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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another year is soon to pass. 2010 saw many exciting happenings in the development. Looking forward to see what’s in store for 2011. Ready……get set……….
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.
Past few days were spent running around town, getting all the documents prepared for the shipment. This morning finally saw the shipment ready for flight. The forwarder came on time to load the buckets up. Hopefully it will reach Switzerland safely and on time.
Logistic management in Uganda still has a long way to go. One of my previous shipment, one ton of my honey was left at Entebbe airport for 10 days and nobody notice all the buckets sitting there and going nowhere. Luckily honey is non perishable. If not I will be in deep trouble. My customers were very amazed that how come such things happened. How to compete with the rest of the World if Uganda is not going to look at these issues seriously.
Yesterday I was chatting with the Chief Veterinarian. He is the person that will approve and certify all agriculture export like coffee and in this case, honey. I was surprised when he mentioned that we were the only Company that is exporting honey to Switzerland. He told me that honey going into EU is very difficult because of the stringent quality test required. He was glad that ours are able to meet the EU standards and being exported out. How he wished there were more honey with the same quality in the market.
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.
Honey harvesting season is over! El Nino had confused the farmers as well as the bees. When it was supposed to rain, it shone and when its time to shine, it was raining cats and dogs. This season the farmers had difficulties in harvesting due to the erratic weather. But still the show must go on. The next few weeks will be consolidation of all the honey buckets from all the parish within the range of 60 kms, All these honey will arrive at the collection centre to be weigh. The farmers will get their payment once we had finalized the quantum.
Now that the honey season is over, we will be looking for other source of income for the villagers. Recently I had been in collaboration with a German friend of mine. He is into Shea butter production for EU market. We will be embarking on a joint co-operation so that our bee farmers and their wives can go into the forest to collect Shea nuts. It would be another good source of income for them. There is a whole demand for Shea butter now. Consumers are slowly appreciating the usefulness of Shea products. Its a good natural ingredient for cosmetic especially for skin.
With the combination of our honey and beeswax and his Shea butter, we will be developing our first range of product – lip balm and moisturizer. Meanwhile our 100% certified Organic Shea butter will be making its way to Asia later part of this year. The product will be available at our Singapore Office.
Finally the test report is out and we are able to introduce a new range for our boutique, Eucalyptus honey.
In our Mellisopalynology report, pollen count shows 95.8% belonging to the Myrtaceae family. Less than 3% consist of Mango, Combretaceae, Anacardiaceae, Senecio-group and Musa. Our Eucalyptus honey is thus considered Monofloral. The enzymes (Diastase) activities detected was found to be much higher than the recommended EU Honey Legislation in Europe. This shows that the honey was filtered raw and natural and has never been heat treated or had gone through UV lights or any forms of heat energy such as microwaves. Diastase, this enzyme is responsible for converting starch to dextrins and sugars and is introduced into the honey by the bees.
The moisture contents of our Eucalyptus Honey falls below 20% and this is one of the most important aspect when buying honey. According to the EU honey standards, honey having more than 20% in moisture content determines the rate of fermentation. Unripe honey harvested are usually having a moisture content of 23% or more. It will taste sourish.
Our Eucalyptus Honey is dark amber and has an intense and persistent peppermint after taste. It crystallizes much faster are usually preferred as an excellent accompaniment to cheeses, pastries and herbal teas.
In Uganda, villagers are often seen using Eucalyptus Honey as a home remedy for mild cough and cold.
Eucalyptus Grandis or E. Grandis is well known in Uganda, being first introduced around 1912. It is commonly planted for fuelwood and poles and is an important source of income for small farmers. As other sources dwindle, E. Grandis is increasingly being recognised as a valuable source of timber too. It is easy to raise from seed and coppices vigorously when cut. Many of the E. Grandis trees in Uganda have hybridised, however, and thus it is important to use only improved seed from tree breeding programmes (mainly in Southern Africa) for commercial plantations here.
In Uganda, E. Grandis is best suited to deep soils in the cooler, moist areas – particularly in the west – around Kabarole and Bushenyi, in the West Nile region and in the south-west (Kabale). On suitable sites and with good management, E. Grandis can grow extremely quickly: Mean Annual Increments of over 50 m3/ha/yr can be achieved in such areas, though an average of 25-35 m3/ha/yr is more likely. Rotations of 8-15 years are expected for the production of sawlogs and large poles.
After landing back in Singapore and after a week of break, my marketing drive began. The first stop was meeting up with Violet to finalize the way forward in promoting Uganda Honey into the market. The discussion went well and soon Singaporeans will be able to buy our honey at all Violet Oon’s outlet.
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.
Jonathan Wong, a professional photographer from Singapore came and did some product shoots for my advertising campaign. The results was astonishing! He had brought out the beauty of my work. Below are my two favorite shots!
After a week of rest, we went back to organize our first colony of bees for our relocation exercise. The process is tedious but it is better to be safe than sorry. The colony will be placed in a bee proof cage for double protection. The bee hive itself will also be sealed except a small portion which we will only cover it with wire mesh.
All this were being done the night before because we have to wait for the foragers to come back. If not, when morning comes, some of the foragers will be left behind. We try to relocate the whole colony if possible.
It will be a slow two and a half hours drive from Kampala to Masaka. Setting off at 5am, hopefully with no traffic jams, reaching Timothy Centre by 9am. We have to abide to the schedule in order that we can quickly release the bees when we reach our destination.
The next morning at 5am, the journey starts. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic. We need to get out of town as quickly as possible just in case if there were any mishap or the bees somehow escape. We will then be endangering the public. Keeping our fingers crossed all the way.
Due to the aggressive nature of Api Mellifera Scutellata, relocation of these species, great care must be taken. One cannot slack in any of the procedure. Most important aspect when handling these bees is to minimize as much direct contact with them. The amount of smoke being introduced must be just right. Many Ugandan bee farmers are still having this idea of smoking too much, thus aggravating and suffocating the bees.
Once the bees are settled in, we release them. As for the tapes, we shall remove them as we perform our regular hive management. We do not remove all the tapes immediately, if not we will experience the whole colony pouring out, attacking anything within 100m.
Soon all these colonies will be transported to Masaka to start the training school. We will have to do a pre flight check to make sure we understood the stucture of each and every one of the hive in order to have them transferred without any hiccups.
Helmut and I had been keeping bees in our garden in Kampala for the last 5 years. All good things must come to an end. He will be leaving Uganda soon and I had taken the task to adopt his bees. They will come in very handy for my training school at Timothy Centre, Masaka.
An amazing friend that shared the same passion as I. In fact his experience in beekeeping is far more greater than mine for he has been based in a few African countries and he had always kept bees.
We went to his place around 1930hrs but the rain had disrupted our schedule and finally at around 2045hrs, the sky managed to clear and we proceed on with the checks.
Francis, my bee master, who will be the overall in charge of the training school at Timothy’s, assisted me is making my rounds. So far I am very pleased with his performance and the way he handles the bees, although there are still a lot of rooms for improvement.
We had to perform our harvest and check in the night because Kampala is really saturated with residential housing and we do not want the bees to disturb the neighbors should they became cranky.
There are a few reasons why we are harvesting some of the honey. When the volume of honey is reduced, the bees tend to be less aggressive because they have less honey to protect. At the same time, the hive will be much lighter for us to transport them for the 2 hrs drive.
Comb honey is highly in demand from the expatriates community because these “Muzungus” honey lover truly appreciate fresh comb honey harvested directly from the hive without going through any processing or filtering. Honey at its purest!
The fascinating sight of having the comb honey being sliced open, watching the liquid gold flowing down onto the platter, makes one wonder how nature had created such a small yet dynamic insect, being able to interact socially amongst themselves without a single conflict.
Although African bees are known to be very aggressive, they still do display its gentle side, provided we as human being, listen to them more attentively and not try to force ourselves onto them during harvesting. No clashes will occur.
The result – beautiful comb honey with little or no casualties on both parties. Many a times, bee farmers are too eager to get the job done. They approached the hive with only one intention…… get the honey and go. Whether the bees are destroy or not is secondary. To me, this is honey hunting.
Whenever I harvest honey, I will always think of this friend of mine, Joanna Yue. We used to play squash together back home occasionally and will always share her squash knowledge when we played. She once told me that in order to play good squash, I have to think of the process, not the outcome. So long as I set the process right, the outcome will be right.
In beekeeping, I applied the same principle. Thinking of the process, by listening to the bees, observing their movement and behaviour, practicing patience. The outcome will see me having that beautiful comb taken out from the hive successfully with little or no stings. I do feel a great sense of achievement whenever I managed to harvest fresh comb honey without agitating the bees and being able to keep their temperament at bay.
Every road that we walked, every path that we take, it’s all about life experiences. It’s just a matter of how one adapt to the situation and environment. Even a young lady nearly half my age, had shared a life skill so valuable that I am applying it now.
Anyone care to have a taste of fresh comb honey?
Here is a sneak preview of my honey boutique. Eventually, it will house honey of different floral from different parts of Uganda.
This boutique will be the first in Uganda which sells honey that meets European Union Honey Quality Legislations. Every harvest, samples will be sent to University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart Germany for melissapalynology.
For a start, we shall be concentrating on honey, honey snacks for regular consumption. There will also be honey products that come in gift packaging for special events. Occasionally, we will have special “Comb Honey”.
In the future we will include by-products from honey like, bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis. All these takes time because it involve a lot of certification and testing. Once its approved, we shall then launch them. Meanwhile candles made out of beeswax are already on sale.
Many had seen honey in jars. Some had seen honey stored by bees kept in modern beehives. But few had really seen how does a traditional local beehive with bees keep their honey. Here we bring you as close as when we are harvesting the honey from a traditional beehive. Noticed the smoke that is hovering around the entrance of the beehive. We used smoke to break the communication amongst the bees. Unity is strength. So long as the bees could not interact with each other, they tend to be less aggressive, instead they will try and find its way back to the queen to wait for instructions.
Smoking the surrounding of the hives simulates a forest fire. Their instinctive reaction is to first see what’s the queen’s decision, to stay or flee. If they find that the smoke is not that threatening, it could be just some smoke coming from a faraway fire, they will stay. But if they sense that the smoke is getting unbearable and the heat getting stronger, they will turn aggressive and flee or abscond the hive. Smoking bees takes years of experience in order to understand how much is not too much.
I find beekeeping with traditional hives is much better when comes to farmers’ beekeeping knowledge and skills. They have more confident in handling the bees as compared to the modern way of keeping bees in “Langstroth hives”. One thing I had witnessed was that there were less destruction and casualties to the bees during harvesting.
Here is a footage of us inspecting a colony in a traditional local rattan beehive. Observed how calm the bees were even when the hive is fully opened. African bees are considered the most ferocious species of honeybees, but with understanding and careful way of approach and handling them, it can be achieved.
Every approach is a challenge. African bees when annoyed will turn aggressive within 4 seconds. In this instance, we would have to close the cover quickly and move away as fast as our legs can carry us and move on to the next hive. We will only return to the same hive in the next few days. Cranky little ladies
So as you can see, the joy we have in putting that teaspoon of honey in your cereals
Finally the dry spell is over. The weather is getting cooler and the rainy season is coming. Its that time of the year where the villagers start to plant crops again. Going up Gulu with Fischer last two days was refreshing. Same time we look at the progress of the refinery and collection centre. Hopefully it will be ready when the next season comes in April 2010.
This Centre will serve as a meeting point for all the bee farmers around the region. All future honey harvested from our selected bee farmers whom had gone thru our training will be sent to this centre for processing. Come next year I will see myself being split between Timothy Centre which is in the South and Gulu, in the North. I hope I can have the strength to see it thru.
PARIS – STRANGE as it may seem, bees get a better buzz from the urban Paris jungle than from the countryside. There are all sorts of flowers only short flights away, and little risk of death by pesticide.
Some live in penthouse hives atop historically prestigious monuments – the spectacular steel and glass domed Grand Palais exhibition hall by the banks of the Seine, for instance. ‘Honeybees are happy in town, they have everything they need,’ said Grand Palais director Sebastien de Gasquet.
Collecting pollen and nectar is no sweat with the Tuileries gardens lying only a short distance away, ‘not to mention the Grand Palais’ own flowerbeds’, he said.
The two beehives set on the edge of the building’s huge glass dome last May are rooms with a view of the Eiffel tower and Notre-Dame cathedral. Three or four extra hives are to be added to bring production up to half a ton of honey a year.
City bees, said Nicolas Geant, the beekeeper behind the Grand Palais scheme, nowadays produce four to five times more honey than their country cousins. ‘In agricultural areas you can produce around 10 to 20 kg of honey per year per hive while in cities you can get between 80 and 100 kg’ he said. And his idea of placing beehives at the Grand Palais – Paris’s Garnier Opera house has had its own beehives for years – is aimed at illustrating the paradox.
In rural areas close to farms, there are fewer and fewer hedges, trees and flowers. But in the city ‘there are a myriad of small flowers in parks and on balconies, as well as a wide variety of trees along streets and in public gardens – acacia, lime and chestnut trees – that are nectar to the bees.’ While Paris is polluted, notably from car exhaust fumes, ‘this bears no comparison with agricultural areas where pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers kill massive numbers of bees,’ he said.
France’s Union of Apiarists (UNAF) has signalled high mortality rates near corn, sunflower and rapeseed fields, while bee deaths across Europe have been 30 to 35 per cent higher than average since the 1980s thanks to a number of factors, including the use of pesticides.
‘There are practically no pesticides in the city,’ said Jean Lacube, the beekeeper in charge of eight hives at another Paris building in the city’s chic 7th district.
City bees also thrive in a town’s more temperate climate, he added, and are safe from attacks by the deadly Asian hornet that has decimated bees in the south-west part of France in previous years.
There are some 300 beehives in Paris, Mr Lacube said. ‘But beekeeping in a city is a luxury,’ he added. ‘Beekeeping should be in the countryside, the future is not in the cities.’ — AFP
A few months back I posted this question in some forum regarding urban beekeeping in Singapore. Some of the replies were concerned about the danger of having bees around residential areas. Others feel that it is a good idea because the bee helps in pollination and its environmental friendly. On top of that with proper education and know how, one can have their own honey produce behind their backyard. Beekeeping in urban areas are very common in other parts of the World. Singapore has always been regarded as “A Garden City”. Can honeybees strive in this “Garden City”? What do you think?
Was at the University beginning of this year conducting a feasibility study on rural beekeeping in Chiangdao, North of Chiangmai, Thailand. Here is a video footage while I was at the University observing some bees and having a discussion with the Professor. The honey bees they are using is a very docile species. Apis Mellifera Italiana. That is why it was not necessary for me to don on my beesuit. But when it comes to African bees, Apis Mellifera Scutellata, I will definitely have my suit put on with the veil flipped back. If they became aggressive, I will then fully cover myself.
Went to open my letter box yesterday. The test report had arrived! This evening I gave a call to Professor to thank him. We had a long talk about the report and the honey we had harvested. There are so many things one will never believe what we can find from this tests. Many people only knew about honey from salespeople telling them how good the honey is or whether your grandfather or grandmother used to take them. Too much of marketing hypes. If you really ask the salesperson what actually is inside the honey, they will never know. I recalled sometime back in Singapore, when I asked one of the salesperson whether the honey was harvested riped or unriped, she gave me that queer look. She simply brushed me off telling me that the honey are pure honey and my grandfather used to take them???? I was wondering how did she ever knew my grandfather? I didn’t even knew him.
As much as one knows about internet and googles, one can find tons and tons of general and common information about honey, cut and paste from one website to another. Having said that, you can find at supermarket, salespeople trying to sell their product as if theirs is the ultimate honey and a miracle wonder compared to the rest of the honey from other honey suppliers. Little did one realised that most of the honey are coming from the same source. Same product, different packaging.
From the scientific point of view, honey is simple sugar. It is more easily digestable compared to complex sugar. What is important are following questions one should ask when buying honey from the supermarket;
1) Is the honey pastuerised? Once honey is heated, all the nutritional properties are damaged, enzymes are destroyed.
2) Is the honey collected from bees that are treated with anti-biotics? Most of the commercial bee farm, the bees are infected with some form of viruses.
3) What are the percentage of anti-biotic contamination? Is it within the safe level. There are cases where the anti-biotics are spilled over into the honey.
4) How does one define pure honey/Organic honey/natural honey/raw honey? What are the difference? Many a times, I find honey branded “Organic” but do not have any Organic certifications.
5) What is riped and unriped honey? Good quality honey are honey that are ripe and has a moisture content of less than 20%.
6) How can one harvest so much wild “riped” honey from one country and sold at the supermarket in tons? Wild honey are usually honey harvested from a species of honeybees called, “Apis Dorsata”. They are also known as “The Himalayans bees” or “The Giant Honeybees”. They are normad bees and only colonised on one hugh honey comb, unlike the “Apis Meliferra” honey bees. “Apis Dorsata” will “eat” the honey back before they are ripen before they travel to another destination.
7) If one is selling “Wild Honey”, are they “Honey Hunting”? Are they killing the bees in order to acquire the honey? “Wild honey” are seldom ripe. Unripe honey has a higher moisture content and are usually sourish in taste. Fermentation takes place at a much faster rate. Usually you are advised to consume the honey within a short period of time. Ripe honey will not ferment and has no shelf-life.
8 ) What sort of floral are they honey derived from? Different floral has different character in taste and colour. It must coincide to confirm the country of origin.
9) Tracebility? Do you know exactly where your honey is coming from? Or the honey has been mixed from all over the world.
First part of the honey harvesting work is finally done! Hurrah! The next part – getting the honey extracted from the combs begins tomorrow. The journey of the honey from Gulu to Kampala took 10 hrs. By the time it reached Kampala, it was 2358hrs. This time round we had 2 more guys helping out in the transferring of the honey from the truck to the store. It took us 1 hrs to transfer them.
95% of all these honey were harvested from traditional log hives. Honey samples from this batch sent to Hohenheim for test has met EU honey quality parameters. Many young NGOs always feel that only modern honey farming is the way to go. I feel that they have to do more studies before they come to that conclusion. They are throwing away good money by not having a better understanding of this industry first.
All you can is all you can do, and all you can do is enough.
Once in a while I would get some invitation to do talks on honey and bees. Last Wednesday, we had a small group of 10 families wanting to know more about bees and honey. It was more of a friendly get together with children running around waiting for the honey eating session.
Many people are still unaware how does honey looks like when it is still in the bee hive. So the night before the talk, I harvested 2 fresh combs for the folks to see.
When we arrived the next morning, most of the children were already sitting at the playground with their parents. I realized that this session would not be much of a talk but more of getting the children to see where does honey comes from and how does it look like before being sold at the supermarket. Anyway, it was a good start. The children enjoyed the honey and the parents were very appreciative and that was what matters most.
I remembered once a friend of mine from Singapore told me that when they asked some of the kids in Singapore where does the chicken come from, some gave the answers as, “coming from NTUC Supermarket”. I was even more surprised that some children doesn’t even know that chicken has feathers. Sometimes I wondered whether has modernization made us took a step backwards towards nature. My nephew grew up sitting in front of the computer 24/7 playing games. Playing marbles, catching spiders, flying kites are childhood activities long forgotten.
I am glad that parents now are making effort to find education materials related to nature to empower their children at an early age. These early childhood development activities are very healthy for them. Education are no longer confined to classrooms. Creative methods and techniques are deployed to make learning much more interesting and exciting. I am glad I am part of it.
Uganda has come a long way. With the Country experiencing peace and prosperity, with all these activities going, it is a sign that the society is ready to move forward and the thirst for knowledge had increased. In no time, I believe Uganda will be one of the most aspiring and affluent place to visit in Africa!
That brings me to an article which I found when I was here for the first time in 2001. It was titled, “The Africa Pearl” by Sir Winson Churchill. It goes like this;
The African Pearl
My Journey is at an end, the Tale is told and the reader who has followed so faithfully and so far has a right to ask what message I bring back. It can be stated in these words – concentrate upon Uganda
“But it is alive by its’ self. It is vital! And in my view in spite of its insects and its diseases. It ought in the course of time to become the most prosperous of all our East and Central African possessions and perhaps the “financial diving wheel of all this part of the world”
My counsel plainly is concentrate upon Uganda! Nowhere else in Africa will a little money go so far. Nowhere else will the results be more brilliant, more substantial or more rapidly realized.
Uganda is from end to end one “beautiful garden” where the” staple food” of the people grows almost without labour. Does it not sound like a paradise on earth?
It is “the pearl of Africa “
From my Africa Journey by Winston .S. Churchill 1908, Uganda
Honey season is over. I will be embarking on my next project – Timothy Centre in Masaka. Karl and I had known each other since 2005 and we had always been keeping in touch, discussing beekeeping.
When he was given the task to develop a girls’ school in Masaka, he approached me to see whether would I be interested to join force and start a beekeeping project at this new centre. This is exciting for me for it will be another challenge in Uganda. Honey will never be enough for me because of the demand I am facing. Many challenges awaits me and the most difficult challenge I have to face is to instill proper handling of bees and honey onto the farmers.
Timothy Centre is still at its infant stage and it is Karl and Arleen’s baby from now on. I hope with this apiary being setup, it will benefit all, including farmers around the centre. We will conduct beekeeping training for the farmers so that they will acquire another skill to improve their source of income.
Setting up an apiary is not that easy as it seems. There are a lot of preparation and also understanding the environment and surrounding. Once the apiary is properly sited, and when the bees colonized, it will be very difficult to change the location later on. Hopefully this trial beehive will enable us to do an analysis to see whether beekeeping is suitable here.
If it is successful, I can forsee that this beekeeping project could well be my biggest project ever in my 8 years stay here. We had some indepth brainstorming session and the developing ideas we had is really exciting. I shall keep our plans for the time being until everything is concrete and finalized.
Honey harvesting season is coming to an end. To date, we have harvested about 2.5 tons of honey and would likely be able to hit our targeted 5 tons production by next week.
I’ve brought back a few hundred kilos of honey combs for the extraction of honey. Comb honey are the best way to acquire from local farmers. This ensures that we can inspect the honey in its original form. Very often, traders who buy honey directly from farmers, will likely to have the honey adulterated with mollasses or diluted with water to increase the volume before they sell them. So buying liquid honey from these traders is not ideal.
Our company’s policy is that we only acquire our honey from the farmers that we trained in beekeeping. The initial few harvest, farmers will extract the honey combs together with our beekeeping masters. A few more followups will be conducted to ensure that they handle the honey with our best practices recommendations. Afterwhich, these farmers will continue to harvest their honey independently with occassional observations by us. In order to make sure that the honey are still in its purest form, we only acquire raw honey combs from these farmers. We shall then process these honey combs back in Kampala.
To ensure the quality and hygiene of the honey , we use simple honey presses to extract the honey. Farmers would however usually extract them using only their hands. Since Uganda Honey is only a small scale production line, two honey presses suffice to meet our honey production capacity . After pressing, the honey are then settled in tanks, (stainless steel tanks infront of the honey press), for a few weeks to allow any small particles of beeswax to rise to the top and removed. Meanwhile, these honey will have to await the test results from Germany before they are sold to our customers overseas.
After moving up and down Gulu for the last two weeks, finally we are able to take a break on Easter Sunday and Easter. I am very glad to see that the farmers had improved on their harvesting skills and the quality of the honey thus had improved too. Collected some honey sample so that we can put them on a trip to Germany for melissopalynology test again. Every batch of honey harvested, samples from different part of the village must be sent to The University to make sure that they conform to the EU legislations in order for us to export them to the European Union. One important criteria for the test is to send comb honey instead of liquid honey. Comb honey is directly from the hive and it also prove that the honey is still in its original form and no heat is applied lest the combs melt. Another aspect is that comb honey also confirm that the honey has not been adulterated or mixed with honey from other parts of the world.
4/3/2009 – Made my first stop at Chiangmai University, Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture. Had a very good insight of the beekeeping industry, thanks to Assistant Professor Pichai Kongpitak. His passion for developing this industry in Thailand made me feel much more confident that if I were to start honey farming here, I will not be lost.
I had the privilege to be able to see some of his work.
This part of my fact findings had given me more confident in crystalizing the direction for the bee farmers in Chiang Dao. The main issue lies in the sensitizing of the farmers and to guide them in making the correct decision for themselves. Let see what turn up next.
This footage was done in 2002. Professor Horn was observing the health of the African honeybees. I was his understudy then. We discovered that the bees in Uganda are free from any diseases or virus. No medication is required. Almost the whole beekeeping industry in the New World are succumbed to some diseases or virus. Not in Uganda. There are no traces of American Foul Brood, European Foul Brood or Varroa Mites,which are very common in other parts of the World.
Every batch of our honey harvested, samples were sent to University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany to be tested for EU quality. We make sure that the honey meets all the requirements before they are sold.
Our honey will then undergo Melissopalynology. Melissopalynology is the study of Honey. By extension, it also includes the study of any pollen contained in honey as well as the pollen’s source. By studying the pollen in a sample of honey, it is possible to gain evidence of the geographical location and of the plants that the honey bees visited, although honey may also contain airborne pollens from anemophilous plants, spores, and dust due to attraction by the “Electrostatic” charge of bees.
Generally, melissopalynology is used to combat fraud and inaccurate labelling of honey. Information gained from the study of a given sample of honey (and pollen) is useful when substantiating claims of a particular source for the sample. Monofloral honey derived from one particular source plant may be more valuable than honey derived from many types of plants. The price of honey also varies according to the region from which it originates.