Bee Keeping (Apiculture) in Nepal

Bee-keeping is non land based farming system that provides nutritional food and ecological balance to the environment along with source of income. Nepal produces a variety of specialized honey and other bee products noted for their purity and high medicinal value. The majority of the honey found in Nepal is of multi-flora origin. However, there are some unifloral honeys including chiuri (Indian butter tree), mustard, buckwheat, rudilo (pogostomone spp), sunflower and litchi honey. Honeydew honey collected from pine and spruce trees (Salle Maha) and oak trees (Dalle Maha) is also produced in the mountain areas of Nepal. Honeybees are the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. It is estimated that about 1/3rd of food that we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees then other insects, birds and bats. Globally too, there are more honeybees than other types of bees and pollinating insects.There are currently 5,700 commercial bee-keepers in Nepal accounting for 55,000 hives. A hive is a home between 25,000 to 70,000 bees depending on species. The number of hives including from non-commercial keepers, was 240,000 in 2016/17 fiscal year producing about 3,500 tones of honey.

Present scenario of honey production and market in Nepal

According to Ministry of Agriculture and Development (MOAD), Nepal exported about 378 tonnes of processed and unprocessed honey of value Rs.67 millions in 2016/17 fiscal year. The domesticated colonies of bees are about 1100 colonies which yield about ….. MT and natural wild colonies are about 126884 colonies which yield about ….MT. It indicates that most of the honey yield is from wild honeybee colonies. It is estimated that the contribution of total honey production from Apis mellifera, A. cerana and wild honeybees are 51%, 36% and 13% respectively. Hence, the productions of honey from exotic and native bees are equal.

Extraction of honey

Most honey in Nepal is extracted by squeezing the combs with hands. Squeezed honey is very common in Nepal where Apis cerana beekeeping is practiced in fixed comb log and wall hives. Some honey is also extracted from centrifugal extraction, mainly honey produced from Apis mellifera beekeepers who keep bees in moveable frame hives. Liquid honey is more preferred by NepaIi consumers who consider coarsely granulated honey as inferior one due to adulteration of honey with table sugar. Contrary to this, the finely granulated chiuri and litchi honeys and cold pressed multifloral honeys are regarded as the best honeys.

Honey bee diversity

I) Apis laboriosa S.

The Himalayan cliff bee is the largest honeybee of the world which bears only a single large colony at open space and is native to Nepal. It is generally found in high altitudes ranging from 1200 to 3600m, and forages at up to 4100m. This is unique species for conservation of Himalayan vegetation and ecotourism development in Nepal. Its average honey yield per year per colony was reported as 20-50kg.

II) Apis dorsata F.

A giant honeybee is native to Nepal with a single large comb at open place built on a tree, buildings and water tanks. A. dorsata colonies migrate seasonally and seasonally return to the same old nesting sites. This bee inhabits the southern low land of the country between 190 to 1200m. The honey yield has been reported as 30-50kg. per year.

III) Apis cerana F.

The Asian hive bee and native species of Nepal is found at all over the country and is reared at different types of hives like Newton, wall and log hives etc. There are three sub-species/ecotypes of A. cerana reported: A. cerana indica in plain areas, A. cerana Himalaya in valleys and hills and A. cerana cerana in high hills. A. cerana can be found all over the Nepal up to 3500 mean average sea level. Its honey yield has been reported as 8.1 kg/colony/year. It has high tendency of swarming, absconding, and robbing which complicate the management of this bee.

IV) Apis florae F.

Apis Cerena and Apis Mellifera

It is known as dwarf bee or little bee that can be found up to 1200 mean average sea level especially in plain areas. It is a single comb species at open areas and nests in bushes. It yields very less honey of about 1kg/colony/year with high medicinal value. It is efficient pollinator of crop and natural flora.

V) Apis mellifera L.

It was originated in Africa and spread to Europe and Asia. It is introduced in Nepal in 1990. It can be established up to around 1500 mean average sea level. but it need migration to plain area during winter season. It builds multiple parallel combs. Commercial beekeeping was started in Nepal with the introduction of this bee. Absconding tendencies and swarming are quite low in this bee but it is more susceptible to diseases and parasites thus, needs good management. It is good pollinators of fruit and field crops. Its honey yield varies from 28.7kg to 40kg per colony per year in Nepal.

Bee hive

Benefits of bees in agricultural crops

i) It is reported that fruit set in peach and plum is significantly increased by 21.9% and 13% than control.
ii) The foraging behaviour of Apis cerana is major pollinator of citrus sinensis and strawberry.
iii) Vegetables like cauliflowers and radish; cereal crop like buckwheat and oilseed crops like broad leaf mustard and rapeseeds are pollinated by Apis cerana.
iv) Honeybees are one of the most important pollinator of plants. it pollinates about one third of food crops grown in the whole world.

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