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 annual bazaar event held by the International Women Organization was not as vibrant as last year. I was kind of disappointed with the turnout. Somehow we still managed to break-even.
With the 31% inflation in Uganda, I would not expect many to spend much too.
Anyhow, the show must go on.
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.
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.
China has her Terracotta warriors, I have my beeswax candles. There is something common between them. They are a gift from Mother Earth. Sharing with the farmers on the values of by-products from honey, they are able to have another source of income.
Previously, the methods the farmers used to extract honey were to squeeze it from the combs with their bare hands, or separating the honey from the wax by boiling the honey at a high temperature. This process will destroy the quality of the honey. After which, they throw the wax away.
With proper education and sensitization, their lives changed. They now know the importance of proper handling of their harvest. Not only they can raise the quality for the honey, they found a new source of income and a ready market.
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.
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.
The year started with a very good news from US Embassy. Usually they have funds for farmers to embark on agriculture projects and they were looking for good partners to work with in order for the farmers to benefit from such funds. We were identified as a potential partner and they came to interview us. Few days back we received an email saying that they were pleased with the findings and had identified us as one of the partner they intend to work together. Below was part of the mail that was sent to us and we felt honored to be selected;
” It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been approved as recipients of this year’s Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund grant! We are looking forward to partnering with you in your various income-generating activities reaching under-served and under-privileged people throughout Uganda. It is our hope that together we truly will make a difference in these communities………
…………….Looking forward to a wonderful partnership with each of our grantees. We have chosen 7 projects with the hope of finalizing one or two more. Congratulations! This is very competitive (9 projects out of 100 applicants!) and you have stood out as doing exceptional work in your communities.
Please do not hesitate to contact me.
Yours in development,…………………..
Dawn P. Conklin
Small Grants Coordinator
US Embassy – Kampala, Uganda “
Having gotten this motivating mail, it really made my day. Now the farmers are able to move an extra mile with the support.
I could see the trend of large Organization co-operating with private social enterprises. I should say this is the way to go because we as social entrepreneurs, we have mindset focused to succeed in order achieve our goals which we had set out to do. We developed the whole value chain from training to harvesting to refining to packing and export.
I had seen many projects failed because their emphasis stop short at providing equipments to farmers. They did not realize the importance of a sound training program where farmers were taught how to handle the bees properly in order to attain quality honey. Sadly the rest of the process were not properly established thus putting many farmers in limbo. They produced poor quality honey which are not acceptable to the world market.
This created a bottleneck where abundant of low quality honey were produced but going nowhere. Disappointment and dissatisfaction grows and soon farmers dropped the idea completely and start to look for other avenues.
All these things can be fine tuned if the Organization involved are prepared to pay more attention not only on fulfilling their equipment distribution objective but also on the environmental impact, where wrong methods of beekeeping were applied, causing millions of bees to perish in the process.
We would like to thank US Embassy for having confidence in us.
Happy New Year everyone! In this brand new year, let me start off with something that is close to everyone’s heart, or I should say stomach – FOOD! Occasionally I will be introducing honey related recipe for those who are keen in trying to use honey on their dish. For a start, here is one Asian dish, Cantonese Shredded Beef.
Stir-fry over high heat cooks food quickly while sealing in all the flavour. In this recipe, the beef is cooked until crisp and sweet. Blossom honey counteract the spiciness of the pepper while harmonizing with the sweetness of the carrots. The dish is best served with plain boiled rice to absorb the honey juices.
This recipe is meant for a serving of 4.
2½ tbsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
12 baby carrots (about 375g), cut into 5cm strips
1½ tbsp soy sauce
6 tbsp blossom honey
¾ tsp chilli powder or cayenne pepper
500g beef fillet, cut into thin strips 5cm long
¼ tsp salt
In a wok or non-stick frying pan, heat the oil until hot. Add the garlic and cook until it is just turning golden.
Add the carrots with 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of honey and ¼ teaspoon of chilli powder or cayenne pepper and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until the carrots are just starting to soften.
Add the beef with the remainder of the soy sauce, honey, chilli powder or cayenne pepper and the salt. Stir-fry for a further 5-7 minutes until the beef is a dark golden brown and slightly crispy and the carrots are caramelized. Serve immediately.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Last week was kind of hectic. Needed to rush to the airport to do some adjustment on my products. By the way we have our honey products sold at the duty free shop at the Entebbe International Airport(EBB), the principal international airport of Uganda .
After I had filter out the honey from the combs, there are bound to have some honey remain. What I normally do is to feed them to the bees in my garden. This way, little or no honey is wasted. The bees will benefit from these left overs. I will have my dry combs ready for processing to become candles later. Win-win.
Have you ever wonder what would happen to the bees if you and I or any beekeeper did not exist? Nature will have its way of making sure of their existence one way or another. Greed comes with destruction. I may sound esoteric, but yes I am a commercial beekeeper. I do make a living harvesting honey from these wonderful insects. And NO, I do not believe they require human intervention or modification with their way of lives to provide honey for us. All we can do is all we can do, and all we can do is enough. Maybe it was this journey of mine for the last 8 years that I saw too many bees sacrificing their lives in the name of eradicating poverty. It has become so fake! So much so that the joy of being in this industry is somehow marred by notion from Organizations claiming that they are making a better life for the people.
But they have forgotten some………….the bees.
The meaning of beekeeping is to grasp the joy of the evening sun, walking towards your beehive, interacting very closely with what GOD has allow us to see – peaceful communal living amongst the bees. Trying to help us understand why we as humans have to succumb to discontentment.
But instead, we destroy nature’s way of putting all things in their correct prospective. AHBs did not asked to be in USA, it was we humans that brought them there in the name of science. So I guess we have to take responsibility in learning to live with them and not just destroy them.
I do not re queen my weak colonies, I let them decide how and when they want a new queen. they are their best judge. I can only say I will work doubly hard to make sure I go into the forest to trap more swarming bees for my apiaries.
I had been approached by some commercial beekeepers that this is not the way to produce more honey commercially, but still it all boils down to greed again. I am still happily producing enough honey for my customers without jeopardizing the lives of these insects.
I believe for any hobbyist beekeeper, the challenge should not be bothered by how much honey his or her colony can produce or how strong is the colony. The challenge is to watch how they grow and procreate, be it fast or slow. Having honey is a bonus for your tender loving care for them. And most important of all, how they live.
I would like to leave these few words for you to digest – Beekeeping…..for better or for worst……for the bees!