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The management and maintenance of colonies of honeybees.



apiculture, a branch of agriculture; the raising of honeybees for honey, beeswax, and other products (royal jelly, propolis, bee venom, etc.), as well as for pollinating agricultural crops to increase yields.

Beekeeping was known long before our era. Its development went through several stages. At first, wild beekeeping consisted of hunting for honey and beeswax—bees’ nests and their honeycombs were found in tree hollows. The stages of wild-hive beekeeping and stump beekeeping in logs and tree hollows (dupliankas) were followed by frame beekeeping, or the raising of bee colonies in sectional hives with movable frames. With the invention of the frame hive in 1814 by the Russian beekeeper P. I. Prokopovich and of the honey extractor in 1865 by the Bohemian apiarist F. von Hruschka, frame beekeeping became a highly productive branch of agriculture in many countries. Great contributions were made in the development and dissemination of the scientific principles of beekeeping by Russian scientists and public figures, such as A. M. Butlerov, M. A. Dernov, I. A. Kablukov, N. M. Kulagin, G. A. Kozhevnikov and A. F. Iubin. Foreign figures who have done a great deal for the development of beekeeping include F. Huber (Switzerland), L. Langstroth (USA), J. Mehring, and E. Zander (Germany).

In Russia, beekeeping has been widespread for a long time in almost every area of the country. In 1910 there were 339,000 apiaries with an average size of six colonies, totaling 6,309,000 colonies, of which less than 18 percent were in frame hives. The marketable surplus from the apiaries was low. The average amount of marketable honey obtained from one bee colony did not exceed 5–6 kg. During World War I, the number of apiaries in the country decreased significantly, and by 1919 the number of bee colonies had fallen to 3.2 million. After the decree of 1919 of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR On Protecting Apiculture, beekeeping developed rapidly. In 1940 in the USSR there were more than 10 million bee colonies, 95 percent of which were in frame hives. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, the number of apiaries again decreased considerably, and the number of bee colonies dropped to 4.9 million. As a result of a number of party and government resolutions adopted in the postwar years concerning beekeeping, such as the resolution of 1945 of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR On Measures to Develop Apiculture, beekeeping was reestablished and became a profitable branch of the national economy.

With the amalgamation of kolkhozes, the size of apiaries increased. By 1955 the number of bee colonies had reached 9 million, and the average size of a kolkhoz apiary was 70 colonies. Since the 1960’s, the development of beekeeping has progressed in conjunction with the further growth of kolkhoz and sovkhoz apiaries and the establishment of specialized beekeeping sovkhozes with different areas of specialization. By 1973 the number of bee colonies totaled 9.4 million. The average size of a kolkhoz apiary was 150 colonies, and of a sovkhoz apiary, 250 colonies. Specialized industrial sovkhozes and large bee farms have been set up, with the introduction of mechanization of the labor-consuming processes of uncapping and extracting the honey, outfitting the hive frames with wax, and loading and unloading the hives when the apiaries are to be transported to nectariferous areas. At these enterprises the technology of feeding and caring for the bee colonies is being perfected, and the efficiency of labor is increasing—one beekeeper can maintain 150–200 colonies instead of 35-40 as at nonamalgamated apiaries.

The three basic areas of specialization in apiculture are the production of honey, pollination, and bee raising.

In the Urals, Siberia, the Far East, Azerbaijan, Kirghizia, eastern Kazakhstan, and Armenia, where there are vast areas of wild nectariferous vegetation, there are large beekeeping sovkhozes with 4,000 to 20,000 colonies that specialize in the production of honey and beeswax. In intensive-farming areas, such as the Volga Region, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the Northern Caucasus, large bee farms with 500 to 800 colonies use the bees primarily to pollinate agricultural crops, for which the apiaries are moved to areas with flowering nectariferous plants. (In most areas stationary beekeeping has been replaced by migratory beekeeping.) In the southern regions of the RSFSR and the Ukraine and in Moldavia, Transcaucasia, and Middle Asia, where the abundant spring and summer nectariferous plants allow the bees an extended honey flow of 2.5–3 months, bee farms specialize in rearing queen bees of the best strains and propagating bee colonies to supply the apiaries of other farms. (The colonies and queens are distributed in special packages to various regions of the country.)

The honey yields at the leading apiaries reach 150 kg and more from each hive, totaling up to 70 kg of marketable honey. The annual production of honey from 1955 to 1973 averaged 90,000-100,000 tons, of which 20,000-30,000 tons are state purchases.

Great significance is attached to the development of beekeeping on private plots of land. Amateur beekeepers are not taxed and they may sell their surplus product to purchasing organizations or at the market.

Supervision of beekeeping is carried out by the apicultural departments of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR, the republic ministries of agriculture, and the republic ministries of sovkhozes. Beekeepers with lower qualifications are trained in vocational training schools and apicultural schools, and those of middle-level and higher qualifications at agricultural and zootechnical technicums and institutes. Research work is carried out by the Scientific Research Institute of Beekeeping in Rybnoe, Riazan’ Oblast, and experimental and selection stations in various republics. Scientific, reference, and production literature on beekeeping is published. The journal Pchelovodstvo (Beekeeping) disseminates information on apicultural achievements in the USSR and abroad.

Beekeeping is practiced on all the continents. According to data from FAO, UNESCO, and other organizations, in 1972 there were approximately 40 million bee colonies in the world, of which almost 50 percent were located in the socialist countries, including approximately 25 percent in the USSR. In the socialist countries other than the USSR, the greatest number of bee colonies are in Poland (1.4 million) and Czechoslovakia (1.1 million). The capitalist countries with the largest beekeeping industries are the USA (4.7 million bee colonies), Mexico (1.8 million), Turkey (1.7 million), France (1 million), Canada (400,000), and Australia (400,000). Industrially specialized beekeeping with highly mechanized apiaries has developed in the USA, Canada, and Australia. The average yield of marketable honey in these countries is 20–40 kg per hive.

The development of international contacts between beekeepers is aided by Apimondia, the international organization of beekeepers, founded in 1897. It holds symposia, congresses, and exhibitions. The USSR has been a member of Apimondia since 1945. Several journals have played an important role in the exchange of information, including Apiacta (the organ of Apimondia, Bucharest, since 1966), American Bee Journal (Chicago, since 1861), and Gleanings in Bee Culture (Chicago, since 1872).


Avetisian, G. A. Pchelovodstvo. Moscow, 1965.
Vinogradov, V. P., A. S. Nuzhdin, and S. A. Rozov. Osnovy pchelovodstva, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1966.
Morozov, P. I. “Pchelovodstvo Sovetskogo Soiuza.” Pchelovodstvo, 1971, no. 8.
Uchebnik pchelovoda, 5th ed. Moscow, 1973.


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