There is always this misconception that low cost beehives do not produce good quality honey. This is not true. Honey from low cost beehives can be as good as those harvested from Kenya top bars or Langstroths. It is the lack of knowledge on when to harvest the honey, what to harvest in a hive.
Most traditional bee farmer will not hesitate to grab whatever they find in the hive during the flow season. Even before the honey ripens, they would had taken them out. Lack of knowledge had led to the harvesting of poor quality honey.
Below is a clip of one of our farmers inspecting his beehive. The honey inside this hive was not ready for harvesting.
Many bee farmers in Uganda are lacking the skills in hive management. Many were taught to simply place the hives out into the woods, wait for it to be colonized and hopefully when the honey season starts, go and harvest the honey. At times they would discover that the hives are empty. They will just wait for the next colony to come. African bees are quick in absconding and a mismanaged hive is one of the reason.
In one of our topics, we teach farmers the importance of hive management and to rectify any discrepancies. If the hive is not in good condition, eg wet or too many openings due to wood warping, they need to change the hive.
In this video below, you can see one of the lessons in hive management.
The year started with a group of very dedicated beekeepers wanting to come to learn more. It was a total paradigm shift for them compared to the way they kept their bees back in the villages. We had captured a day during the training. This was how they felt about the whole course.
We will be having our first course in one week’s time. Pre training hive inspections are done to make sure the course runs smoothly.
A Very Happy New Year! We are glad to present our latest BEST Basic Beekeeping Course Prospectus.
You can download a PDF copy of the prospectus below.
The hodges are getting into the swing of things. Just got an email with these photos attached. It is their first colony after the training. This young colony is doing well.
We had just concluded another session of beekeeping course at Kajjansi beekeeping centre, entebbe. The quality of the participants are getting better. I was really impressed with this batch of students. It was no longer a,”teacher speaks, student listens” kind of classes anymore. There were so much interaction between the trainer and the students. The feedback on how to improve and finetune the program was constructive and interesting. This shows the evolution of what are needed in order to be competent in one’s progress.
Honeybees were once treated as enemy or pest when it gets into a home. Not anymore. With proper education and sensitization, we can actually live harmoniously together with them.
Mr. Zolkaflil Aris had a colony of apis cerana nesting in his letter box for almost a year now. Being an animal lover, he was reluctant to have that colony destroyed. He was wondering what to do with it.
When I arrived at his residence in Damasara, I realized that urbanization had destroyed many natural habitat for these little ladies. I believed if they had their choices, they would not want to interfere with us humans. But with the fast pace of urbanization and deforestation to make way for our development, their natural habitat were somehow encroached.
I shared with Mr. Aris how he can convert his letterbox into a comfortable home for these honeybees and learn how to live with them. In return, this new hobby of his will be rewarding. For the effort in looking after them, they will provide a regular flow of honey for his family.
This idea had created a win win situation for all. Instead of killing them, with proper knowledge instilled, human and insect can live harmoniously together.
After going through the process a few times, He felt that honeybees were not as dangerous as one always looked at them if there understood their needs and wants. Getting aggressive is just part of nature’s way in protecting themselves. If they were handled with tender loving care, they can be very good house pets.
Before we part, his wisdom gave me a new light in having honeybees as pets. He said,” Whenever people go for holidays, they tend to worry about their pets. Where should they put them, who to feed them, will they be stressed if they don’t come back soon. But as for honeybees being so independent, they do not have to worry for them, they find their own food and look after themselves”.
He had bought a new letter box for his normal mails since then.
I am glad that I had embarked on a journey that life lessons never end.
B.E.S.T. - Bringing Ecology and Society Together.
After 28 days of traveling around West Malaysia, visiting researchers, professors and bee keepers, I had finally reached the place where all things will take place, Kampung Temasek, Ulu Tiram, Johore.
Kampung Temasek is the main reason why I did this tedious feasibility study. Before we can ascertain that the project will take off on the right foot, we have to make sure that the potential of having a bee education centre and the introduction of beekeeping into the community will benefit all parties involved.
For those who are unfamiliar with this project, basically Kampung Temasek is about “The School of doing”.
Kampung Temasek, The School of Doing is an outdoor laboratory for schools to run their curriculum such as mathematics, science, geography, history and others in a natural environment. Schools can experiment programs and activities that they cannot usually do in Singapore. For example, students can spend one week from their academics semester to learn mathematics through build a solar oven by calculating how much energy is collected from the sun and the science involve in cooking an egg or they can walk into the forest to learn about the bio-diversity and how the eco-system work. Our aim is to reinforce the students’ learning through Doing. City schools can now access this outdoor learning platform in just 30 minutes after Singapore Customs, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia!
There will be many activities at the Kampung and my responsibility is to convert one of these houses into a educational centre where the younger generation or public will have an opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the most amazing insect, the honeybees. It will be a paradigm shift for them to overcome the fear and to learn to live these them harmoniously.
Other than serving as a bee education centre, it will also be a place for the local community or “Orang Asli” to come forward to be trained as bee farmer, to have another source of income to provide for their family. In fact we had already identified a village to begin with.
When everything is completed, Kampung Temasek will be a place where schools can bring the students to learn more about outdoors activities, closer to nature. Parents with their children, can explore on something more meaning, like understanding how trees, plants and insects help in balancing the ecological system instead of sitting in front of the computer 24/7.
Reaching home on 28th evening, I then realized that my whole body was aching from all the traveling. Somehow the biological clock inside me was telling me its time I need a break. I can feel my whole body crashing in with flu, cough and fatigue.
I am finally home.
I had an amazing time when I visited Azman, a bee farmer in Bangi, Kuala Lumpur. We started communicating some time last year this time and he knew I was heading to Malaysia this time of the year. He told me I must come visit his apiary and share with me his enthusiasm.
I was really impressed with his achievement and his apiary is the first that I came across that uses Africa beekeeping method, the Kenyan Top Bar hive system. I would not be surprised he is the first in this part of the world that applied top bar beekeeping.
This visit meant a lot to me because on this feasibility study, I wanted and needed to know how api cerana will react to top bar hive method of beekeeping. In Uganda, African honeybees do very well with KTB and I am very familiar with the method. I felt like I was back in Uganda when I approached Azman’s apiary. On top of that, I feel that top bar beekeeping is more economical for the local folks. They do not need to acquire expensive langstroth and to buy European bees to start this enterprise. By the way, the cost of 1 langstroth, comes with bees, cost RM1,800 (US$625). That package provides only the brood box, base board and cover. It does not include the queen-excluder and super. I don’t think many local villagers can afford that kind of money to start the business.
I was greeted by a large plantation of star fruit and I am confident that his bees would have no issues on nectar and pollen source. I saw the bees buzzing happily around the flowers only stopping for a moment when there were about to enter the flowers.
This was his first attempt in keeping bees and I can say that he was already doing it well although there were some pointers that he needed to look into. He had teamed up with his friend, Haniz and both are equally passionate about keeping bees.
They started only with one colony. By the time I visited them two days ago, they already had colonized 6 hives. The development of their apiary had set a good example for all. For a start, they did not spend money on buying bees or expensive equipment. They collected used wooden crates and palettes. With no prior experience and based on their own judgment, recycled these planks and palettes into smaller version of the top bar hives. Everything was going through trails and errors. Somehow the bees still found their way to these hives.
When Azman did his first hive, he wanted to see the activities within. He created a glass window on the side of the hive. This had became his observation hive. Very often he would simply open up the side panel to see these lovely ladies working hard.
Api cerana somehow has a bit of her distant cousins (api mellifera scutellata) behaviour. They can be aggressive at times if not handled properly. Azman and Haniz would have to spend more time with them to learn more about their behaviour and to overcome them.
Azman had always wondered how do we handle African honeybees without protective gear. I told him it would be much easier because api cerana or asian bees are not as aggressive as the African cousins. He was pleased when he saw the real thing after having seen my blog during our training program where most of the participants were trained to handle the African honeybees bare hands.
The bus ride from Kedah to Kuala Lumpur took almost 6 hours. I had a break in Kuala Lumpur before a friend of mine drove me another 2 hours further South to the thriving city of Malacca.
Extracted from Wikipedia - Malacca (dubbed The Historic State or Negeri Bersejarah among locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south. The capital is Malacca City, which is 148 km south east of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, 235 km north west to Johor’s largest city Johor Bahru and 95 km north west to Johor’s second largest city Batu Pahat. This historical city centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008.
Although it was the location of one of the earliest Malay sultanates, the monarchy was abolished when the Portuguese conquered it in 1511. The Yang di-Pertua Negeri or Governor, rather than a Sultan, acts as the head of state now.
Mr. Ong had been a beekeeper for the last 25 years and his bee farm could be considered one of the largest one in the whole of West Malaysia. He used to keep apis cerana in the seventies but after the introduction of European bees, apis italiana, Malaysia honey industry using apis cerana was completly wiped out due to the introduction of viruses by the European species as well.
Since then, the domestication of apis cerana had been unsuccessful until of late, many small scale farmers are beginning to use apis cerana again. it is a good sign that these species coming back.
Right now, Mr Ong had been keeping the European species after learning how to treat them. He does not have any of the asian species anymore but instead started to keep stingless bees. He found keeping stingless bees are very interesting too.
My third destination was Malaysia’s Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority or FAMA in Kuala Nerang, Kedah. FAMA is a marketing agency established by the Government under the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry. As the Government’s marketing arm for agricultural products, FAMA is responsible for various marketing activities. Amongst its responsibilities are to set targets and product standards, monitor performance, as well as develop marketing strategies for Malaysian agricultural products. Their job role can be summarised into the following;
Market control and extension, Strategies, Development of national food terminal, Marketing contract, Entrepreneur development, Export manuals, Development of marketing infrastructure, Market information and Branding and promotion.
The setup was very professional and their marketing concept for Malaysia’s most popular honey, “Tualang honey” was very successful. I was really impressed with their presentation in the beginning. After a long discussion and exhange of ideas, my views changed.
There was a video presentation at their sales department. Eco-tourism was being promoted at the sales centre. It showed the beauty of Malaysia rain forest and the mesmerizing journey one can embark on to see the untouched virgin forest. You pay MYR400 to join the eco tour.
One of the main attraction were the sighting of the largest honeybees in the world, Apis Dorsata. You can see them colonizing on the tallest tree, the Tualang tree. You can even see these majestic colony from the ground. You get to see the harvesting of their honey during the night. Now here comes the sad part. In the video, I saw the destruction and killing of these incredible insect. These honey hunters climbed the tall trees to get to them. Once they were within range, they would use fire and smoke to chase and kill them in order to get to their honey. During the collection, many bees perished.
Being a bee keeper and a bee lover, I felt the pain when I saw the destruction during the harvesting process. Well I guess there is always this case where the market demand, supply have to be met.
Due to the demand created by the market force, these honey were harvested as soon as the bees place them into the combs, even though when they were still unripe. Api Dorsata are very aggressive when comes to protecting their nest. The only way these local folks knew were to destroy them in order to get to their honey.
The meeting ended with a tour to their honey processing plant. I left the place with a nice gift produced by FAMA.
It was a 7 hours drive from Penang to Kota Bahru, Kelantan. The road was challenging with many sharp bends two third of the way. I put on my safety belt after what I had experienced in March. The bus was traveling at 120km on a 70km speed limit road. I just prayed that I can reach there in one piece.
My first visit in Kelantan was the University of Science of Malaysia (Universiti Sains Malaysia). This is where all the research on the medicinal values of honey in Malaysia were done. A number of honeybee species found in Malaysia . Mainly they are the “Apis Dorsata”, “Apis Mellifera”, “Apis Cerenas” and “Trigonas”. Currently they are also working on a type of honey harvested in their traditional honey hunting method by their local people, (Orang Asli). They called it, “TuaLang” honey. I had seen many places selling this brand of honey and they are selling like hot cakes now.
This feasibility study had made me understand more about the honey industry in Malaysia. There were so many issues one can never imagine. There are more to it than meets the eye.
Just going into the second day, I began to see the similarities between Malaysia and Uganda when come to this industry. Honey hunting is still the predominant method used among the local community or the “Orang Asli”. The only difference was that in Malaysia, they need to climb very tall trees (Tualang tree) to harvest honey from Apis Dorsata while in Uganda, honey hunter collect honey from crevices, ant hill and hollow trunks.
Although it was the fasting month and usually this is the most busy part of the year, all the Professors and researchers were very helpful and I left the place with all the information needed for my study. Later in the day I was invited to a local who kept honeybees for their outward bound education camp. Finally after one month, I was introduced to these ladies in Malaysia.
Before my feasibility study officially starts next Monday, my hands were already itching, not from bee stings, but getting ready for my hands on with the beekeeping industry in Malaysia.
I realized that this place belongs to Mr Ong, who has another tourist attraction located at Malacca. Somehow the set up was similar but on a smaller scale.
There were two sales ladies manning the shop. They were basically there to answer simple questions about honey and to introduce the different kinds of honey available for sale. Other than that, you would not be able to get in depth questions being answered.
I was surprised to get this information from one of them. She mentioned that only hornets and wasps venom can kill, not honeybees. She even assured me that honeybees venom are not poisonous and has healing properties. Well, I felt that this information was very misleading. She was right and wrong at the same time. All of us react differently to bee venom. Some can take a few thousand stings but others can be killed with only one sting. Some react violently to the venom and can go into anaphylactic shock which can lead to death if not attend to immediately. There are some medical benefit being investigated regarding honeybee venom in relation to apitherapy. Some Therapists use honeybee venom to relieve people who have arthritis. But that does not mean the honeybee venom can be applied to everybody.
Many people in Asia I came across, often believe what these sales ladies say. They would simply take their words for it without probing further. I asked a few more questions and then decided to stop because I knew it would be pointless for me to pursue further.
They had a row of beehives on display. Only 2 hives were occupied, one with an Italian species while the other colony is a species commonly found in Malaysia. They are called “Trigonas”. These bees are also called “stingless bees”.
This place do have a great varieties of honey and its by products. Its educational approach was somehow comprehensive enough for laymen. Anyway, many would not know what sort of questions to ask. Overall presentation was good. But somehow, I felt that the sale ladies should upgrade themselves with better and correct knowledge in order to provide more in depth information for the customer to understand. I felt there is too much emphasis on trying to sell the product.
Little knowledge is dangerous.
During my visit to Colin’s apiary over the weekend, I chanced upon a very passionate beekeeper. He has been keeping bees for more than 25 years. I was very impressed with his setup and he has a small workshop that produces all his hives. Colin had been passing his place a number of time but didn’t get a chance to stop. Since I was there, might as well make an effort to stop to see what is interesting.
Mr. Wumale wasn’t at his apiary when we drove up to his home. He was at church. He was a brilliant marketing person I should say. He had his phone number painted on one of his wooden door and that was where we managed to contact him.
His enthusiasm was contagious. He sounded like a hugh man over the phone but when he arrived, my perception of him changed. What was in front of me was a bouncy, petite guy with a big voice. I am quite certain his heart is as big as his voice. I managed to obtain a short interview with him and about his passion.
Mr. Wamule start beekeeping more than 25 years ago and his intention was to harvest honey and brood for his own family consumption. Brood mixed with porridge was a delicacy back then. His constant interaction with bees took him further than his homeland. He made an effort to wanting to learn more. During the earlier years, beekeeping in Kenya was more advance so he took off to Nairobi to understand more about beekeeping. He wanted to develop his passion into a business. He came back equipped with knowledge and vision of how to modernized his way of keeping bees.
I was impressed with his thirst for knowledge and the creativity of developing a system that suited him well.
Walking through his apiary, you could see that he had combined the beekeeping method of top bar hive and langstroth. Being curious, I asked him why? He told me that after he had returned from Kenya, he decided to capitalize on both system. What is suitable for him and what is not. He felt that both system has it advantages and disadvantages. Having the top bar horizontal management, he does not have to exert himself when comes to harvesting. A super filled with honey can be very heavy for someone his size to lift.
He liked the idea of the framed langstroth and especially the separation of the brood chamber from the honey chamber. So in his workshop, he came up with his own prototype, a langstroth that looked like a top bar hive or should I say, a top bar hive that looked like a langstroth.
His quest for modernization was due to his passion and love for bees. He admitted that previously, due to lack of knowledge, he used to hunt for the honey and brood. He felt that this wasn’t the way to go in terms of sustainability. On top of that the destruction bees made him felt guilty. Then the wonderful phrase came out from him, “I love bees and I do not want to harm them”.
You can see the twinkling in his eyes when he talks about how his system had reduced so much death within the hives during harvesting. You can sense his joy when he touched on his new way of harvesting his honey, with the introduction of the queen excluder and the bee escape. That was the best lesson he had learnt during his trip to Kenya. Many modern beekeepers might not find his discovery interesting, but for someone who had little or no resources, able to make an effort to progress is something highly commendable.
Mr. Wamule was so ever willing to share. He brought us to an empty hive and explained how it works. Although it seems there are still rooms for improvement but the creativity does deserved an applause.
Now that all his children had grown up and left to start their new life. He can enjoy his passion with a lighter burden on his shoulder. I guessed Mr. Wamule is one of the rare few in Uganda that will put honeybees first before money.
*If you love your job, you don’t have to work a single day in your life – Confucius.
Over the weekend, I drove up to the village to see whether I could save that colony that had their queen mutilated. Whenever I come to know of these happenings, I feel sad. On one hand everyone in the beekeeping world is talking about the disappearance of bees, the colony collapse disorder, viruses and diseases affecting them, but on the other hand, teaches African farmers how to mutilated, deface and destroy the queen in the name of professional beekeeping. Hypocrite!
I used to keep quiet about what I saw on the ground, how many failed projects with abandoned hives and equipments but I reckon this has to stop. If no one is going to stand out to tell the world what is actually happening in the honeybee industry in these developing countries, I can foresee in no time, the last remaining frontier where the honeybees are still living in their own natural ways, will be wiped out by the human race because of greed.
I am not slapping my own face as a commercial beekeeper, but I believe strongly that I can still live harmoniously with them and yet able to provide two meals for my family from the income generated from honey farming.
Watch the clip and see how stressed the queen was and the fate of this colony. She was not even making any effort to escape from my hand. Her fate was sealed.
Lately there hasn’t been much activities here other than my regular training of beekeepers. Comes next month, my beekeeping adventure and journal will begin for the first time nearer to home, West Malaysia.
After a year of discussion and planning, the feasibility study of setting up a bee education centre at Kampung Temasek in Johor Bahru, Malaysia will begin. I had already began my ground work, arranging visits to bee farms, centres and making appointments to meet agriculturist at universities. In the process, I got to know some beekeepers in Malaysia as well. We had started to exchange notes and I am looking forward to visit their bee farm.
Azman and I began to share our passion mid of February this year and I am glad that I will soon be able to have a chance to see what beekeeping is about in Malaysia.
The species of honeybees that Azman is keeping is the one that I am keen to explore, Apis Cerenas. During my last two trips to Chiang Rai, North Thailand working with the Akhai tribes, there were also using the cerenas. Between the two, what I saw is that Azman is applying more of the modern method while the tribal folks are still keeping bees traditionally.
Apis Cerenas are slightly more aggressive than the European bees. They are indigenous and I believe domesticating them would be a beneficial move for the local bee farmers. They can be captured from the wild.
I am really excited to travel back, closer to home to share what I had learned during my stay in Uganda.
After being a beekeeper, it had open up a whole new horizon and getting to know so many beekeepers out there who are playing their part in balancing the ecological system. I just hope that some beekeepers that had been mistreating these insects in the name of modernization will change their mindset and protect them rather than abusing them.
If you had read my previous post, you will find that such abusive skills are still being introduced in Uganda by these overseas commercial bee farmers coming here, highly paid by NGOs. One thing sad about the local farmers in Uganda is that they always felt that overseas bee professionals are always right. They do not dare to question.
I could still remember a few years back, a team of beekeepers from USA came and said they wanted to help the local community. Actually from the way I look at it, they were just simply using this idea to raise funds so that they can come for a nice holiday. They have no experience in African bees yet they tried to teach the local folks. They got the whole village running for cover when the colonies turned aggressive. After that incident, I don’t see them coming back or doing any follow ups anymore. It was a nice holiday trip for them and those who had funded their trip just simply did it blindly. A waste of resources.
Many honeybees are dying for no apparent reasons. I just wish that beekeepers must realize the seriousness and embark on natural beekeeping instead.
Recently one of my student bought a few colonies from a local bee expert. He found one of his colony behaving strangely. They were all outside just below the entrance and on the grass. He was wondering what had happened.
When I looked at the picture, immediately I knew that the queen had her wings clipped. What a sad sight!
Many overseas “professional” beekeepers were paid handsomely by NGOs to come here to teach the locals on beekeeping. They would spend a few days showing them what they did back in their own country with their European species. After which off they go. Most of these overseas beekeepers have no experience with African bees and have no idea how to curb the high absconding rate of African bees. And do you know what were their solutions? They teach these farmers to clip the wings of the queen to prevent them from absconding. What a stupid idea! Imagine if someone were to cut off both your legs against your will to prevent you from leaving, how would you feel. In other words, your defense system would be compromised and your chance of survival would be slimmer.
I wonder why do they call themselves beekeepers when in actual fact, they show no empathy and well being for them. They mutilated the queen for their own convenience. There are other ways to prevent these poor little insects from absconding and yet, they chose the inhumane way.
Honey bees, like all other living creatures, have it natural instinct that the hive is not suitable for them. It could be due to infestation of other predators or the food source is not there. There must be a reason why they need to abscond to a safer or better place. Just put yourself in their situation. I believe you will do the same thing.
Take a look at the picture below. The queen tried to abscond but because her wings were clipped, she could not fly but fell onto the ground. The rest of the family followed. I can assure you that in no time, the whole colony will be consumed by predators. This will be the end of this colony.
Not too long ago, I was approached by a beekeeper from overseas and she wanted me to join her workshop. She gave me a video showing her working with African bees. It was a total mess. The bees were literally attacking everyone in the class and I cannot imagine how many bees perished during her workshop. End of the video, it showed her proudly displaying a modified traditional bee hive that can never work with the harsh environment and the behavior of these African bees. It was her first time in Africa and working with African bees.
It was a very successful start for our B.E.S.T. program conducted at our new training centre at Kajjansi. We had yet to name this new centre. Although the setup was not as comprehensive as the one at Timothy Centre, but somehow all the unforeseen happenings made the lessons exciting. One participant accidentally broke a comb and we had to repair in order not to let the brood perished. Another participant was not sensitive to the reaction to one of the colony that he continued to aggrevate them. They had seen how these ladies can be so aggressive when come to defending their nest.
All in all, a thumbs up for the group.
Feedbacks from our first batch of students for Kajjansi!
1. The trainer was very calm, knowledgable and had many years experience with African bees. This created confidence in the students.
2. The training facilities were very comfortable and appropriate. Very easy to get to. it’s convenient.
3. Because it was a small class, I felt that it was well contained and well attended to.
4. Because of the training methods, I felt safe.
5. I enjoyed myself (interaction encouraged)
6) Tea & Coffee (very nice touch)
7. I like the duration of the class. Not too long and not too short. Just right.
8. Most of all, I like that everyday we experienced the beekeeping through practical practices. From that we got our theory.
9. We took care of nature through the methods we learnt, NOT destroy!! – Olivia Murphy
I like the training as it helps me to really realise that beekeeping is not that scary as thought. This training is very systematic and this allows me to learn it step by step, what to do and what not to do.
Having some practical and theory competition at the end of the course really get everybody involved in the learning process of proper beekeeping. – Louis Chua
1. The training had been practical that it makes you used to the bees.
2. Free interaction between the trainer and the trainee.
3. When the trainer is teaching, he is so clear and understandable.
4. The trainer is friendly.
5. Am confident that I have got the relevant training and indeed I have got enough training to establish my bee farm.
6. The whole course has been interesting. – Kasoma Brian
I like the fact that our training was based on real world experience. Our trainer has a knowledge of African bees which is extensive. The training was “hands on”. Excellent course, excellent trainer. – Michael Murphy
I got knowledge about beekeeping
I got to know how to work with bees
I happen to see the queen in a hive and I can differetiate the queen from other bees, the drone and the workerbees
I learnt how to arrange the hive in an apiary
I happen to know beekeeping and how a farmer can improve the colony
I happen to know the process of beekeeping starting from handling – Faisal Muruhura
I like the lesson much
I like the way we do the team work
I like the way we share the idea and skill, the way of explanation
I like the environment
The knowledge we got from the instructor
The way I progress from the lesson everyday
The time the lesson starts and stops – Dramiga Rashid
Into the third day of the lessons, these future beekeepers got the opportunities to look deeper into what is happening in a hive. They were shown the different occupants and their job roles. As the days moved on, slowly they are getting more confident with their interaction with the African bees. Some of them had already taken off the veil so that they are able to see the bees and the interior of the hive more clearly.
A comb was selected and placed away from the hive. With that single comb, it told the daily activities in a colony. They managed to see the forager doing the “bee dance”, telling the rest of the foragers where the food source was. Some house bees were busy storing “bee bread” food for the young. They noticed that some of the bees were of bigger size. They were the drones. They knew now that drones do not have a stinger. All of them were so envious of the drone because their job role is simply to eat, procreate and dies.
They also managed to differentiate the cell size of the worker bee and a drone. Alas, there were no emerging queens because it was not the swarming season yet.
Everyone was eager to see the queen, but I told them we will have to be patient and locate when we bring that comb back first. She was not at that comb which we had brought out.
The training we provide enables a young beekeeper to have a calm environment to learn this trade. They were taught from the very beginning how to interact, to approach a colony without aggressive confrontation. We first create a paradigm shift with the way they view African honeybees. If they were to be treated with respect and gentleness, they will reciprocate.
The sad misconception of African bees being aggressive was eradicated from their minds. They being aggressive are because we made them so. We, human had treated them badly all these while whenever they go honey hunting.
Over the years, Organization embarked on food security programs, only emphasize on giving free bee hives to make good reports. No attention was given on how to manage African bees. Failing to manage them lead to projects abandoned after the project is over. Think of the process, not the outcome. Their aim is to fulfill their personal needs rather than making sure the funds were spent objectively and prudently.
They saw the African Queen…..
B.E.S.T. had established another training centre in Uganda. It is located at Kajjansi, Entebbe. A short 15km drive from Kampala enables more people to attend our program without having to be away for a week. Hopefully we can establish more centres all over the country to cater for the people.
This development is part of our plan of setting up a bee keepers club in Kampala. With the feedbacks gathered from our blog response, there is quite a large group of expatriates who are keen to have beekeeping as a hobby.
Our first batch of participants for the KJ (Kajjansi) apiary commenced yesterday. Although the training apiary is not fully operational yet, somehow all the basic setup for handling African bees is already in place. We shall see the centre gets more elaborate like the one at Timothy Centre in due course.
All the participants had heard about the nasty attitude of these ladies. They had never expected that on the second day, they were already told to introduce themselves to these ladies.
During the training, one of the combs got broken off from the frame. The participants were taught how to salvage the broken comb, especially those that are still containing brood. In normal circumstances, a Ugandan beekeeper would simply throw the whole comb away with the brood intact. In our program, we treasure every single brood. We emphasize on the importance of taking great care of the colony.
We are also in the process of developing another training centre nearer to Kampala City. It will be at Kajjansi, Entebbe Road. Once the model farm is established, this training centre will serve those who prefer to have their training done closer to Kampala. In fact the first batch of trainees had already started yesterday.
Production of propolis is underway. For those who had not heard of “Propolis”, I had link the Wikipedia site here.
Ever wonder what actually happened when a honey bee stings you? The bee stinger is barbed. Just like a fishing hook, it will lodge its sting underneath your skin. When she tried to get away from you, the whole venom segment of the body will tear away from her body, causing her instant death. The venom sac muscles will continue to pump the venom into your body.
Many researcher and scientist are using bee venom as an alternative to cure arthritis and tendonitis. The venom is administered through injection or through bee sting. If the bee sting is used, the apitherapy practitioner will place bees on the skin, typically close to the joints, muscle or other body parts that are having problems.
Somehow I am not in favour of this practice. It is destroying and killing the bees for the benefit of mankind. In order to relieve human suffering, the bees became the victims.
Well this argument can be rebutted again in the name of science. Hopefully we can look into alternative cure.
I would like to thank the bee which had sacrificed for mankind in order to gain this knowledge. I would also like to thank The Department of Entomology of Virginia Tech for sharing this valuable insight of honeybees.
As part of the our on going training program, we have developed this video for our B.E.S.T. program. Participants are supposed to digest what they saw and during discussion, they are supposed to highlight the do’s and don’ts.
Are you able to spot the mistakes?
The program is slowly attracting the expatriates community who wanted to play their part not only in embarking on honey farming, but also in keeping the eco-system balance. This class saw a group of interesting and bubbly participants whom I can considered them the most interactive and inquisitive lot so far. I was challenged a few times to demonstrate what I taught. That was good! This is the way to learn. It is no point having me talking and participant listening. Practical observation speaks for itself.
Although we had a full registration for this class, it was disappointing to learn that a group of 5 from the local community did not turn up for the training although they were fully sponsored by an Organization. This shows the seriousness of wanting to progress. Anyway, its their losses.
Tania Lazib - “Absolutely fantastic class; Lesster’s general insight /and understanding of bee behaviour is excellent. I came from no beekeeping experience to a point, by the end of the class, where I am comfortable planning my apiary, baiting hives, doing maintenance on the hives, and finally, collecting the honey (in a sustainable /and non-intrusive manner). Mostly practical training with the right amount theory to back it up. There was so much more to say!”
Colin Leenders – Hi Lesster, I would like to say that I enjoyed your bee keeping course very much. The week spent with you has changed the way I work WITH bees not against them which is what I have been doing in the past. I was amazed at how you can work with African bees using bare hands and not wearing head gear without being attacked and as we all know these bees have a lot of attitude. In the past when I have been working AGAINST them it was full on war as soon as the hive was opened and after it was closed.
Also like the fact that the course was keep simple easy to understand and loads of information about bees and honey. When I say simple I mean that after reading loads about bee keeping it can sound complicated also there are plenty of incorrect information out there, which during the course has been explained and demonstrated.
It is good to have loads of hands on learning with the bees and not all class room teaching. The classes are a good size. We had a good group which made it fun as well.
Once again thank you. I also highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in learning or working with bees. The learning curve does not have to be painful. – Colin
The class ended with a field trip on Friday. We visited an apiary where our former student had setup after the training. I was very proud of Fred and Madrine for the development.
The apiary was very well done and bees are already colonizing and had even started the honey collection process.
GENEVA – THE UN on Thursday expressed alarm at a huge decline in bee colonies under a multiple onslaught of pests and pollution, urging an international effort to save the pollinators that are vital for food crops.
Much of the decline, ranging up to 85 per cent in some areas, is taking place in the industrialised northern hemisphere due to more than a dozen factors, according to a report by the UN’s environmental agency.
They include pesticides, air pollution, a lethal pinhead-sized parasite that only affects bee species in the northern hemisphere, mismanagement of the countryside, the loss of flowering plants and a decline in beekeepers in Europe. ‘
The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century,’ said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner. ‘
The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees,’ he added.
Wild bees and especially honey bee colonies from hives are regarded as the most prolific pollinators of large fields or crops. — AFP Share
It was just like yesterday when I conducted feasibiltiy study on the honey industry in Uganda in 2001. Rwanda beekeeping industry is still at an infant stage. There are so much room for growth. I was very impressed with the vegetations Rwanda has. Rwanda do have the potential to become a major honey player in the international scene. But then again, its easier said than done because my findings had seen a number of issues that requires serious interventions. If not it cannot bloom beyond the horizon.
The rush into modernization without even knowing whether the farmers are ready for it is one of the serious issue. The lack of knowledge both on the behaviours of the african bees and the utilization of modern beehives will stunt the growth of this industry. I am not sure were there any financial planning in creating a sustainable enterprise being sensitized to the farmers before they embark on the business.
A modern beehive is a double edge sword. It can produce 3 times more than a traditional beehive if managed properly, but it can also be a white elephant if it was use without proper know how.
Bad handling of bees lead to aggressive behaviour. Aggressive bees make harvesting difficult. Farmers start to rush through harvesting using a lot of smoke. Bees become even more agressive with so much smoke. Farmer start killing bees. The hive will be filled with smoke thus making the honey taste smokey. Many contaminants are deposited onto honey. Quality drops. Honey will not be able to meet the necessary requirements.
Think of the process, not the outcome. If the process is right, the outcome will be right.
Last week was indeed a hectic week which saw us covering almost 1,200 km of traveling route. Jeff Ramsey, the Director for Imbabazi accompanied by his assistant director, Devon were here on a field trip to see my work. They intend to invite me over to Rwanda to conduct a feasibility study on a beekeeping project. They were eager to find the way forward.
Within a 5 days span, we moved from South where Timothy Centre is located and Gulu, where my commercial beekeepers are. The main highlight for the trip was meeting up with Carol Higgins from Otino Waa Orphanage, Lira. Meeting Carol would be a very good yardstick for them to understand what to expect.
17th Jan – 22nd Jan saw the first group of participants for the BEST program for 2011. It was a diversify group because all of them came from various district in Uganda. Even the participants attended were getting more challenging.
Some of them had never kept bees while there is one who is a beekeeper. He is 74 years old. He had been in Uganda for more than 25 years as a development worker introducing sustainable agriculture activities through education on basic accounting and book keeping.
They were prepare to go through the program to overcome the fear in order to embark on the business.
This training is a “MUST” for anyone who is willing to keep bees. In this training, I learned how to handle bees in a very gentle way. My fear for bees has reduced – Building a relationship between the beekeeper and the bees is very crucial.
Father Reverend Stanislas is from Togo and currently he is pastoring a church in Lira, Northern Uganda. They had embark on beekeeping for sometime now but he felt that the project has rooms for improvement. He came for the training so that he came equip himself with more knowledge so that he can share it with his fellow folks in Lira. Fr. Stanislas is very hands on himself.
The first of importance is how to handle the bees – keeping them calm, non aggressive, how to use smoke to calm and to move the bees. How to handle the bars – all in all, very practical and very hands on. Instructors was very open to discussion, patient, willing to evaluate new ideas. Excellent foundation for further bee management.
Stan Burkey is a private consultant providing a very important component in rural development enterprise – financial planning, book keeping. Many small scale farmers do not know how to manage their earnings, calculate profit and loss. Stan would assist them in getting their books right. 40 years of experience in a few African countries. His contribution had enlighten many such farmers, turning them into entrepreneurs.
I have realised that in order to benefit from beekeeping, one has got to know how to handle the bees and make them your friend instead of enemies. This program teaches how to use the bee tools in order to deal with the bees, not to mistreat them but use the tools to work with the bees.
I so much like the hands on training that we have had which expels out the fear and panic. I aslo like the interactive training whereby you ask and discuss all that you have seen in the apiary.
This training is introductory but really loves a lot of indepth information like how the bee behave and their program in the hive such that you know the time to work with them.
Wilber force is currently working with an NGO is agriculture sustainability. He is embarking on this enterprise so that he can develop his own bee farm at his home. He hopes in the not to far future, he can use his apiary as a model bee farm to help his community to start beekeeping as another source of income to supplement their current earnings.
I liked the creative aspect of the training..Practical, Participatory and Interactive. The training emphasized the establishment of a relationship with the Bees.. at the end of the training all of us the participants were confident enough to drop the veils and the gloves, to get Up-close and passionate with the bees. (theoria cum praxi)
Lesster confidently evaluated The beekeeping Industry (based on his 10 years experience in the industry in Uganda) and gave us the challenges in the industry. The participants discuss the Bee-economics and individual prospective investment plan which he selflessly discusses.
William work as an Information Systems Consultant in his own company where he is the Director. He is also an Associate Consultant at Uganda Management Institute in the Department of Information Technology. He is looking forward to start his Commercial Bee keeping as well as promoting Api-Tourism back home in Kisoro District and to create his own Honey Brand.
One of our students had written about her experience when she attended our training on her blog. I would like to thank her for the feedback. You can get to see more pictures posted by her here.
An exciting week! We saw participants coming all the way from United States of America and our neighbor, Rwanda. The lesson plans were somehow adjusted to accommodate the inquisitive minds of this group. Everyday they discovered a new frontier about the life of these little insect. Different strokes for different folks.
I was glad that the feedback at the end of the training were very encouraging. Here are some testimonials from this class;
The lessons did not end when the classes end. We scheduled Friday evening for a get together to have early dinner followed by a casual session, tackling all those unanswered questions that were still lingering on everybody’s mind.
This is the beginning of a new journey for these new beekeepers. Our program includes a comprehensive tracking system to monitor the performance of every individuals. All trainees were issued with an identification card to monitor their progress.
Beeswax is one of the by-product from honey farming. Many bee farmers are not aware that it can be another income generating activity if they were taught to process and value add. One of the main items that can be produced from beeswax are candles. Beeswax candles are well received because of its natural origin. They are not chemically treated like paraffin candles. In fact burning beeswax candles are more environmentally friendly as one does not inhale toxic fumes in comparison to burning paraffin candles. The advantages out weigh the normal paraffin ones.
One of our programs at BEST is to empower the farmers to utilize what is available in honey farming and to teach them about value adding. By collecting empty combs from the hives, they were taught how to convert honey combs to beeswax using whatever they can find locally.
Simple understanding of how things are done do not require expensive equipments. Take for example, a simple solar wax melter are just a few pieces of wood nailed together. Having it painted black to increase the heat absorption rate. Inside are just a few stones to harness the heat , a simple pot cover, with holes drilled acting as a sieve. Under the harsh African sun, the combs will melt through the sieve in a sauce pan, giving them the raw beeswax.
Once the conversion is done from combs to wax, the rest is getting it moulded into different shapes and sizes ready for market. As part of the training program entails entrepreneurship, for those farmers that do not have the facilities to start their own production, we get them involve in the candle making process so that on top of producing honey, they can come to the centre with their beeswax, sell them to us and gradually teach them to use their income to start their own small business. we will help them to acquire moulds from overseas where they have no access to the products.
Part of the training program at BEST, we will have a display of a colony hiving in an old rotten bee hive. In order for this colony to survive in this harsh environment, it literally fabricate a layer of wall of propolis to reduce the opening. This is to prevent large predators like rats and snakes to enter the hive.
Many farmers experienced bees absconding and their reason was that the hive was not good enough for them to stay. This is not true. So long as the food supply is there and there are not much predators disturbing the hive, they will stay.
We had adopted this colony so that we can use this colony as training exhibit showing how tough the situation the African honeybees can endure and same time use it to conduct lessons on colony multiplication.
Bees are more smart than scary, and instead of wasting time running away from them, we should start studying them. Their life and business lessons rival the strategies taught at some of the best colleges out there, so check out this list of 10 skills you can learn from bees.
- They’re expert communicators: Bees triangulate distances and direction, and are in continuous contact with their hives as they search for food sources. They’re not off “hunting” for themselves; instead, bees never seem to break contact with the group and keep each other informed to stay alive and recruit other bees to help them collect pollen where it’s most plentiful. Can you imagine if there were no secret stashes or ulterior motives in business?
- Bees are associative learners: Bees never stop learning and use natural forces to direct their actions in terms of finding food and monitoring the environment. They continue to visit the types of flowers that consistently offer them rewards, noting color and odor, and then effectively ditch them if weather patterns or other elements make the reward harder to obtain in search of other flowers. If we could learn as quickly, and then let go of past processes in order to move forward, we’d be profit-making machines, no exceptions.
- The more, the merrier. And the more productive: Swarms of bees result in a very social insect, promoting flexibility and adaptability, robustness, and self-organization, according to AskNature.org. Scientists have found that when surrounded by a pack, bees that “fail,” don’t cause major problems because all the others pick up the slack. Innovation, optimization and streamlined processes result from self-organization, which seems to naturally occur in swarms.
- They have different jobs and stick to them: It’s a controversial lesson in efficiency, and one that’s often rejected in the United States, where cross-mobility is appreciated. But bee colonies have a strict hierarchy and class system, and the hive works so well because worker bees sting and forage, male drones mate, house bees build the honeycomb and tend to the queen, and so on.
- Their product is attractive to many industries: Bees don’t just make the honey you put on your ice cream. Their wax is used for cosmetics, religious products and lots of food products, and they also pollinate plants and even whole orchards. Furthermore, their honeycombs and hives are still inspiring architects today because of their complexity and relative durability. What’s the business lesson here? Always aim to create a product and/or service that’s attractive and even necessary for lots of industries and customers, making your company indispensable and practically invulnerable.
- They’re highly adaptable to even drastic changes: Bees that have been relocated thousands of miles — from Hawaii to Louisiana in this case — are still able to locate and collect pollen in just an hour. New locations, temperatures and environments don’t sway their end goal or bottom line.
- They continue to evolve: Scientists believe that honeybees first spawned 130 million years ago, during the landmass of Gondwana. After the breakup of the landmass, some honeybees became extinct, but most have evolved and sub-speciated according to their new environments. Even after continent break-ups and climate changes, bees are still around and working just as furiously.
- Age levels are directly related to work habits: Bees delegate different jobs according to age level, showing an understanding for natural ability, stamina and practice. Young bees, for instance, aren’t allowed out into the field unless there has been a serious blow to the population. Would you want your brand new intern making independent sales calls on his first day? Take a cue from the bees and associate new workers with “housekeeping” for the first few weeks.
- Bees depend on their queen: Every colony or company needs a strong leader. When queen bees are absent or have died, bees start squabbling and are less organized. During the interim between queens, colony morale is down, and honey production is lower. Even the mere presence of a strong leader (hint: you don’t have to micromanage) is vital to directing workers.
- Bees have an innate sense of responsibility and a desire to work: While you can’t force an instinct upon someone else, you can train employees to almost instinctively notice when work needs to be done, minimizing wasted time and micro-mangement. Bees start working a few hours after they’re born, noticing the dirty cells that need to be cleaned around them and eventually moving on to clean the queen, guard the hive, and forage for pollen and nectar, and contribute in any way that’s needed.
You can see the original article here.
Dear Mr. Beekeeper Sir,
By the time you read this letter, probably I would have already left this World. You see, my life on this earth is only about 45 days. And it is only the last few days I was able to fly out to collect half a teaspoon of honey for everyone to share.
I was very sad and frightened when I saw this video clip of you and your method of taking honey away from us. I think I should say more of sad than frighten. For so many years, we had to be placed under lots of tests and experiment and cross breeding to develop a mutated species of honeybees that do not know how to protect ourselves the way God had wanted us.
When I was born, I heard from my sisters that our mother was not given the opportunity to find her own mates but instead sent to you, forced against her will to be inseminated according to your desire. And when you found out that our mother is no longer producing, you terminate her life prematurely.
You could not handle our natural aggressive behavior given by God’s to protect ourselves, you took nature into your own hands and made generations and generations of our siblings defenseless. You made us felt that as if the honey is rightly belonging to you and we are hindering your progress when you sell our honey.
You had made us so stressful that we had lost all our own defense system in order for you to take advantage of our docile behavior. Initially I thought it was for the best for both parties, but I was wrong. I thought being docile was a good thing so that we can work harmoniously but instead, you took our kindness as weakness. You abused our gentle friendship and treated us like slaves, without sparing a thought on how we feel. We are also living creatures like you and we do feel pain.
Look at the video clip. How did you mistreat our fellow sisters? My heart bled when I saw so many being crushed in between the box. They had done you no wrong except bringing honey for you to enjoy the fruit of their labor. When you had taken whatever you wanted from us, you simply trashed all of us on the ground, lost, confuse and stressed.
Now all of us are sick and many of us are slowly disappearing with no apparent reasons at all. Have you ever thought about the cause and effect? What is happening now is a vicious circle. Treating us with anti-biotic to prolong our lives is not the solution. Soon the anti biotic will be spilled over into the honey and end of the day, you will be eating contaminated honey from your own doing. In fact I knew this had already happened. But you chose to keep silent so that you can sell the honey. A piece of paper can never wrap a burning flame. That’s why some time back, honey from some Countries were banned because traces of anti-biotic were found in them.
Things had come full circle. If you were to see what is happening around, it will not last long. We used to be very resilient to all kinds of diseases and viruses but for the last decade, many of our siblings were succumbed to diseases and viruses that had always been living together, without interfering with our daily lives.
Look at my fellow sisters in Africa, with little or no human intervention. They had retained their natural aggressive instinct and till now, they are still resilient to viruses and diseases. They are still producing beautiful, natural honey, which is what it should be.
Dear Mr. Beekeeper Sir, I hope this letter will make you rethink how you should treat us and what will be the effect in the long run.
To you, it is just in a day’s work. To us, it matters life and death.
From a frightened little honeybee
Wanted to know more about the life cycle of honeybees? Watch the video below from http://www.hilaroad.com.
5th July saw the second batch of trainees undergoing the program. The idea of having the interviews for selection before training was prudent because we saw serious farmers who were prepared to pay the price of hard work. If not we will not be able to see the results if committed farmers were not chosen.
The 6 days training also saw them spending most of the time in the field, hands-on. By the end of the training, we received very positive feedbacks especially having them recognizing the importance of real field experience rather than classroom lectures of honey farming throughout the course. We had a very interesting participant and we shall talk more about him later in the blog.
Our classes were kept to a maximum size of 12 and below. We do not want classes to be of any larger less it might cause stress to the bees if activities were to be conducted throughout the next 6 days. African bees are well known for its aggressive behaviour. The classes will not meet its objective if the farmers were unable to work on them when they turn aggressive.
The class started with the participants introducing themselves and sharing with all why did they decide to embark on beekeeping. This gesture is common here and I do find it is a good practice. It will somehow enable the participants to interact more freely and to share their experiences as we went along.
Most farmers are still unaware of the different types of bee hives that can be used for honey farming. The course provides the insight of the history of beekeeping, the different methods applied in different parts of the World, the advantages and disadvantages of the various hives used. Most important of all the migration of honey hunting to honey farming.
One of the first topic that we had touched on was sustainable beekeeping. It is pointless if we would just simply teach them about beekeeping without them realizing how to keep the business sustainable. We need to instill in their thoughts that the most productive method is the method that will suit them best, in terms of financial and skills.
Beekeeping is a full time job. We have to change their mindset that beekeeping is not easy and simple. You don’t simply put beehives out in the field and wait for the honey flow season to starts. After which you go and collect the honey and sell. All these have to go. When there are no interaction with the bees, you will see zero results.
When the time comes for harvesting, they would find the colony so aggressive, so much so that instead of harvesting honey, they would destroy and kill all the bees before they can to get to the honey.
The fear of these insects was always there and the only method they knew were to approach them during the night with fire to avoid stings. That was what they were taught from their parents and grand parents. The end results – beautiful honey destroyed and contaminated during harvesting.
They were quite skeptical in the beginning when we told them they will be moving into the apiary in the afternoon. We will work on the bees in broad daylight. Some did not believe it. In order for them to accept the fact that beekeeping can be done during the day, we went down to the apiary and let them have a feel of the bees busy flying in and out of their hives.
The following day, the team started early to begin their basic on apiary management. Previously some were taught that they were supposed to hide their beehives among tall grasses because bees loves to colonized in thick bushes. This is not true. In fact having all the tall grasses and thick bushes would hinder the mobility of the farmer. On top of that, farmers can even be injured or killed by snakes hiding or moving around. Thus we demonstrated why it is important to have a clean neat apiary for easy handling of the hives during apiary management.
Every batch will be taken to task to start an apiary from scratch. We allocated another part of the farm to have them clear the area to prepare the siting of their bee hives. This time round, they will be setting up 2 rattan hives, 4 Kenyan top bars and 1 log hive coming from Gulu.
After which, they were taught to bait all the hives before deploying them out into the field. Baiting is an important process for it will hasten the process of colonization. Many a times, farmers would use cassava flour or honey or even sugar, placed inside the hive to attract the bees. They did not realized that these items will also attract other insects like ants.
Below are some of the shots taken during the 6 days training.
Earlier in this blog, I mentioned that we had an interesting participant. his name is David Sengaali. He was born physically challenged. His left hand was born stunted but his determination of being a good beekeeper was admirable.
David started beekeeping when he was 9 year old and got his skill of honey hunting through his grandparent. He would move around with them and other beekeepers in his village whenever they went for honey hunting. At the tender age of 9, he was fascinated by these insect and wanted to know more. Soon the desire to keep them was so strong that he started to build his own hive and caught bees in places like abandoned ant hill and hollow logs. He would then transfer them into his hives.
Soon village folks around came to know about his passion and they started to buy honey from him. Honey is like medicine to these villagers. With that little source of income, he managed to send himself to school.
25 years had past and now he makes his living by making bee hives, smokers and bee suit for Organizations. His passion had turned into a business for him.
He chanced upon our project 2 months back and was curious when he saw our apiary. He wanted to know more about our operation and approached Karl. When he heard that we are conducting training, he requested to join in so that he is able to increase his knowledge in beekeeping. My interaction with him found out that his knowledge in beekeeping was good. He does have potential in this trade. I will be monitoring him from now and I believe he will be a good candidate to be a future bee trainer under our wing.
Below is a video of him making his own rattan hive during the training.
Photos by Lesster Leow, Aug 7, 2010
10 years of struggle, ups and downs, zillions of stings and understanding Uganda’s apiculture had seen us establishing the first school for beekeepers in Uganda. The long awaited beekeeping school had finally arrived! Home base is at TIMOTHY CENTRE, MASAKA.
Our school’s motto – “BEST” program – “BRINGING ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY TOGETHER”, defined our direction and the purpose of the setup of this school. We had seen too many bee farmers keeping bees without sparing a thought for these insects. Most bee farmers in Uganda are mainly honey hunters because not much emphasis were put on the well being of these bees. The long term detrimental effect of the decline of the bee population, unbalancing of the ecosystem was not taken into consideration. It’s about time beekeepers learn to appreciate the existence of the bees and understanding the positive impact when they co-habit alongside with them with the least disruption of their lifestyle. Honey farming can thus be done in a more humane way.
PIONEERS FOR THE “BEST” PROGRAM
First batch of trainees for the program. There were from Gulu district. Class conducted on 10th – 15th January 2010.
FEEDBACKS FROM THE TRAINEES DURING THE COURSE;
“I like the training on transporting bees and the way we can work on bees. My most important lesson was the way the trainer taught us on how we must handle the bees gently in order not to kill them unnecessarily. I have also benefited from the training in three ways – 1) How we must set our apiaries, 2) Working on the bees during day time. 3) How to handle the bees gently.” - Achuman Martin Odong
“What I like about the training was that it had given me technical ways of keeping honeybees. The most important lesson in the training was the calm handling of the bees. The training method was practical. I had benefited from the training a lot because I have discovered many different ways of beekeeping/management of which it will make me go back and make modern change in my bee farm.” – Odoki Thomas -
“Gin ma omiyo aropwony ma pi medo ngec pipito kic. Pi miyo nge kit me kobo kic metero ne ipoto muken. it ma myeo ibed lorem kic. Ki ngec me kwoko poto obed maleng. Ber pa Lapwong nyutu pwonye itic. Anongo ber pwonye iyo meworo, a) weko itoto kic maleng, b) miyo kic pe bedo ger.” – Odong Julius Peter
The second batch of trainees coming for the course will be on 5th July to 10th July 2010. Slowly but surely we can see more bee farmers coming forward wanting to keep bees the proper way.
WHEN THERE ARE BEES, THERE WILL BE HONEY……
God created these beautiful insects to help mankind, to produce honey for us. But with modernization of this industry with human intervention, these lovely queens have to succumb to stress and being defaced just because we human wanted to spot them easily out of conveniences. Some beekeepers would even go to the extend of clipping their wings just to prevent them from flying. To me these are act of inconsideration to the well being of these queens and it is cruel.
I wonder are these necessary? Are the rationales able to justify our treatment to these insects? I feel that if we want to become a beekeeper we should spare a thought for these little insect. Let them live as naturally the way God wants them to live and we learn to co-habit with them harmoniously. Let’s not try and force them to live according to our whims and fancies.
Nature has its way of development. Bees are disappearing from the surface of the earth. Scientist are always looking for an answer. Could it be our own doing? I cannot imagine the queen bee have to sniff the chemical paint on her back all her life. What if it was the paint that had created this adverse effect on her growth or production system, making her and her off-springs less resilient to viruses and bacteria? I know one of the reason for marking the queen is to identify an aggressive one so that she can be repalced. Maybe it could be this practice that had aggravated the situation for some.
Engaging in natural beekeeping is so humane. We do not see the need of doing such things and yet, they are still producing good honey for us. I for one will never deface such a wonderful creature. Look how ugly man had made them look. I don’t believe without these practice, the bees will not produce honey. Life still goes on without the need of identifying the queen.
I wonder how would a beekeeper feels if he or she is walking around with a blob of paint on their forehead, identifying themselves as a good beekeepers.
For the past year, my Singaporean friends who had been following my blog had urged me to write about the frequently asked questions on honey. There are so much information on the net concerning honey, having its own findings, rationales and reasons. I would just be duplicating what had already been written and I don’t see the point of repeating it. In Singapore, there are still a lot of consumers who are not sure about the information received, were they facts or myths.
Three of the common myths are;
1) Ants are not attracted to real honey.
Ants, like honeybees, are social insects, when ever they locate a food source, they will go back to its colony to inform the rest of the findings. Honey is simple sugar. It is made up of fructose and glucose. Fructose is fruit sugar. Fruit sugar is sweet. Ants like all things sweet.
2) One cannot use metal spoons for honey.
After harvesting raw combs from the hives, we are to break the combs and let it drip through fine filters into food grade stainless steel tanks according to safety food standards. Honey are then stored up to more than 3 weeks for settling. Yes, although honey is acidic, but that will create no significant effect whatsoever while using a metallic spoon.
3) Honey must be crystal clear.
Pure unadulterated honey tend to be cloudy due to the presence of pollen spectrum. That constitutes part of the nutritional values in honey. UltraFiltered Honey or UFH honey are crystal clear. Well that boils down to the consumer preference again. Some consumers feel more comfortable taking honey that are perfectly clean and clear. There are also some Countries prefer having their honey pasteurized.
One of the reason why it took me some time before I decide to bring my honey back to my homeland was that now there is growing group of friends that had really understood and appreciate what is real honey, because some had been here and had seen my work and are assured that what they are going to get will be at its purest.
At the same time, they knew that by consuming the honey harvested from our farmers, directly they are assisting them in providing a source of income for their children to go to school and to help alleviate poverty. That jar of honey on my friends’ table are more meaningful rather than pondering whether their honey is pure or not. What they have on their table comes with assurance and these three simple facts are more than enough to quench their doubts;
1) They witnessed the source of the honey
2) They received the test report stating the quality and authenticity
3) They know the beekeeper.
Selling our honey in Europe is far more simpler than in Singapore. The honey eating culture is matured and they know exactly what to look for.
Consuming honey is a simple issue. So long as they are getting from a reliable source, having all the necessary certification and test reports backing up from established institutions. Real honey sells by itself. Our honey going back to Singapore will be as no frill as possible so that consumer will get every single drop of their honey worth.
I guess knowing the source is a sure way of getting what you really want. Consumers are getting more knowledgeable and vigilant with their purchases now because of the internet. There are a whole lot of information out there. Soon consumers will be able to find out the truth. Its just a matter of time.
To summarize it all, what I can say with regards to this issue, whether you are getting the real honey or getting what is worth, here are the simple guidelines;
1) Make sure you get it from reliable source.
2) Knows where the exact location of the honey are produced. (It is best that honey comes from one location and not blended from various destinations)
3) Look at the test report of the honey. The test report is like the birth certificate for that batch of honey.
Well, now is the beginning of the harvesting season and I shall be traveling up to meet my farmers soon. The climate we are experiencing this year is a bit erratic. It should be getting hot by now but somehow we are still having heavy rain. We will have to wait a little while longer before we can start the harvest. We have to work around nature and not against it.
I am glad I have friends coming from all walks of life coming over to visit me. Slowly but surely, by word of mouth, they will be able to share what they had learned from their field experience here.
Honey is simple, it is only made complicated by people.
I had mixed feelings when I left the apiary in Lampun. I was amazed when I saw how beekeeping was done. European honey farming methods and Asian honey farming methods are completely different. I really appreciate the bee farmer to allow me to have a better insight on honey farming in Thailand.
The term “beekeeping” derived from the way how a bee farmer is supposed to look after the bees, how the farmers is supposed to make sure that the honey is only harvested from combs that are filled and capped with honey, with no signs of broods or larvae. Usually the brood will not survive once they were taken out from the hives. They required the constant temperature the worker bees provide. The incubation period is very vital for the young brood to develop properly. I wonder is this one of the causes nowadays where bees are less resilient to viruses?
When I exchanged notes with Professor Burgett while having lunch, he shared the same sentiments. For those who are in the beekeeping industry will know what we meant.
After witnessing the difference, somehow I felt very proud of my farmers. They had done a wonderful job by providing such good quality honey for the world to taste. Uganda beekeeping is so many years behind modern honey farming Countries but yet, they can fulfill the EU requirements. A pat on their shoulders.
Driving from the South to the North took us 2 days. We had to time our route so as not to get ourselves caught in the unrest in Bangkok if there are any.
Something interesting happened and you will never believe it! By the time we reached Chiang Mai, we were dead tired. We stayed at GardenView Hotel in Chiang Mai. When I opened up the door to my room, I saw something huge hanging outside the window. As I walked closer to see, I was very shocked and surprised to see a colony for the Himalayan bee, (Api Dorsata is the largest honey bee species in the World), clinging on to the window.
The sight was breathtaking! One can never have the opportunity to view this species so up close. Api dorsata are very aggressive when disturbed. Imagine the size is about the size of your pinky.
I really could not believe my eyes! It was as if Chiang Mai is welcoming me with such a special gift, a gift from God!
I could not resist. I had to open up the window, (8th floor), to get a better, clearer picture for my collections. It was indeed a priced photo.
One interesting behaviours about this species is that every afternoon, they will leave the nest in a swarm and start to defecate. During the Vietnam war, American Soldiers who were on their tour of duty experienced it and initially thought it was a chemical warfare deployed by the Viet Cong. It was known as “The Yellow Rain”.
I had the honor to see them up close and personal.
Arrived in Bangkok on 23rd Feb and immediately on the following morning, Raymond and his wife, Koong, drove me down South to visit bee farmers to have a better understanding on how they keep Apis cerena. We arrived in a district called ‘Chum Porn” and there is a large community involved in honey farming. According to the village folks, they are called “The Cave Bees”.
During my last trip, I had gathered some information from Professor Michael Burgett, that Apis cerenas were kept successfully in the South and it will help tremendously if we are able to transfer the knowledge to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Chiang Dao. So far the species has still not yet been use widely in the North. One advantage of using these species is that it is easily available and to capture them, literally cost nothing. This might be a good way for the rural farmers to start beekeeping rather than having to buy colonies.
When I went to open up a colony, I can feel the calmness in them and they were not as aggressive as the African siblings.
Came back on the following day and tomorrow we will be heading up North to Lampang, Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao. Long journey again. Gotta sleep early.
Julius and Martin are my bee masters from Gulu. My work of sharing the importance of having to produce quality honey does not stop at the village. I will make effort to bring the leaders down occasionally to Kampala to show and explain why we need to pursue excellence in what we are doing.
Before I came, keeping bees in the the North is just to produce enough honey for their own consumption and many did not realized that it can be an income generating activity.
Bringing them to the city will somehow motivate them to realize the potential and many aspect of moving forward after being in insurgency for so many year, thinking that there is little or no hope for their future generations.
I had been working with them for three years now and I do feel their sense of wanting to progress. What amazed me was the speed in which they picked up the skill from honey hunting to honey farming.
Once that is achieved, they are able to pat themselves on their shoulders and showing the world that they can also be part of the world food chain by producing high quality honey for the world to embrace.
Their trip to the city this time included a short session on how to transfer bees from one location to another. According to them, this is the first time in Uganda beekeeping history that they are able to learn how to do that. They had done short distance transfer but never in their life ever thought that we can transfer bees 120km apart.
They will be part of the team to transfer the colonies to Timothy Centre within the next 3 weeks. It seems that we are unable to fulfill my planned schedule of completing the task before Christmas. Anyhow, the show must go on.
Timothy Centre will be the FIRST-ONE-OF-ITS-KIND apiary in Uganda where bee farmers coming for training will be able to understand the different kinds and methods of beekeeping around the world. They will then be able to fully understand what sort of method best suits them. Rather than just having to listen to others, always thinking that the most expensive and modern hives is the way to go.
For the time being hives that are going to be deployed at the Centre will be the Traditional Log Hives, Rattan Hives, Kenyan Top Bars and the Langstroths. Timothy Centre will also serves as an information Centre where NGOs who have beekeeping projects, wanting to introduce it as part of their curriculum, to have a better understanding on the way forward in initiating it to their farmers.
Modernization of beekeeping industry in the North takes time. The current situation requires a lot of effort, especially apiary management. Why the need for these farmers to learn how to relocate hives is that most of the hives were placed in an awkward position where it is so difficult to work on them safely and gently. Others had their beehives located too far apart between every hives, making it time consuming for farmers to work on them.
Our findings for the honey industry here is this – there is no such thing as whether modern bee hives produces better, higher quality honey compared to traditional log hives. All nectar collected from the bees and being converted to honey are good quality honey. It is the process of how the farmer approach the hive, handle the bees and extracting the combs. Most of our honey harvested are from the traditional log hives and yet they are able to meet EU honey legislations.
The other misconception about beekeeping in Uganda is that farmers were being told that it is one of the simplest form of income generating activity. They simply place a modern beehive on a tree, just wait for the bees to come and deposit honey and collect them during harvesting season. So many quickly jump onto the band wagon but later realized that it was not true, Finally giving it up totally losing their hard earned money to those who sold them the idea.
Too many hypes on modernization but little emphasis on sustainability.
Julius, 68 and Martin, 45, and the other 300 farmers that I am working with do faced many obstacles but somehow we are determined to face them one at a time.
The only time we failed is the last time we tried. We have not try the last time yet.
Three weeks with Jonathan passed by in a flash. Today we started to pick up where we had left off before he came. It rained quite a bit in the morning and our schedule was delayed a little. All the hives were soaking wet when we loaded them on the truck. Hopefully we are able to complete our work before Christmas and spend a relaxing festive season. Francis will be escorting the bee hives to Timothy Centre. Tomorrow he is getting married.
Really appreciate Jonathan for taking time to come from Singapore to capture moments of my work in still life. He had also shared a lot on the art of photography. Its all about inspiration and being able to capture the feeling and moment there and then. The final challenge is to capture the African bees closeup at 5pm. The timing for opening up beehives during the day is crucial. The weather must be cool in order for the bees to stay calm.
Come next week, when Jonathan leaves for Singapore, we will resume the transfer of bee from Kampala to Timothy Centre at Masaka.
Here are the first batch of angels made out of 100% natural beeswax, getting ready to take their maiden flight to Singapore.
Our little angel candles are all natural substance made by bees in contrast to paraffin, a chemical byproduct of the oil industry. The burning characteristics of beeswax candles differ from those of paraffin. A beeswax candle flame has a “warmer,” more yellowish appearance than that of paraffin, and the color of the flame may vary depending on the season in which the wax was harvested. It gets its aroma from the honey and pollen packed into each honeycomb cell. Every individual angel is created from our hand poured mold.
Beeswax candles burn with the spectrum of the sun emitting a brighter, longer burning flame. It is a well established fact that while burning, beeswax candles naturally emit negative ions which clean the air and invigorate the body.
Beeswax is produced in the bee hive of honey bees of the genus Apis. Worker bees (the females) have eight wax-producing mirror glands on the inner sides of the sternites (the ventral shield or plate of each segment of the body) on abdominal segments 4 to 7. The size of these wax glands depends on the age of the worker and after daily flights begin these glands gradually atrophy. The new wax scales are initially glass-clear and colorless, becoming opaque after mastication by the worker bee. The wax of honeycomb is nearly white, but becomes progressively more yellow or brown by incorporation of pollen oils and propolis. The wax scales are about 3 millimetres (0.12 in) across and 0.1 millimetres (0.0039 in) thick, and about 1100 are required to make a gram of wax. Typically, for a honey bee keeper, 10 pounds of honey yields 1 pound of wax.
Western honey bees use beeswax to build honeycomb cells in which their young are raised and honey and pollen are stored. For the wax-making bees to secrete wax, the ambient temperature in the hive has to be 33 to 36 °C (91 to 97 °F). To produce their wax, bees must consume about eight times as much honey by mass. It is estimated that bees fly 150,000 miles, roughly six times around the earth, to yield one pound of beeswax (530,000 km/kg). When beekeepers extract the honey, they cut off the wax caps from each honeycomb cell with an uncapping knife or machine. Its color varies from nearly white to brownish, but most often a shade of yellow, depending on purity and the type of flowers gathered by the bees. Wax from the brood comb of the honey bee hive tends to be darker than wax from the honeycomb. Impurities accumulate more quickly in the brood comb. Due to the impurities, the wax has to be rendered before further use. The leftovers are called slumgum.
Beeswax is also used commercially to make cosmetics and pharmaceuticals including bone wax (cosmetics and pharmaceuticals account for 60% of total consumption), in polishing materials (particularly shoe polish and furniture polish) and as a component of modelling waxes. It is commonly used during the assembly of pool tables to fill the screw holes and the seams between the slates. Squeezebox makers use beeswax as an adhesive, when blended with pine rosin, to attach reed plates to the structure inside an squeezebox. Beeswax candles are preferred in most Eastern Orthodox churches because they burn cleanly, with little or no wax dripping down the sides and little visible smoke. Beeswax is also prescribed as the material (or at least a significant part of the material) for the Paschal candle (“Easter Candle”) and is recommended for other candles used in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church.
It is also used as a coating for cheese, to protect the food as it ages. While some cheese-makers have replaced it with plastic, many still use beeswax in order to avoid any unpleasant flavors that may result from plastic. As a food additive, beeswax is known as E901 (glazing agent)
Beeswax has been used since ancient times; traces of it were found in the paintings in the Lascaux cave and in Egyptian mummies. Egyptians used it in shipbuilding as well. In the Roman period, beeswax was used as waterproofing agent for painted walls and as a medium for the Fayum mummy portraits. Nations subjugated by Rome sometimes paid tribute or taxes in beeswax. In the Middle Ages beeswax was considered valuable enough to become a form of currency.