Honeybees are familiar insects that man has hunted and robbed their wild nets. Cave paintings drawn about 8000 years back are a clear proof of this activity.
They have a lifespan of about 6 weeks, they perform different tasks within the hive at different stages of their.
- 1st to 4th Day: Cleaner – Feeds on cells full of pollen to
develop different glands to their full potential. This way they keep the hive
- 5th to 9th Day: Nurse – Glands in her head secrete food which
becomes part of royal jelly that nurtures the larvae, and some destined for the
queens. She also makes the mixture of honey and pollen (bee bread) and feeds it to
- 10th to 16th Day: Builder – Glands in her head become inactive by
the ninth day. The glands on her abdomen now start to produce wax which is used to
- 17th to 19th Day: Stores‘ Manager – She takes pollen and
nectar from bees returning to the hive and carefully packs it as a food store in
the comb. She also helps to ventilate the hive by flapping her wings. This helps
the air to circulate and also strengthens the muscles that work the wings in
preparation for their first flights from the hive.
- 20th Day Onwards: Sentry/Guard – Before taking their first
flight they help to keep away wasps, moths and other intruders from the hive.
They also kill the drones to prevent them from returning to the hive. The rest of
their lives is spent seeking food i.e. Foraging (Collecting nectar and pollen).
Bees Species and Races
There are over 20,000species of bees in the world though there are only two of them which are of any economic importance; Apinae (honey bees) and meliponinae (stingless bees). Honey bees have only two genus known as Apis (Apis Mellifera). Their colonies produce much larger swarms and are easily alerted to sting and attack. There are 2 main races of this in Africa:
Bees live in colonies which are made up of a queen, drones and the worker bees. A
good colony is made up of up to 80,000 bees. They can only survive as a colony, which
when domesticated stay in a hive (the Kenyan top bar or langstroth). Flourishing
only where there is sufficient pollen, nectar, shelter and water which are
the essential needs of the colony.
- Apis Mellifera Adansonii – Found mainly in West African Countries.
- Apis Mellifera Scutellata – Found in East Africa and South Africa.
Nectar is the sweet liquid produced by plants to attract insects for
pollinating. The bees suck up the nectar from flowers and store it in their honey sacs
and carry it back to the hive. They then regurgitate it and pass it to another bee
during which enzymes are added to it and start to change it into honey which is stored
in the honeycomb.
Pollen is the fine dusty material that collects on bees as they
collect nectar. It’s collected in special pollen baskets on their back legs and
taken to the hive where it’s pressed into the comb b y hive bees using their heads like
hammers. Most of it is used to feed the young larvae.
Bee keeping provides rural people in developing countries with a source of income and nutrition. It is sustainable form of Agriculture which is beneficial to the environment and provides economic reasons for the retention of native habitats and potentially increased yield from food and forage crops.
Bees have a vital role in increasing food production and over agricultural productivity by providing pollination. It’s estimated that more than 75% of crops in warmer countries benefit from bee pollination. Seed and fruit production depend on pollination.
Their hairy bodies pick up grains of pollen as they move about in flowers.
Honey is a delicious food with high carbohydrates and adds useful variety to the diets. As most sugar in honey are fructose and glucose, it’s readily digestible than cane sugar.
It is widely used as medicine and is highly valued for this. It has three biological factors which account for its antibiotic activity;
- Honey absorbs water and so is capable of killing bacteria by dehydrating them. Honey is sterile as most micro-organisms cannot survive in it.
- There are enzymes in honey which produce hydrogen peroxide which kills bacteria.
- Honey is acidic.
It is also used to treat coughs and stomach ailments but applied externally to burns, ulcers and wounds, to produce an alcoholic drink known as honey beer.
There are various methods used to measure the quality of Honey. These are:
- Colour: It determines commercial use and value. Darker honeys
are mainly put into industrial use while the lighter colored ones are marketed
directly for consumption. The colours ranges from water, white through the shades
of amber to dark.
- Water Content: This is measured using a Refractometer. With
more than 19% of water, honey is likely to ferment. Honey with low content of
water is considered to be of high quality.
- HMF (Hydroxymethlyfurfural): This is a break-down product of
fructose formed slowly during the storage of honey. It forms quickly when honey is
heated. The higher the HMF, the lower the quality of honey.
- Presence of any contamination e.g. pollen and dirt.
Bees also produce Propolis (sort of bee glue), building material, that is used to seal
cracks in the hive, to strengthen the comb and to mummify any intruder. Propolis is
plant resins collected from the buds of various plants.
Nutritionally, natural honey contains about 75 – 80% sugar and the rest is a mixture
of minerals including phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, enzymes and water.
Honey is high in energy. One teaspoon of honey gives about 15 calories, but because
it is a natural product the composition of honey is highly variable.
A typical blended honey contains the following, per 100g:
Minerals may include traces of calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, selenium
and manganese, there may be traces of vitamin B (riboflavin, niacin) and a small
amount of vitamin C.
|Carbohydrates (all sugar)