In this article we will discuss about the history and development of apiculture in India.
Apiculture (from Latin apis, a bee) or bee-keeping is the practice of scientific maintenance of honeybee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans and collection of bee products and marketing them professionally.
A bee-keeper, also called apiarist, may keep bees in order to collect honey and beeswax, or for the purpose of pollinating crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary.
Till now more than 20,000 species of wild bees have been described by taxonomists. Many of these species are solitary (e.g., mason bees), and many others rear their young in burrows and small colonies, (e.g., bumble bees). Apiculture is concerned with the practical management of the social species of honey bees, which live in large colonies of up to 100,000 individuals.
In Indian subcontinent uses of bees and honey are common from the pre-historic ages. In our country, Veda, Ramayana, Koran has mentioned different uses of honey. Former Kings and Sultans used the symbol of bee as a mark of glory.
Some of the earliest evidence of gathering honey from wild colonies is from rock paintings, dating to around 13,000 BC from different countries. Since early days honeybees are not cultured for honey, instead honey is collected from wild natural hives.
It is recorded that in 1882, artificial culture of honeybees were introduced in undivided Bengal following European methodologies. In 1883-84 the process was initiated in Punjab. In 1894, India Government first circulate details of information regarding the bee culture as promotional measure. Bee-keepers Association was established in 1907 in Punjab with its Head Office at Simla.
In 1939, All India Bee-keeping Association was established and very soon it spread its branches to most of the states and districts of India. Now it merges with ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) and has expanded its activities. In 1945, Central Bee-keeping Research Station was established. It expands its research centres to Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), Ruptala (Andhra Pradesh), Sundar Nagar (Himachal Pradesh), etc.
In 1953 Khadi and Village Industries Commission and in 1956 Bee-keeping Directorate were established by the Central Government. In 1962 Central Bee Research Training Institute was developed. After that its branches were established in Kodaikanal, Mahabaleswar, Kangra, Kashmir and other places.
In 1980 ICAR, DST, INSA, Khadi and Village development Directorate jointly organised International Conference on Apiculture in Tropical Climate for discussion on the development on the apiculture around the world.