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Apiculture (from Latin: "bee") is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produces (including beeswax, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or "bee yard".

Depictions of humans collecting honey from wild bees date to 15,000 years ago. Beekeeping in pottery vessels began about 9,000 years ago in North Africa. Domestication is shown in Egyptian art from around 4,500 years ago. Simple hives and smoke were used and honey was stored in jars, some of which were found in the tombs of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun. It wasn't until the 18th century that European understanding of the colonies and biology of bees allowed the construction of the moveable comb hive so that honey could be harvested without destroying the entire colony.

At some point humans began to attempt to domesticate wild bees in artificial hives made from hollow logs, wooden boxes, pottery vessels, and woven straw baskets or "skeps". Traces of beeswax are found in pot sherds throughout the Middle East beginning about 7000 BCE.

Honeybees were kept in Egypt from antiquity. On the walls of the sun temple of Nyuserre Ini from the Fifth Dynasty, before 2422 BCE, workers are depicted blowing smoke into hives as they are removing honeycombs. Inscriptions detailing the production of honey are found on the tomb of Pabasa from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (c. 650 BCE), depicting pouring honey in jars and cylindrical hives. Sealed pots of honey were found in the grave goods of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun.

Stele showing Shamash-resh-ușur praying to the gods Adad and Ishtar with an inscription in Babylonian cuneiform.

I am Shamash-resh-ușur , the governor of Suhu and the land of Mari. Bees that collect honey, which none of my ancestors had ever seen or brought into the land of Suhu, I brought down from the mountain of the men of Habha, and made them settle in the orchards of the town 'Gabbari-built-it'. They collect honey and wax, and I know how to melt the honey and wax – and the gardeners know too. Whoever comes in the future, may he ask the old men of the town, (who will say) thus: "They are the buildings of Shamash-resh-ușur, the governor of Suhu, who introduced honey bees into the land of Suhu."

— translated text from stele, (Dalley, 2002)
Period Work activity
Days 1-3 Cleaning cells and incubation
Day 3-6 Feeding older larvae
Day 6-10 Feeding younger larvae
Day 8-16 Receiving nectar and pollen from field bees
Day 12-18 Beeswax making and cell building
Day 14 onwards Entrance guards; nectar, pollen, water and

propolis foraging; robbing other hives

Stage of development Queen Worker Drone
Egg 3 days 3 days 3 days
Larva 8 days 10 days 13 days :Successive moults occur within this period 8 to 13 day period
Cell Capped day 8 day 8 day 10
Pupa 4 days 8 days 8 days
Total 15 days 21 days 24 days
World honey production and consumption in 2005
Country Production
(1000 metric tons)
(1000 metric tons)
of beekeepers
of bee hives
Europe and Russia
Ukraine Ukraine 71.46 52
Russia Russia 52.13 54
Spain Spain 37.00 40
Germany Germany (*2008) 21.23 89 90,000* 1,000,000*
Hungary Hungary 19.71 4
Romania Romania 19.20 10
Greece Greece 16.27 16
France France 15.45 30
Bulgaria Bulgaria 11.22 2
Serbia Serbia 3 to 5 6.3 30,000 430,000
Denmark Denmark (*1996) 2.5 5 *4,000 *150,000
North America
United States United States (*2006, **2002) 70.306* 158.75* 12,029** (210,000 bee keepers) 2,400,000*
Canada Canada 45 (2006); 28 (2007) 29 13,000 500,000
Latin America
Argentina Argentina 93.42 (Average 84) 3
Mexico Mexico 50.63 31
Brazil Brazil 33.75 2
Uruguay Uruguay 11.87 1
Australia Australia 18.46 16 12,000 520,000
New Zealand New Zealand 9.69 8 2602 313,399
China China 299.33 (average 245) 238 7,200,000
Turkey Turkey 82.34 (average 70) 66 4,500,000
Iran Iran 3,500,000
India India 52.23 45 9,800,000
South Korea South Korea 23.82 27
Vietnam Vietnam 13.59 0
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan 10.46 10
Ethiopia Ethiopia 41.23 40 4,400,000
Tanzania Tanzania 28.68 28
Angola Angola 23.77 23
Kenya Kenya 22.00 21
Egypt Egypt (*1997) 16* 200,000* 2,000,000*
Central African Republic Central African Republic 14.23 14
Morocco Morocco (*1997) 4.5* 27,000* 400,000*
South Africa South Africa (*2008) ~2.5* ~1.5* ~1,790* ~92,000*
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

  • a queen bee, which is normally the only breeding female in the colony;
  • a large number of female worker bees, typically 30,000–50,000 in number;
  • a number of male drones, ranging from thousands in a strong hive in spring to very few during dearth or cold season.
  • Denmark: (1996)
  • Arab countries: (1997)
  • USA: University of Arkansas National Agricultural Law Center, Agricultural Marketing Resource Center
  • Serbia


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