Bee-keeping is an absorbing hobby to some, and to others it is an industry for producing honey and wax. Since ancient times, honeybees have been kept in a crude manner in India. Bee-keeping, today is based upon improved methods using the principles of movable frame-hive, honey extractor and the smoker. Beekeeping is an ideal hobby because it involves outdoor work and does not require much time. It is both interesting and instructive. Moreover, the returns in the form of money and mental satisfaction are highly gratifying. Beekeeping is an asset as honey bees help in increasing crop yields through pollination and gather nectar to produce honey and wax. It is a well considered view that the income derived by increased crop yield due to beekeeping is quite substantial.
Beekeeping can be a profitable occupation in areas with good floral pasturage. Possibility for the development beekeeping in India is tremendous due to its diverse environment and inexhaustible floral resources obtained from natural vegetation and cultivated crops. According to recent statistics, about 50 million hectares of land is under the cultivation of oilseeds, pulses, orchards and other crops useful to bees and benefitted by bee pollination. In addition, there is about 60 million hectares of forest area with beekeeping potential. This vast area of agriculture and forest may easily sustain at least one crore bee colonies.
Bee keeping can profitably be pursued by men, women and children, by farmers, orchardists, and by those who are landless or underemployed. Bee hives can be kept to the backyard or on house tops. A subsistence farmer can get higher income from bee keeping than from other avocations. Those who have the time and interest can manage a number of beehives and make beekeeping a profitable enterprise by selling the surplus honey and wax. Several people in a village or group of villages may join, together and start a co-operative, generating work and income, since the manufacture of the basic beekeeping equipments such as hives, frames, smokers, extractors and containers, as well as the processing of honey and bee wax can be done locally.
India today has about eight lakh bee colonies. considering the modem beekeeping which arrived in India only three decades ago with the advent of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), today the number of bee colonies and beekeeper's co- operatives are 8, 10, 807 and 169 respectively. It has made a spectacular achievement. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Punjab, Meghalaya, Andaman and Nicobar islands are the important states in which beekeeping co-operatives are active.
Problems associated with beekeeping are:
A viable proposition in this regard is to strengthen the beekeeping co-operatives and establish the bee industry as a whole and national beekeeping farms on forest land.