Honey is the natural sweet substance, produced by honeybees from the nectar of plants or from secretions of living parts of plants, or excretions of plant-sucking insects on the living parts of plants, which the bees collect, transform by combining with specific substances of their own, deposit, dehydrate, store and leave in honeycombs to ripen and mature[1].

Many species of bees collect nectar which they convert into honey and store as a food source. However, only bees which live together in large colonies store appreciable quantities of honey. These are bees of the genus Apis and some of the Meliponinae (stingless bees). Bees prepare honey mainly from the nectar of flowers, but other plant saps and honeydew are also used. As each bee sucks the liquid up through its proboscis and into the honey sac, a small amount of enzymes are added and water is evaporated. The enzymes convert sugars in the nectar into different types of sugars – honey always contain a wide range of sugars, varying according to the nectar source. After the liquid has been placed in the cell of the honeycomb, bees continue to process it. The temperature of the hive is usually around 35°C and this temperature together with ventilation produced by fanning bees, causes further evaporation of water from the honey. When the water content is less than 20% the bees seal the cell with a wax capping: the honey is now considered ‘ripe’ and will not ferment.

Honey consists of a mixture of sugars, mostly glucose and fructose. In addition to water (usually 17-20%) it also contains very small amounts of other substances, including minerals, vitamins, proteins and amino acids. A very minor, but important component of most honey is pollen.

PRODUCTION OF HONEY

Agriculture Nigeria: Natural Honey

In 2010, China was the most significant global producer, producing 398,000 Metric tons, or 26% of the global share by volume. Within Africa, Ethiopia is the largest producer of honey. From 2005-2010, Ethiopian honey production increased by 26% from 36,000 metric tons to 45,300 metric tons. Beekeeping is an untapped wealth in Nigeria, due to the various economic benefits that could be derived from beekeeping are yet to be fully utilized. It could be practiced as a part-time activity or a full-time professional business. Honeybees lay a vital and indispensable role in agriculture. Beekeeping is renowned because of the honey yield from the practice of beekeeping. The honey consists of 80% simple sugars (fructose and sucrose) that are readily absorbed by the body. The color of honey varies from colorless to dark or light dark. The taste, flavor and sweetness depend on the source of nectar (floral visited by the worker bees).

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IMPORTANCE OF HONEY

  • Honey is the earliest sweetener.
  • It is used in the treatment of wounds.
  • It is used to treat cough and other ailments.
  • It has preventive and curative effects for several ailments such as measles, gastrointestinal disturbances etc.
  • It is a good trade commodity.

BY PRODUCT FROM BEEKEEPING

Beeswax – it’s an important byproduct from beekeeping after the honey has been pressed from the comb and the comb melted down. There is a ready local and international market for beeswax.

Uses of Beeswax

  1. Used in manufacturing of candles, softening of leather, polishes, cosmetics, crayons, shaving creams( to prevent drying) and other cream soap etc.
  2. It is used in the preparation of medicine
  3. Used in manufacturing of foundation sheets for hives.
  4. Floor polishing.
  5. Leather waterproof
  6. Grafting wax for horticultural purposes

Bee pollen – is the principal source of protein, fat amino acids, minerals and vitamins required for growth and development of bees. They could be collected with pollen traps placed at the flight entrance of the hive to collect the pollen pellets. An average of 100 – 250 gm of pollen could be gathered per colony per day.

Uses of Bee pollens

  1. Pollens can be eating
  2. It can be used to feed bees solely or mixed with honey (bee bread) in dearth periods
  3. It is used in producing royal jelly and cosmetics

Propolis- This is a resin collected from plants by bees. The most prominent color is black, but it could also be red, green, yellow or ink. It is sticky and it glues.

Uses of propolis

  1. It is used in the preparation of antibiotics e.g. Penicillin
  2. It has therapeutic characteristics

THE ACT OF BEEKEEPING

Apiculture is the science of keeping honey bees, harvesting, processing and marketing of the honey and other by-products. An apiary is a place where hives are kept for a successful beekeeping practice, the practitioner or apiculturist must observe the following:

  • Keep hives in lonely place from noise or physical disturbance
  • Visit his apiary at least once in a week
  • Clean hives that have not been colonized
  • Bait the hives frequently
  • Do not irritate your bee colonies with noise, chemical etc.

SETTING UP AN APIARY

The following must be of cognizance when setting up an apiary:

Location of site

I.            Source of nectar must be within 1km radius. This is to conserve bee energy and increase honey production.

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II.            Source of drinking water must be close to the site. When not resent alternative source should be provided.

III.            Waterlogged site should be avoided

IV.            Avoid sitting apiary in termite-infested areas

Beekeeping Equipment

This includes:

  1. Beehive – is a simple box capped by a lid to keep the rain out. Inside the boxes, frames of beeswax hang down from a revetment along the inside edge of the hive.

 

Agriculture Nigeria: Beehive

 

These different sizes are in height only and they can be used for different purposes. Many beekeepers use just one size of box; others use different sizes on one hive. Displayed below are the different parts of a hive.

Frames – Inside the boxes hang frames. Frames may be wooden or plastic. Wooden frames are literally just that – frames of wood in which a sheet of beeswax stamped with hexagonal shapes is held. The wax is kept in place with thin wire that crosses the frames

Agriculture Nigeria: Hive Box   Agriculture Nigeria: Hive box

Hive Box

Hive stand – The entire hive sits on a hive stand. Beehives should not be set directly on the ground. The main reason is that dampness will get into the hive, and this must not be allowed to happen. A hive stand, therefore, is anything that keeps the hive off the ground. This can be built out of wood, cinder blocks or even placed on a stump.

Agriculture Nigeria: Hive stand

  1. Clothing – This is a subject very important to be of note. Whether you can tolerate stings or not, it is never pleasant to feel a small gang of bees crawling down your back: on the inside! A sting on the end of, or up, the nose or in the eye is very unpleasant.

Bee suit

A decent bee suit with the veil incorporate is most preferred. Buy one with a hood that unzips and that can be thrown back when you’ve finished. Most of these suits have hoops in the hood that keep the veil away from your face and, if they don’t, don’t buy one. An excellent lightweight suit is most suitable for hot weather areas

Bee Veil – Always wear a veil when visiting bees. Bees love to explore and your ears, mouth and nose are very tempting.

beekeeper clad in white protective clothing taking honey from bee hive

         Bee Gloves – Thick long gloves will protect your hands

         Hive Tool – Necessity in handling bees. Used in removing the cover, cleaning off burr comb, propolis etc. It is especially helpful in removing frames.

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Hive tool

   Bee Brush – Used to gently remove bees from undesired areas.

Bee brush for honey production

 

HARVESTING AND PROCESSING THE HONEY

The time to harvest honey depends on the flowering period of the forage plants and the extent of the honey flow. It should be noted that when harvesting honey, only the comb with capped honey should be harvested. Combs with brood should not be harvested.

After harvesting the honeycombs, the honey is extracted using floating, pressing, or centrifuging method.

The extracted honey can be stored in glass jars or plastic buckets with well-sealed lids or air-tight containers to prevent fermentation of the honey. Honey can start to ferment during storage if the water content is greater than 19%.

DISEASES AND PEST

The honey bee Apis mellifera has been reported to harbor multiple viruses and other disease-causing organisms. Some of the diseases of honey bees are

  • Nosema
  • European foul brood and America foul brood
  • Chalk brood

Insects such as wax moth, small hive beetle, ants and termites.

ECONOMIC POTENTIAL OF HONEY PRODUCTION

Honey has established itself as the best alternative to synthesized sugar as such it is priced high in the international market with a high demand for the product. There exists a large export market for honey on the global stage; with the European Union accounting for approximately 20-25% of the world’s consumption. In 2007, consumption amounted to 310 thousand tonnes.[2] The other two major consumers of honey in the world are China and the USA. China accounts for approximately 15% of global consumption and the USA for 10%.

The EU is also the major market for beeswax in the world, accounting for a third of global imports in 2006. The USA is the second largest importer, accounting for 17% of beeswax imports. Japan is the third largest importer, accounting for 5% of the imports.

The global foreign exchange earnings from honey production have grown well over that of crude oil production, with a barrel of crude oil put at $101 while a barrel of honey is estimated at the international market for $1,539 (2013)[3]. This shows clearly that the returns realizable from honey export, due to the enormous demand for the product, far out way what the nation is realizing from crude oil.

Source: Agriculture Nigeria