single vertical combs in open of the size of palm in branches of bushes, hedges,
buildings, caves, empty cases etc .
3. They produce about half a kilo of honey per year per hive.
4. They are not domesticate species as they frequently change their place.
5. It is probably the closest, living descendant of the earliest honey bees that has spread from Asia
into the Middle East
1. It is the common Indian bee found both in the forests as well as in plains throughout our
2. It is smaller than rock bee but larger than little bee.
3. This bee builds many parallel combs in the cavities and hollows of trees, caves and such other
4. This form is capable of being domesticated and is commonly reared in South India. The
annual yield of honey is 2 to 5 per colony
Indian hive bee / Asian bee (Apis cerana indica)
As the name suggest they are native to India/Asia. Apis cerana, or the Asiatic honey bee (or the Eastern
honey bee), is a species of honey bee found in southern and southeastern Asia. This species is the sister
species of Apis koschevnikovi, and both are in the same subgenus as the Western (European) honey bee,
1. They constitute the main honey bee species that are cultivated for commercial production of honey and
2. They are the domesticated species that build multiple combs.
3. The average yield of honey is 6-8 kg/year.
4. They are more prone to swarming and absconding.
5. They are smaller than Apis dorsata, Apis mellifera and larger than Apis florae.
6. They are used in apiculture, mostly in wooden boxes with fixed frames. These bees can be adapted to
living in cavities in some human structures and in purpose-made hives, and their nesting habit means that
they can potentially colonize temperate or mountain areas with prolonged winters or cold temperatures
European bee / Italian bee (Apis mellifera)
They are the only bees that were not native to this country but imported from European countries and slowly
they adapted and distributed themselves all over the Indian subcontinent.
2. They are the bigger than all other honeybees except Apis dorsata.
3. The average honey production per colony is 25-40kg.
4. They are less prone to swarming and absconding.
5. They build parallel combs.
Besides true honey bees, two species of stingless or dammer bees, viz. Melipona and Trigona occur in our
country in abundance.
1. Their size are much smaller than true honey bees.
2. They build irregular combs of wax and resinous substances in crevices and hollow tree trunks. The comb of
Melipona iridipennis is made up of a dark material called ‘cerumen’ which is a mixture of wax and earth or
3.They are important not because of their yield of honey but their pollinating power of various food crops. They
produce only 100gm of honey per comb per year.
4.They can be domesticated.
5. They are incapable of stinging because of the presence of vestigial sting but they bite their enemies or
Taxonomic position- Apis cerana indica (a subspecies of Apis cerena which
is called as Asiatic honey bee)
Range of Apis cerena
Species: A. cerana
Subspecies: A. cerena indica
Eight subspecies of A. cerana are currently recognized. Out of these, two subspecies are predominant and used for
apiculture in India: Apis cerana cerana and Apis cerana indica. These species are similar to Apis mellifera except in
color. A. cerana indica have black stripes on their abdomen and they live close to hilly areas and are sometimes seen in
plains regions. A. cerana cerana have yellow stripes on their abdomen and are habituated to plains regions of India. A.
mellifera tends to be slightly larger than A. cerana, which can be readily distinguished from A. mellifera. These are less
aggressive and also display less swarming behavior than any other wild bees such as Apis dorsata and Apis florea and
therefore can be easily used for beekeeping.
Life cycle of Apis cerena indica
The three types of bees
The queen is a fertile female. There is only one queen in a hive and only she can lay eggs.
Drones are males. There may be several hundred in a hive. Their function is to fertilise the queen
Workers are sterile females. There may be 20,000 to 80,000 in a hive. They do all the work of building the combs, collecting and
storing nectar and pollen, feeding the larvae and cleaning the hive.
The workers build three types of wax cell, differing in size or shape. The queen lays eggs in each of the cells and the eggs hatch into larvae.
The workers feed the larvae until they are ready to pupate and then they put a wax capping over the cell. After 10-11 days the capping is
bitten off and the adult bee emerges
food in cell
drone cells (wider)
adult bee almost ready
to queen cell
The eggs laid in the drone cells are unfertilised and develop into males.
The eggs laid in the worker cells and queen cells are fertilised but the queen larvae are fed a different diet from that of the larvae in the worker cells.
The difference in diet causes the workers to be sterile and the queen to be fertile.
APICULTURE-Products and uses
Honey is the complex substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from plants and trees are
gathered, modified and stored in the honeycomb by honey bees as a food source for the colony.
Bee venom is acidic as it contains the highly acidic peptide melittin. histamine and other biogenic
amines may also contribute to pain and itching. In one of the medical uses of honey bee products,
apitherapy, bee venom has been used to treat arthritis and other painful conditions.
Propolis or bee glue is created from resins, balsams and tree saps. Those species of honey bees that nest
in tree cavities use propolis to seal cracks in the hive. Propolis is consumed by humans as a health
supplement in various ways and also used in some cosmetics.
Worker bees of a certain age secrete beeswax from a series of glands on their abdomens. They use the
wax to form the walls and caps of the comb. As with honey, beeswax is gathered for various purposes.
Bees collect pollen in the pollen basket and carry it back to the hive. In the hive, pollen is used as a
protein source necessary during brood-rearing. In certain environments, excess pollen can be collected
from the hives of A. mellifera and A. cerana. It is often eaten as a health supplement.
Honey bees-Parasites, Pest, predator
and diseases of honey bees
Varroa mites[edit source | editbeta]
Varroa mite on a honey bee larva
Main article: Varroa destructor
Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni are parasitic mites that feed on the bodily fluids of adult, pupal and larval bees. Varroa mites can be seen with the naked eye as a small red or
brown spot on the bee's thorax. Varroa mites are carriers for a virus that is particularly damaging to the bees. Bees infected with this virus during their development will often have visibly
Varroa mites have led to the virtual elimination of feral bee colonies in many areas, and are a major problem for kept bees in apiaries. Some feral populations are now recovering—it
appears they have been naturally selected for Varroa resistance.
Varroa mites were first discovered in Southeast Asia in about 1904, but are now present on all continents except Australia. They were discovered in the United States in 1987, in
New Zealand in 2000, and in Devon, United Kingdom in 1992.
These mites are generally not a problem for a strongly growing hive. When the hive population growth is reduced in preparation for winter or due to poor late summer forage, the mite
population growth can overtake that of the bees and can then destroy the hive. Often a colony will simply abscond (leave as in a swarm, but leaving no population behind) under such
Varroa in combination with deformed wing virus and bacteria have been theoretically implicated in colony collapse disorder.
Treatment[edit source | editbeta]
A variety of treatments are currently marketed or practiced to attempt to control these mites. The treatments are generally segregated into chemical and mechanical controls.
Common chemical controls include "hard" chemicals such as fluvalinate (marketed as Apistan) and coumaphos (marketed as CheckMite) and "soft" chemicals such as thymol (marketed as
ApiLife-VAR and Apiguard), sucrose octanoate esters (marketed as Sucrocide), oxalic acid and formic acid (sold in gel packs as Mite-Away, but also used in other formulations). According
to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, when used in beehives as directed, these treatments kill a large proportion of the mites while not substantially disrupting bee behavior or life
span. Use of chemical controls is generally regulated and varies from country to country. With few exceptions, they are not intended for use during production of marketable honey. 
Common mechanical controls generally rely on disruption of some aspect of the mites' lifecycle. These controls are generally intended not to eliminate all mites, but merely to maintain
the infestation at a level which the colony can tolerate. Examples of mechanical controls include drone brood sacrifice (varroa mites are preferentially attracted to the drone brood),
powdered sugar dusting (which encourages cleaning behavior and dislodges some mites), screened bottom boards (so any dislodged mites fall through the bottom and away from the
colony), brood interruption and, perhaps, downsizing of the brood cell size. A device called the varroa mite control entrance (VMCE) is under development as of 2008. The VMCE works in
conjunction with a screened bottom board, by dislodging varroa mites from bees as they enter and exit a hive.
Acarine (Tracheal) mites[edit source | editbeta]
Acarapis woodi is a small parasitic mite that infests the airways of the honey bee. The first known infestation of the mites occurred in the British Isles in the early 20th century. First
observed on the Isle of Wight in 1904, the mystery illness known as Isle of Wight Disease was not identified as being caused by a parasite until 1921. It quickly spread to the rest of
Great Britain. It was regarded as having wiped out the entire native bee population of the British Isles (although later genetic studies have found remnants that did survive) and it dealt a
devastating blow to British beekeeping. Brother Adam at the Buckfast Abbey developed a resistant hybrid bee known as the Buckfast bee, which is now available worldwide to combat
Diagnosis for tracheal mites generally involves the dissection and microscopic examination of a sample of bees from the hive.
Acarine mites, formerly known as tracheal mites are believed to have entered the US in 1984, via Mexico.
Mature female acarine mites leave the bee's airway and climb out on a hair of the bee, where they wait until they can transfer to a young bee. Once on the new bee, they will move into
the airways and begin laying eggs.
Treatment[edit source | editbeta]
Acarine mites are commonly controlled with grease patties (typically made from 1 part vegetable shortening mixed with 3–4 parts powdered sugar) placed on the top bars of the hive. The
bees come to eat the sugar and pick up traces of shortening, which disrupts the mite's ability to identify a young bee. Some of the mites waiting to transfer to a new host will remain on
the original host. Others will transfer to a random bee—a proportion of which will die of other causes before the mite can reproduce.
Menthol, either allowed to vaporize from crystal form or mixed into the grease patties, is also often used to treat acarine mites.
Nosema[edit source | editbeta]
Nosema apis is a microsporidian that invades the intestinal tracts of adult bees and causes nosema disease, also known as nosemosis. Nosema is also associated with Black queen-cell virus
. Nosema is normally only a problem when the bees can not leave the hive to eliminate waste (for example, during an extended cold spell in winter or when the hives are enclosed in a
wintering barn). When the bees are unable to void (cleansing flights), they can develop dysentery.
Nosema is treated by increasing the ventilation through the hive. Some beekeepers will treat a hive with antibiotics.
Nosema can also be prevented or minimized by removing much of the honey from the beehive then feeding the bees on sugar water in the late fall. Sugar water made from refined sugar
has lower ash content than flower nectar, reducing the risk of dysentery. Refined sugar, however, contains fewer nutrients than natural honey which causes some controversy among
Virus infection in honey bees
Schematic representation of virus transmission routes in honey bees. Virus transmission in honey bees appears to involve both horizontal and vertical transmission pathways. Viruses infect
different bee hosts of the same generation by horizontal transmission via the following means: foodborne transmission, fecal–oral transmission, venereal (sexual) transmission, and/or
vector‐borne transmission. Viruses are also vertically transmitted from infected queen to their offspring. Both transmission pathways are believed to be the important survival strategies for
persistence and establishment of viruses in bee population. Solid lines represent horizontal transmission and dotted lines represent vertical transmission