Apiculture is a branch of Agriculture that is concerned with the keeping of honey bees, especially for commercial purposes. It dates back to ancient times when man learnt to drive bees away from their hives so as to harvest the combs in which the bees store honey. About two decades ago, agriculturalists began to sensitize the Nigerian government and farmers on the prospects of alleviating poverty and increasing wealth through apiculture.
Over the years, apiculture has been embraced by farmers, the government, and even students and professionals as it is relatively not time-demanding compared to other forms of agriculture, and bees do not need to be fed, cleaned or constantly monitored unlike some other animals. If well managed, apiculture has a high profit yield because honey is used by a large number of people as food, drug, and for cultural practices. In the smaller cities of Nigeria such as Ogbomoso, a 50cl bottle of honey costs between N500 and N600 while in larger cities such as Lagos, the same quantity of honey can cost as much as N3000. Apart from honey, other apicultural products are beeswax, pollen, royal jelly and propolis.
Since the discovery that bees can be domesticated, apiculturists have learnt to keep bees using various means. The most common in Nigeria is the use of boxes whose tops are made of bars. A round hole is made on one side of the box which bees use for entry and exit. The box is placed in a suitable place, usually a farm or accessible bushy area and bait is placed near the hole (the bait is product of honey bees and honey is usually used).
Bees are soon attracted to the box and if they find it unoccupied and conducive, they make it their home. They begin to make honeycombs in the top bars and store honey in the combs. Honey is actually the food of bees which they make from flower nectar. The bees seal honeycombs to the bars with propolis. As the combs are being filled with honey, their colour changes from almost white to brown. The honey is ripe for harvesting when the combs have become brown, usually about four months after they are made.
Problems Associated With Apiculture in Nigeria
Marketing: there is really no organised honey industry or market in Nigeria; each apiculturist is basically on his own, doing what he knows however he can. As a result, resources are not being pooled together and there is no cooperation and networking in the business, at least on a large scale. The consequence of this is poor marketing and relatively low profit yield.
Adulteration: in many parts of Nigeria, apiculture has been invaded by many people who are not proficient in practising it. Consequently, some apicultural products that are in the market are poor imitations of the real substance. Theft: this is usually the predicament of rural apiculturists. Their apiaries are often invaded and plundered by thieves who harvest the combs and leave the apiculturist with less harvest than he worked for.