Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Spare a thought for this little insect…………………….

Earlier this evening I had a wonderful dinner in a restaurant but was dampened by this family who was sitting next to my table. I guess the son was about 6 years old. There was this jar of honey on their table and the child was smearing it all over the food, wasting it. The parents did nothing. My heart sank! 😦 . I felt so sad for the bees. Throughout their lifetime, which is only around 45 to 60 days, a worker honeybee is only able to collect half a teaspoon of honey. If one has ever been out into the field and watch how the bees collect nectar for rainy days, I believe the whole mindset of appreciating honey will change. I can only blame myself for not being able to reach out to as many people as possible to share with them what tough times these bees are going through right now.

This brought me to this article my friend showed me a few days back, Low Tech Treatment for a Bee Plague by Arron Hirsh. It’s related to a very serious issue the honey industry is facing……..COLONY COLLASPE DISORDER! If you do not know what it is, it’s about honeybees disappearing from the surface of the earth without any traces or reasons. So far what we have are only theories.

Here’s an extract;

Last winter, over a third of the honeybee hives kept in the United States suffered the strange fate now called Colony Collapse Disorder.

What’s at stake here is not just our honey, or our favorite symbol of cooperative society, but our food. Most of our crops require pollination — deposition of a bit of male pollen on the female flower — to set fruit and ultimately produce the parts we eat. Out of 115 of the world’s leading crops, 87 depend on animals — predominantly bees — to perform that vital act of placing pollen.

And it is important to add that, here in the United States, the majority of our crops are pollinated not by wild bees, or even by honeybees like mine, which live in one location throughout the year, but by a vast mobile fleet of honeybees-for-rent.

From the almond trees of California to the blueberry bushes of Maine, hundreds of thousands of domestic honeybee hives travel the interstate highways on tractor-trailers. The trucks pull into a field or orchard just in time for the bloom; the hives are unloaded; and the bees are released. Then, when the work of pollination is done, the bees are loaded up, and the trucks pull out, heading for the next crop due to bloom.

The mobile fleets have been hit exceptionally hard by Colony Collapse Disorder, and if the epidemic continues, crop yields will soon decline. The consequences of CCD are therefore very clear. The causes, however, are not.

 
Some says it is due to pesticides or viruses. Others narrowed it down to the amount of environmental stress that these honeybees are being put through as mentioned by the Arron Hirish. What actually happens is still anybody’s guesses.

When our research and feasibilty studies on Uganda honey was carried out  in 2001,  we were very pleased to learn that the Uganda honeybees are literally disease free and unaffected by what is happening to their cousins in other regions of the world. We sat down on many occasions to discuss these findings. There are various opinions that we conclude in common. One view that emerged more prominently was that the environment that Uganda honeybees lives in currently is still ideal as per their evolutionary genetics capabilities.

I had handled other species of honeybees and non are as ferocious as these bees in Uganda. In the article, there was this paragraph,

“Some keepers say the problem isn’t just with the honeybees’ lifestyle, but with their genetics, as well, since they’ve been bred for traits that make them easier to handle, but may also render them more vulnerable to disease.”

Uganda honeybees are probably more resilient to diseases because they have still retained their original genes. Yes they can be very very ferocious indeed. Even very experienced beekeepers can get stung by them too if they underestimate their ferocity. Recently, some of my visiting compartriot beekeepers, who have many years of experience,   were subjected to just such a surprise reception from the local bees.

Most consumers may not have realized that many honeybees are infected with some kind of viruses or being deformed by some destructive mites. During my trip back here in Singapore, I visited many stores and supermarkets to have a grasp of the development of honey consumption in this little city state. What I saw are beautifully labelled jars stating the wonderful contents of its honey content. Sadly, what the consumers would never see are the constant struggles these honeybees are subjected to by many of their human attendents in order to fill up that jar of honey :(.

It certainly takes two hands to clap. If we can learn to respect the way bees live their lives, and to learn to work WITH them instead of making them working FOR us, the end result would be good honey that are produced  from bees that do not require medical treatments. Cause and effect.

Whenever I go upcountry to work with the bees, whenever I harvest and collect the honey from them, I feel a sense of achievement and joy because deep in my heart, I know these bees are kept as closely, according to their natural habitat requirement and the honey collected are as pure as it can be. And having stress free honeybees will produce good wholesome honey, and thats Uganda Honey from us.

 

January 31, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Sustainable Beekeeping, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Swarm catcher…………………….

I was taught how to attract and capture a colony of feral bees. This was one of my first lesson when I became a beekeeper.

Watch how a colony enters the beehive and follow the queen into the entrance. Prior to 2004, all my hives were Langstroth hive. Initially I thought using modern beehives was the way to go. I was wrong. It was only in 2005 that I started to keep bees in Kenya topbar hives and traditional log hives, and results start showing for itself. Do read my previous blog, ‘Traditional beekeeping in Uganda‘, for the reason why Kenya top bar hives and traditional log hives work better.

January 21, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quest for excellence…………………….

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.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Value adding…………………….

Product at airport

Uganda Honey Products at airport

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 .

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100% natural beewax candles on display at Entebbe International Airport

January 16, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, propolis | , , | Leave a comment

Traditional beekeeping in Uganda, Africa…………………….

Modern beekeeping had changed the way human interact with the honeybees. It’s sad to see man intervention on the way bees should live their life. So much so that the beautiful art of beekeeping and the natural way honey being produced were long forgotten. All over the world, a lot of good quality honey were being adulterated just to increase the volume to increase sales. Yet consumers just simply buy honey without even knowing what they are buying. What goes around, comes around. End of the day, it is us human will suffer the consequences if we do not pause a while and reflect what we had done to the honeybees.

But why the shortage of honey in the world demand? During my trip to South Africa in 2001 for a conference, there was already a world shortage of honey of 700,000 tons annually. And recent years the industry was faced with a “Colony Collapse Disorder”. Bees just simply flies out of their hives in the morning and never return. Where did they go? Nobody knows.

A very simple approach to the above equation is this; shortage of honey = shortage of bees. Period. If there is an opportunity to ask many commercial beekeepers, you will be able to know the answers. Hopefully they can pick up the courage to tell you what they do to the queen when they feel she is not productive anymore. How they mutilate her wings just to prevent her from ordering the whole colony to flee. I for one will feel so sad knowing how much they need to suffer to cater for humans.

Uganda is one of the last frontiers that the bees are still resilient to bee viruses. The honey that were harvested are indeed in its purest form, It is so much more rewarding to work inline with nature rather than working against it for man conveniences. Bees are handled in its own natural way, no destroying of unproductive queen, no mutilation of wings, no introduction of antibiotic or medication.

I know it is not easy to visit these kind of beekeeping especially in the Northern part of Uganda. I hope I can bring you closer to see traditional beekeeping with my blog.

Below you will be able to see one of my beekeeper working on a traditional hive. This traditional hive is made from natural rattan wooven together. The outer surface is covered with mud, Mother Earth. This natural way of keeping bees does give the bees a natural feel as if they had found an empty crevice in the wild. You can see the bees moving around the honey combs.

This traditonal bee hive is made from natural rattan wooven together. It is then covered with mud. The final touch to make this bee hive cool is to wrap it with dry leaves to reduce the heat from direct sunlight.

This traditional bee hive is made from natural rattan woven together. An eco-friendly beehive. It is covered with layer of mud for insulation purposes and finally wrap it with dry leaves to reduce the heat from direct sunlight.

This is a closeup view of the ripe honey ready forharvesting. The beekeeper had already pushed the bees gently forward to the front with a little bit of smoke.

This is a closeup view of the ripe honey ready for harvesting. The beekeeper had already pushed the bees gently forward to the front with a little bit of smoke.

Gently the farmer will cut the top part of each ripe comb and then using a very soft brush, brushing the bees away.

Gently the farmer will cut the top part of each ripe comb and then using a very soft brush, brushing the bees away.

One by one from the back, the bee keepers remove the ripe honey without aggrevating the bees or killing them.

One by one from the back, the bee keepers remove the ripe honey without aggravating the bees or killing them.

Usually the beekeeper would not take more than 7 combs per hive. The rest of the honey will be left behind for the bees to consume. A banana fibre cover is then used to cover the back.
Usually the beekeeper would not take more than 7 combs per hive. The rest of the honey will be left behind for the bees to consume. A banana fibre cover is then used to cover the back.

The next time when you visit a supermarket to look for honey, simply ask how the honey was harvested. Exactly where is the honey coming from. 🙂

January 12, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Going places…………………….

My leaking roof had been bothering me for the last three years and finally I can get it changed. My bees have to find a new home because if I were to leave them out in my garden while the roof is being fixed, they will become aggressive with all the banging. So for the last few nights I have to caged them up and transfer them to one of my apiary 16kms from my home. This is the final hive that I need to transfer and boy was it heavy! There are about 60,000 bees inside this beehive. One false move, they can kill.

Preparing the transfer

Preparing to transfer a honey hive into an enclosure

Lifts off!

Tied and lift off!

Nicely fit!

Nicely fit!

Final check.

Final check before transporting bee hive to another location.

January 7, 2009 Posted by | bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

When paths cross, life can change…………………….

Last Sunday I felt so honoured to have been invited to lunch with Burkhard and family. My aquaintance with his brother Volker went way back in 2007 when he contacted me to help Kids of Africa, an orphanage in Uganda to set up a few bee hives at the farm. Their vision and plans for these orphans had made me open up my eyes and heart and to know that these kids are not alone.

Burkard and Volker did not just simply end their task by giving these children a home. They have even developed a long term journey for them to be independant when they have reach working life. Not only did they help these children to pursue their dreams academically, they have also catered for those who are more technically inclined. Within the compound, development process is already underway for a carpentry workshops, agriculture knowledge, animal husbandry and even an apiary where they can learn something that is close to their nature and culture. This way, these children will have an easier time to intergrate back into the society.

Since then our collaboration has evolved beyond Kids of Africa´s farm. Volker and his brother Burkhard have been acting as business angels to me in my honey projects. In return they are using my honey in their home country Switzerland to raise awareness about orphans in Uganda. Our common ambition is to create opportunities where there were none before – and to produce truely outstanding honey on a sustainable basis.”

True to their mission slogan, “WE ARE FAMILY”

They have indeed changed my life too!  I thank you.

www.kidsofafrica.com

Honey for Kids of Africa - Visit http://www.kidsofafrica.com

January 5, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honey in laboratory…………………….

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.

Honey queing up for testing

Honey queing up for testing

 

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.

Our honey waiting in line to be tested.

Our honey waiting in line to be tested.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, honey, Honey Quality Control | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment