Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Extracting honey…………………….

Here you can see my collegue extracting honey from combs using a honey press. Honey in these form are as pure as they can be.

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December 30, 2008 Posted by | apiculture, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing | , , , , | 2 Comments

Waste not, want not………………..

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.

December 27, 2008 Posted by | honey, honey byproduct | , | 1 Comment

How does one define a sustainable beekeeping project?…………………….

There are many people who want to help in alleviating poverty in third world countries. I know it is for a good cause. I admired that. Thus beekeeping is one of nature’s ways of providing a source of income opportunities for these farmers. Many Organizations will come in and give the villagers their entire high-end, expensive, complicated beekeeping equipments.

There are a few questions that always ponder in my mind. Is these kind of support sustainable? Is it really cost effective? Is it really that traditional beekeeping cannot sustain their livelihood. Is the honey produced from traditional beekeeping will be of bad quality like some always claimed? Is modernization of this industry the only way to go? Can the farmers keep up with the regular maintenance of the modern equipments?

All my honey are harvested from traditional beehives and yet they are still able to meet EU legislation when I sent them for testing in Germany. I wondered where did they get this idea that honey from traditional beehive will be of bad quality. All honey inside the beehive is good quality honey. The only time you get bad honey is when it is being harvested by the farmer without understanding the correct method of harvesting.

Recently I was reading some news about some NGOs giving funds and modern beehives again, (too many that I had lost count) for some communities and associations to start a modern beekeeping project because they feel that that is the way to move forward. In the article, they mentioned that bees are unlike poultry, where feeding is required. Bees find their own food. Is that really true? Has the Organization done any studies on this industry before helping to develop the industry? Have they really understood how the investment will lead to if the true picture is not visualized? Are they really sure that the initial investment can be recouped in one year and a farmer continues earning profits thereafter for more than 10 years, without additional capital investment or regular repairs of the beehives due to wear and tear? Are they painting a false picture that beekeeping is easy money? Will the farmers get disappointed if the whole thing turns out not to be what it seems?

Given the tough conditions of the environment, and the lack of good, precision carpentry equipments to produce the beehives, I really cannot see how the farmers are able to maintain the hives. Understanding where the farmers are coming from, in terms of the art of beekeeping passed down from generations, it will take a steep learning curve for them to handle bees in a modern langstroth beehive. It is not a one two-months kind of learning process. On the contrary, all the farmers that I am working with are so well versed with the traditional hives and the kenyan top bar hives.

I had worked with farmers with different types of beehives and langstroth is the only hive that they do not know how to handle the bees, especially the aggressiveness of the api melliferra scutellatas. In the article, the farmers were taught to put the langstroth beehive on a platform about two meters high! I was going…What!?? Langstroth two meters high above the ground? I wonder how are they going to inspect the honey chamber that is more than two meters high on a regular basis.

If the honey quality is not an issue, which I know, Lets us have a hypothetical scenerio to see the sustainability issue.

Cost of langstroth hive – Ush120,000

Honey harvested in a year as claimed –  25kg

Selling price of honey @ Ush4000 per kilo (as stated in the article) – Ush100,000

Gross loss for farmers for 1st year, excluding protective gears and other minor repair work of the beehive – Ush100,000 minus Ush120,000 = (Ush20,000). How can the farmer make profit in the first year?

Here is the cost of a traditional beehive investment….

Cost of traditional beehive – Ush5,000

Honey harvest in a year, according to my harvesting experience – 15kg

Selling price of honey @ Ush4,000 per kilo (using their statistic) – Ush60,000

Gross profit for farmers for 1st year, excluding protective gears and other minor repair work of the beehive – Ush60,000 minus Ush5,000 = Ush55,000.

Based on the cost of 10 langstroth beehive – Ush1,200,000, the farmer can acquire 240 traditional hive.

1 traditonal hive gives the farmer 15kg

Therefore for 240 hives, the farmer will get 240 X 15 X  Ush4000 = Ush14,400,000.

I do not forsee all 240 hives colonized and producing honey. If we were to go according to Pareto’s principle, we will only have 20% of the work force producing, thus giving the total production income of only Ush2,880,000 – Ush1,200,000(cost of 240 tradtional hives) = Ush1.680,000 per household. This figure is more realistic and achiveable.

If you were to multiply the cost of the number of traditional beehives the farmer can get out of one langstroth beehive, you will be able to see that the farmer will be able to sustain much better with traditional beehives. By the way, with the high cost of beehives, how many langstroth beehives does the farmer need in order to make beekeeping business a viable business? Provided that the farmers has a centre to extract the honey, I cannot see how the farmer is going the get the money to buy all the expensive extracting equipments to get the honey out.

African honeybees produce a lot of propolis and the chances of breakage of the langstroth frames due to the difficulty of prying it out is great. I use to have langstroths but it never work because the need of precision work on these frames is almost impossible. On top of that, the frames require stainless steel wires to hold the wax foundation onto the frame. The cost of stainless steel wires is so expensive here and you might not even be able to get it. So if they were to use normal wires, the honey will subject to contamination due to rusting of the wires.

Recycling the empty combs after extracting the honey is not a good idea because that will lead to contamination again. There is this possibility of fungus growth on the combs after they had been taken out from the hives. It does not save much time for the bees to build again.

In short, actual beekeeping is not as simple as it seems. There are lots of unseen factors that many chose not to recognise. I can only concur with the last paragraph in the article. It says many people have tried beekeeping but without the required knowledge, commitment. You need good preparation, training and constant advise. Like any other venture, you need to do it right to harvest right. Other than this paragraph, there are open-end questions. It’s more like the project will end when the paperwork ends.

December 26, 2008 Posted by | apiculture, honey harvest, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 4 Comments

For better or for worst……for the bees…………………….

Api Mellifera Scutellata

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!

December 24, 2008 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, propolis | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

preparing refinery for next batch of honey…………………….

slowly but surely i am expanding my refinery. i am glad after all these years, people are beginning to appreciate the honey that we have. most of my customers now know how to identify good honey. many people are still looking for honey that are light and crystal clear. in europe, those who knows about honey will always go for honey that are cloudy. cloudy honey are rich in pollen. well anyway i have to get ready for April’s honey flow season now.

stainless steel honey tanks

Stainless steel honey tanks for honey refining

December 18, 2008 Posted by | apiculture, honey, honey harvest, raw honey | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

swarming season is here again…………………….

this is the time of the year again. dry season is coming and we will be able to see colony splitting up looking for new homes. this morning i managed to snap a few shots of a colony coming into my garden resting for about an hour before they took off to their new home.

guest coming into my garden

close up view

December 17, 2008 Posted by | bee colony | , , | Leave a comment

house cleaning…………………….

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Black gooey substances on top super of hive - Propolis

since half of the colony had left for a new home, i have decided to do some house cleaning. i need to reduce the size of the hive by taking away the top super. you see, bees are very sensible insects. if they discover that their home is too big for the family, they will look for another home that is suitable for their size. so since the colony had shrunk, i have to reduce the size of their home to make it more cosy for them. this way, the house bee will not complain of too much work less they will be stressed out soon.

Meanwhile can you see the black gooey substance that is sticking on the top of the beehive? well they are call “Propolis”. there are a lot of write ups about propolis when you google. you will be amazed by its potency in your findings. i collect these propolis and turn them into tintures, paste and cream. it fetches quite a high price in the market.

Propolis

December 3, 2008 Posted by | propolis | , | 1 Comment

finding new home…………………….

Swarming bees

enough is enough. this morning one of my colonies had decided to split. this is part and parcel of the lives of honeybees. when a colony becomes too large for the beehive or the exsiting queen is no longer that productive, the colony will have a family conference on deciding who will be the next queen. they will then identify a few young larvae to feed them with royal jelly. after 16 days, new queen will start emerging.  the first new queen that comes out from the cell will try to prevent the other young queen from breaking out from the cell. the old queen will have two choices, either she try to retain her position or gracefully bring part of the colony away to find a new home. so this colony in the photo shows that the queen had taken the graceful way by leaving the hive with some of her loyal subjects. well that’s life!

December 2, 2008 Posted by | bee colony, bee hive | , , , | Leave a comment

honey in its purest form…………………….

honey in its purest form

honey harvesting is round the corner again. we will be preparing for the dry season to come in gulu. i have discovered a lot of people are into raw, pure honey nowadays. but in actual fact have you ever seen how pure, raw honey looks like? the above picture shows me holding a comb of honey that had just been pulled out from the bee hive. pure honey do not go thru any processing. we simply uncapped the wax that is sealing the honey. after which we will simply let the honey drip thru a filter over night. well this is honey in its purest form.

December 1, 2008 Posted by | bee hive, honey harvest, raw honey | , , | 1 Comment