Apiculture is the art of beekeeping, but more than just keeping hives and harvesting honey, it includes setting up properly located and constructed hives, making sure bees have access to plentiful sources of nectar, and preparing the harvested liquid honey after it has been taken from the hive. It also includes being aware of local laws governing the keeping of bees and processing of their products and even marketing the final products.
Colonies of bees are highly socialized groups of insects that create their own ecosystems in and around their hives. A detailed understanding of how this society functions is necessary to get the most out of raising them. Before even beginning to set up a beekeeping hobby or business, gaining a thorough knowledge of bee anatomy, behavior, and ecology can build an invaluable basis for the business. An individual who undertakes the responsibility of keeping a hive is taking on an entire civilization of creatures.
Apiculture does not have to be a large-scale project. Keeping a few hives can give families access to endless honey as well as related products like beeswax candles and fresh honeycombs. It can also go hand-in-hand with other activities, such as gardening, as a few properly managed hives can provide invaluable pollination services to flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables.
Some of the hands-on processes of apiculture include constructing the hives and upkeep on these outdoor structures that can become weathered by the elements. Handling the bees can be one of the most difficult tasks. A smoker and proper clothing can help the beekeeper keep from getting stung while removing honeycombs or carrying out the delicate procedures of replacing the hive's queen bee.
While it may seem strange to relate management techniques to bees, it is a vital skill. Beekeepers must know what the bees require before they can build a successful hive, including providing consistent sources of fresh water, nectar, and pollen. An individual who is both aware and respectful of the natural cycle of bees will find handling them much easier, and he or she will also be alert to pests and threats to the hive before they become a real problem. Keeping an eye on rainfall charts, temperatures, climate changes, and information on area vegetation can help the alert beekeeper avoid or prepare for potential problems.
An important part of keeping bees is knowing regional and national regulations regarding beekeeping. Honey is a food product, and as such, its preparation is subject to regulations. There are also rules about where hives can be placed in residential areas, and insurance concerns to be investigated as an ongoing part of the business.