Favorable Living Condition For Honey Bee
The amount of annual rainfall and the temperature of an area exerts a great influence on the life and work output of the honeybee, renown as "summer bird", for it performs most energetically at relatively high temperatures, up to 35°C. However its activity slows when the temperature drops below 20°C, and bees will not move at all below 8°C.
At low temperatures, bees remain indoors and cluster to generate heat to keep themselves warm. To fan themselves or to cluster, they need fuel to burn; honey fuel allows them to perform these functions. The same phenomenon occurs during rainfall or the rainy season. If bees are confined because of unfavorable weather, an average colony may consume as much as 1.4 kg of honey in a day. Should this continue, whole stores of honey may be completely depleted and the colony will face famine.
On the other hand, temperatures above 37°C are equally unfavorable for the honeybee, combs begin to melt and most of the bees in the hive will move out and fan themselves and the brood nest frantically. At such temperatures, bees will spend all their time fetching water to cool the hive and nectar collection will cease completely.
In the dense forest regions of Africa, the annual rainfall may range from 1 500 to as much as 10 000 mm, and the peak rainy season occurs from mid-June through July. It is at this period that most bee colonies swarm, and they, therefore, have to solve their accommodation problems promptly: if suitable hollows are not available, the swarm will hang in the open and drown.
A young virgin queen leading a secondary swarm must make her mating flight. A temperature of about 21°C is required for the drone to leave the hive, while the queen bee flies out at about 24°C. If the rain continues for a long time and low temperatures persist, the queen's nuptial flight will be delayed. After a week, the workers will become angry and may kill her or, if she is allowed to live, she will begin to lay unfertilized eggs. Once she starts egg-laying, the nuptial flight cannot take place and that will spell the doom of the entire colony.
Some other problems persisting with a honeybee in the dense equatorial forest are:
- Some trees are so tall that worker bees will not visit them for any reason.
- Tall trees in the equatorial forest have few or no flowers so that nectar and pollen is scarce.
- The sun's rays cannot reach the forest floor, the thick undergrowth prevents the free flow of air and the temperatures are too low to induce worker bees to fly out to procure the commodities essential for the colony.
- High humidity levels promote serious fungal diseases in the insect.
- High moisture content in the nectar prevents honey from curing well.
- Ants, reptiles, birds and other hive predators are present in the forest in large numbers.
It should be noted that the absence of honeybee, from the forest inadequate numbers hampers adequate pollination and this affects crop yields. This also clarifies why some fruit crops (e.g. mango and orange) cannot perform well in dense forests; even though the plants grow taller and larger, they always bear less fruit than expected.
The savannah and semi-arid regions occupy over 50% of Africa's total area, supporting large-scale commercial beekeeping, because of the climatic conditions in favor of honeybee. Every shrub and tree found in the region produces flowers. Grasses are wind-pollinated, but it is common to find bees visiting some of them, including guinea corn, millet and maize. These regions have few beekeeping problems; inadequate surface water and dry wind.
The density of human population suggests the degree to which an area is geographically favorable for man and animals, and also for bees. Most arid and desert areas of Africa are fertile lands which only require water in the form of either rainfall or irrigation.
In Egypt, the presence of the Nile River for irrigation supports high-density human settlement in parts. The irrigated areas have several tree crops and enough water to support abundant bee life. The days are bright and warm. There is little or no rainfall to disturb flight activities. There are abundant drought-resistant plants which when in bloom provide nectar and pollen to support strong bee colonies.
Effect of Human Activities
The worst enemy of a honeybee is man, all because of his attempt to improve living conditions &causing, great damage to nature. Trees that support bee life are hacked down, and houses are built on fertile soils that would support crops. Results in falling of bee population, as their places for food and shelter, are being destroyed through road builders, building constructors and farmers.
The farmer has cleared all the bush covering the soil along the banks of the rivers which provide him with water, thus exposing the water to direct sunlight and increasing the rate of evaporation, soil erosion, and water-tables getting dropped seriously.
Beekeepers should set their own, much higher, targets, planting quick-maturing bee-forage trees (eucalyptus is perhaps the best) to cover once again the banks of streams and rivers and all other areas known to have water-tables. They should also plant fruit crops that could yield fruit, honey, and beeswax for man. Many apiaries could be sited in such man-made forests. If bees would find their food and water naturally, while a man would gain several immediate advantages and lay a sound foundation for future generations.
Honey-hunters using barbaric methods to deliberately kill many of them, but as they cut down trees to take the colonies' combs, they destroy the tree hollows that are the bees' natural home. The colonies are thus forced to hang outdoors, exposed to all their natural enemies.
For all these reasons, the activities of the
traditional honey-tapper should be very strictly controlled. Governments
should not only regulate honey-hunting and enforce the regulations once made,
but should also make serious efforts to instruct honey-tappers in the newer,
more efficient ways of honey-hunting, as well as to encourage them to keep bees
One of the greatest problems in the savannah and the transitional forest zones is bush-burning during the dry season (generally from November to Hay). The reasons for bush-burning is clearing land for farming and make hunting easy. The honeybee population suffers greatly from such fires' that consumes an area of 250 square kilometers, with only one colony for every 10 hectares, about 125 million bees could be destroyed.
The beekeeper must guard his hives against bush fires by making a fire belt around the apiary and visit it as frequently as possible, removing any fallen wood or leaves which could spread a fire on the site.
When water is scarce during the dry season, the honeybee requires to travel to fetch a head-load of water for domestic purposes. If she cannot find water in the streams, then that bucketful of water which the villager has collected must be snatched away. Sometimes honey bees harassvillage women pounding grain. In extreme cases, they try to suck human sweat, and this results in a scuffle.
This is primitive reason, villagers hunt the bees and burn them to live peacefully in area. However bees must be watered just like birds in a poultry farm. It’s surest way to prevent bee-burning is to provide a regular water supply for bees as well as for human consumption in the dry season to prevent bee attacks from causing loss of life or other serious inconvenience.
The Palm-vine Tapper
The palm tree produces a sweet, refreshing liquid which is drunk by man in many tropical countries. The honeybee also refreshes herself with this type of wine from the pot of the wine-tapper and become tipsy. In extreme cases, the whole pot of wine is consumed, and many bees drown. The wine-tapper, furious at the sight of the countless bees lying in the wine pot, collects all the bees and throws them away or kills them. However, if he assumes that the motionless, tipsy bees are dead, he does them no further harm.
As the honeybee visits plants during her search for nectar or pollen, she flies from one plant and flower to another. Sometimes they unknowingly lands on a poisonous plant or contacts a poisonous pesticide which the farmer has sprayed to protect his crops. Further these pollen collectors carry this poisoned pollen into the hive and store it for future use by the bee brood. As long as the poisonous pollen remains in the cells, it poses a dangerous threat. It may kill both adults and brood, either by contact or by ingestion. This intensive hazard of pesticide poisoning sometimes overshadows all other problems, for example when an entire orchard is sprayed by aircraft.
The greatest natural enemies of the honeybee are ants: driver, tailor, black, red, brown, large or small, all are dangerous to the hive. They eat sweets such as nectar, honey, sugar, and the bee's body. They like to live in hollows like the bee, and the same empty beehive produced by man for bees can also be a good home for them.
Therefore all four wires or the legs of the hive should be protected by insect repellents. The part of the suspension wire nearest to the branch on which the wire hangs should be coated with thick grease or dirty engine oil as spreading wood ash or charcoal ash around the stand will also, keep ants away.
The wax moth is the bee's second-worst enemy. There are two types: greater and lesser wax moths. They attack colonies during the warm periods of the year. The female moth, which is slightly smaller than the honeybee, enters the hive freely and lays her eggs in the combs. The eggs hatch in three days and the emerged larvae begin to eat the wax, tunneling through and destroying the comb cells, and spinning web-like cocoons about themselves for protection against the bees. When the wax-moth reaches its pupa stage, it digs hollows in wood for its cocoon and by doing so damages or destroys the inner surface of the hive and the top-bars.
When colonies swarm, most of the bees leave the hive and the few which remain may not be able to cover all the combs. Unguarded combs should be removed, stored and replaced later as the colony increases in size.
The entrance of a weak colony should be reduced to enable the few "security officers" to guard it effectively. Other holes that can serve as entrances to the hive will surely be used not only by the moth but by other hive predators as well. Such entrances should be sealed off as soon as they are discovered.
Lizards, reptiles measuring about 25 cm from head to tail stays very close to the hive or accommodates itself comfortably between the lid and the hive body to feed indefinitely on the bees.Even lizards not living near the hive will feed on the bees once they can locate the apiary. Although they prefer dead bees, they will eat live ones as well. A serious lizard problem may lead to absconding. Beehives are installed on a platform, with metal cones nailed on the legs about 70 cm above the ground, to prevent lizards from reaching the hives.
Toads use the same methods as lizards and will remain in the apiary if they can get bees to eat. The toad generally consumes only weak and dead bees, but if it can reach the hive, it will eat live bees as well. The toad does not pose as many problems as the lizard because it cannot climb. The best means of protecting hives against toads is , therefore, to install them at least 60 cm above the ground.
Some snakes are known to eat bees. They do not cause much damage to the colony, but the beekeeper should always be careful to avoid being bitten by a poisonous snake near the hive.
This large moth is well known for entering hives between June and November. It makes a special sound that paralyzes the bees, and they may refrain from attacking it. Also, these moths may then be able to load its stomach with honey.
Since the wing-span of the moth is as wide as 12 cm, Atropos cannot enter any hole which is only 8 mm in diameter. The use of hives with slot-like entrances should be avoided if the area is infested with this insect.
The Bee Pirate
A wasp-like insect with orange and black skin is sometimes found molesting the field bees entering and leaving the hive. This insect is usually active between October and May. There is nothing the beekeeper can do to stop it, but it cannot cause any great harm to a colony of bees.
The spider constructs webs around in the apiary or in an empty hive. Once the web catches bees, the spider will eat them.
All webs found in or near the apiary should be destroyed. The hive should be cleaned and all webs found within it removed. Otherwise, the scout bees will be caught and eaten, and no swarm will ever take possession of the empty hive.
The Alpine Swift
This bird is well known for eating bees. The birds arrive in December and stay on for several weeks, usually causing considerable losses.
Creatures found in or near the hive which constitute no danger to honeybees are the little green lizard, wall gecko, some small frogs, and the cockroach. They are usually called bee friends. They eat some insects which encroach upon the hive such as the wax moth, the house fly, the blue-bottle fly, and the mosquito. However, there is some doubt whether the cockroach is really a good friend to the honeybee.
Like all other living creatures, the honeybee suffers from diseases. In many parts of the world, research is underway for means of combating or preventing them, but the African bee industry is in its infant stage and not much research has been carried out on bee diseases in Africa. It is believed that some of the diseases found in temperate and sub-tropical regions of other parts of the world may be present on the continent.
The life cycle of the honeybee starts with an egg, which hatches in three days. It then passes through larval and pupa stages before emerging as an image or a young bee. During the brood stage, the insect may be attacked by bacterial, viral or fungal diseases.
Good brood comb cells are usually compactly filled by the fifth and sixth days before sealing takes place. An irregular brood comb may signal brood disease. Care must be taken, however, because an irregularity may also be the result of brood emerging. A healthy larva coils like a "comma" in the cell and is fleshy, glistening, juicy white in appearance. It does not move from place to place in the cell. It does not look brown, black or assume any other color except white. The larva should not be misshapen or found dead. Pupae must remain capped; the seal should not be punctured or sunken.
Any of these irregularities suggests that something has gone wrong, and this may be caused by a disease. Some diseases are serious and can wipe out an entire colony; they can gradually spread into other colonies and destroy a whole apiary. Some are seasonal and mild and cause only a small loss of the total population.
The brood diseases the beekeeper must watch for are American foulbrood (AFB), European foulbrood (EFB), stone brood, chalkbrood, and sacbrood.
American Foulbrood (APB)
AFB causes heavy losses to the colony's population. It can wipe out not only a single colony but all the colonies in an apiary, and it can easily spread quickly from one apiary to another. It is not seasonal and may occur at any time.
The disease is caused by Bacillus larvae. The bacteria form strong resistant spores. The organisms attack the larva, which dies after it has been capped. The dead insect becomes brown and finally dries up into a hard scale which is difficult to remove from the cell.
The brood combs of an affected colony become patchy in appearance, owing to the presence of the dead larvae. The decomposed brood has an unpleasant smell. When a match-stick is thrust into the cell of the decomposed pupa, it draws out a ropy thread several centimeters in length.
European Foulbrood (EPB)
The bacterium Melissococcus pluton is believed to be the primary causative agent, but the larva's death is also accelerated by the presence of Bacterium Eurydice and others. The young larva is infected by taking in food containing the bacteria, which multiply in its gut; the larva dies on the fourth day and the worker bees may leave the cell containing the dead larva uncapped.
A healthy bee larva remains coiled in the cell, but not a larva infected by EFB. Shortly before death, the infected larva moves about inside its cell. As a result, the dead larva is found in an unnatural coiled position across the mouth of its cell, sometimes twisted spirally around the walls or stretched lengthwise from the base to the mouth. The dead larva is porridge-like in appearance as if it has been decomposed. It is plump, fleshy appearance is completely loaf. It turns yellowish-brown and eventually dries up into brown scales. Drugs as streptomycin, penicillin, and Terramycin control the disease.
Stone-brood disease is caused by a mold belonging to the genus Aspergillus. It attacks the brood and transforms the larva into a hard, stone-like colored object which is found lying in open cells. Adult bees may also be attacked and are also killed in the process.
The name "chalkbrood" derives from the chalky appearance of the dead brood. This fungal disease, caused by Ascophaeraapis, may cause serious problems to bee colonies in humid areas. Spores of the fungus are ingested in the brood food. The spores germinate in the gut, and the growth of the fungus causes the death of the brood, which occurs in the pre-pupal stage.
This is a virus disease. Larvae infected with sacbrood die in their sealed cells. They become light yellow in color, with tough skins. The skin darkens and the outer layer becomes loose, forming a "sac" which encloses a watery fluid. The brood lies stretched out lengthwise in the sealed cell. After the death of the insect, the cell is partly or fully opened, and the worker bees remove it from the hive.
The virus is spread in the nest by the house bees evacuating the dead brood. The virus does not survive long, and the disease may disappear during the honey-flow period. Serious outbreaks are not common, and usually, no control action is necessary. If control is needed, then the colony must be requeened.
Occasionally, a queen's eggs may fail to hatch, the young larvae may be eaten by nurse bees, or the pupae will die or fail to emerge. This may be caused by inbreeding, and the only way to overcome the problem is to requeen the colony by inserting a capped queen cell, but not an emerged queen.
Disease of Adult Bees
Nosema disease, among the most serious of the bee diseases, is caused by a microscopic organism, a protozoan called Nosemaapis, which is believed to exist in all parts of Africa. The parasite passes its active reproductive life cycle within the digestive cell lining in the mid-gut of the adult bee. After entering a cell, the parasite multiplies quickly, competing with its host bee for its food supply until reproduction stops after a few days, with the formation of a large number of spores. The cell then ruptures and the spores enter the bee's digestive system, finally passing out in the bee's droppings. The parasites then emerge from the spores, pass through the lining of the mid-gut and start another phase of intracellular growth and multiplication. The spores may remain viable for several months, as long as they remain in the brood combs in the hive.
The affected bee cannot utilize her protein reserves, and consequently, very little royal Jelly or brood food can be produced. Therefore, only a small percentage of the potential brood can be reared. The disease causes the young bee to grow prematurely and to forage earlier than usual. Her life span is greatly reduced. The quantity of water in her body increases; she becomes lethargic and may begin to soil the hive. She later becomes a crawler and subsequently collapses.
The ovaries of the affected queen bee soon degenerate. Her egg production decreases and finally stops completely. Her life span is also reduced, and the result may be a queenless colony or one in which the old queen is replaced by supersedure.
The only visible sign is that the colony becomes weaker and weaker as the bees fail to build up when conditions are favorable. Swollen abdomens should also be watched for.
The affected colony can also be given fumigillin (Fumidil-B): 100 mg active ingredients in four liters of a 1:1 sugar solution. If the medication given cannot be obtained, the only option left is to burn the colony to avoid spreading the disease to other hives or even to other apiaries.
This so-called "disease" is caused by a microscopic mite, Acarapiswoodii. The mite enters the bee's breathing apparatus (the tracheal system), multiplies there and interferes with the bee's respiration. The bee's flying ability is greatly hampered; it begins to crawl, and finally dies. Since the acarine disease can be transferred from one bee to another, it can be transported into another colony by a robber or drifting bees. The mite is present in practically every beekeeping country in the world.
Ways to Stop Spreading of Bee Diseases
- The apiary must be kept clean. Honeycombs, wax, propolis and other hive products must not be thrown away near the apiary.
- The beekeeper must not transfer infected combs from hive to hive or from apiary to apiary. Combs must be exchanged with great care.
- Old hive parts, as well as used apiary equipment bought or acquired from doubtful sources, must be disinfected.
- Unknown swarms should never be accepted when there is an outbreak of a bee disease. The beekeeper should set up a quarantine apiary four kilometers away from the nearest apiary, and make sure the swarm is disease-free before transporting it to the apiary.
- Bees should never be fed with honey from a doubtful source.
- If a colony dies of unknown causes, the hive should be closed pending an examination of a sample comb. The remaining stores in the hive should be protected from robber bees.
- Robbing must be prevented. Place syrup or food for a colony inside the hive or in a properly designed feeder to prevent robbing.
- Brood combs should be regularly inspected for signs of disease.
- Hives should be spaced reasonably far apart. The beekeeper should try to arrange his hives so that it will be easy for every bee in the apiary to find its way into its own colony. This will help minimize drifting.