Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Honey is simple, keep it simple…………………….

Enjoying a comb of freshly harvested honey.

For the past year, my Singaporean friends who had been following my blog had urged me to write about the frequently asked questions on honey. There are so much information on the net concerning honey, having its own findings, rationales and reasons. I would just be duplicating what had already been written and I don’t see the point of repeating it. In Singapore, there are still a lot of consumers who are not sure about the information received, were they facts or myths.

Three of the common myths are;

1) Ants are not attracted to real honey.

Ants, like honeybees, are social insects, when ever they locate a food source, they will go back to its colony to inform the rest of the findings. Honey is simple sugar. It is made up of fructose and glucose. Fructose is fruit sugar. Fruit sugar is sweet. Ants like all things sweet. 🙂

2) One cannot use metal spoons for honey.

After harvesting raw combs from the hives, we are to break the combs and let it drip through fine filters into food grade stainless steel tanks according to safety food standards. Honey are then stored up to more than 3 weeks for settling. Yes, although honey is acidic, but that will create no significant effect whatsoever while using a metallic spoon.

3) Honey must be crystal clear.

Pure unadulterated honey tend to be cloudy due to the presence of pollen spectrum. That constitutes part of the nutritional values in honey. UltraFiltered Honey or UFH honey are crystal clear. Well that boils down to the consumer preference again. Some consumers feel more comfortable taking honey that are perfectly clean and clear. There are also some Countries prefer having their honey pasteurized.

Zul (Malaysia), having fresh honey comb.

One of the reason why it took me some time before I decide to bring my honey back to my homeland was that now there is growing group of friends that had really understood and appreciate what is real honey, because some had been here and had seen my work and are assured that what they are going to get will be at its purest.

Shuhsien (Singapore), proud owner of her own honey.

At the same time, they knew that by consuming the honey harvested from our farmers, directly they are assisting them in providing a source of income for their children to go to school and to help alleviate poverty. That jar of honey on my friends’ table are more meaningful rather than pondering whether their honey is pure or not. What they have on their table comes with assurance and these three simple facts are more than enough to quench their doubts;

1) They witnessed the source of the honey

2) They received the test report stating the quality and authenticity

3) They know the beekeeper.

Emi (Japan), harvesting her own honey.

Selling our honey in Europe is far more simpler than in Singapore. The honey eating culture is matured and they know exactly what to look for.

Consuming honey is a simple issue. So long as they are getting from a reliable source, having all the necessary certification and test reports backing up from established institutions. Real honey sells by itself. Our honey going back to Singapore will be as no frill as possible so that consumer will get every single drop of their honey worth.

Heinen (Germany), honey at its purest.

I guess knowing the source is a sure way of getting what you really want. Consumers are getting more knowledgeable and vigilant with their purchases now because of the internet. There are a whole lot of information out there. Soon consumers will be able to find out the truth. Its just a matter of time.

To summarize it all, what I can say with regards to this issue, whether you are getting the real honey or getting what is worth, here are the simple guidelines;

1) Make sure you get it from reliable source.

2) Knows where the exact location of the honey are produced. (It is best that honey comes from one location and not blended from various destinations)

3) Look at the test report of the honey. The test report is like the birth certificate for that batch of honey.

Medical doctors (Singapore), visiting my bee farm.

Well, now is the beginning of the harvesting season and I shall be traveling up to meet my farmers soon. The climate we are experiencing this year is a bit erratic. It should be getting hot by now but somehow we are still having heavy rain. We will have to wait a little while longer before we can start the harvest. We have to work around nature and not against it.

Belinda Lee (Singapore), now understood the life of a beekeeper.

I am glad I have friends coming from all walks of life coming over to visit me. Slowly but surely, by word of mouth, they will be able to share what they had learned from their field experience here.

Honey is simple, it is only made complicated by people.

Sato san and friend (Japan), proudly displaying their harvest.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Eucalyptus Honey at our boutique…………………….

Eucalyptus Honey on sale at our boutique

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.

Eucalyptus Grandis.

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.

March 27, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bees and Akha Tribal Folks…………………….

Pabong-ngam.

As I was ascending up the winding road to meet the Akha hill tribe folks, these thoughts came to my mind. These small little insects have so much to contribute to the society and yet they had always been taken for granted. With everywhere going through urbanization, these little insects are finding it more and more difficult to call a place their own. Many people love honey, but somehow little or no attention is paid to the creator, honeybees.

There are more than 50,000 Akha people up in the hills and are scattered all around. The tribe that I visited was situated in Maechan Province, Patung District, Pabong-ngam, Chiang Rai. All these while, these folks had difficulty in making ends meet. Originally they had a head count of about 300 but many of the young people are slowly heading down to Chiang Rai main town to look for jobs, leaving the older folks trying to eke out a living through agriculture.

Benz with the village children.

Benz came from this village and she was given permission by her parents to be sent to a missionary school at an early age. She had finished her higher education and now she wanted to contribute back to her village.

She told me that many of the young girls had already gone into the flesh trade because of poverty. There was one parent that literally sold their daughter to the flesh industry for Baht 10,000 (S$450). To them the amount is huge.

When Raymond and Koong mentioned my feasibilty trip to North to her, she was very keen to introduce her village to me, to see in what way the village can benefit from keeping bees.

I told her that there are many factors to look into before one can embark on beekeeping. I need to understand the culture of the people and their reception to bees. Many Christian Organizations are helping the village folks and I do not want to be misunderstood as a businessman trying to come in to exploit the people. This is a very sensitive issue. All of us are doing God’s work. Sometimes I just feel that these Organization should have the heart big enough to open up for discussions rather than setting their directions too stringent, not trying to expand their entrepreneurial skills by interacting with others. I fully understood their good intentions of protecting the people from harm, but sustainability is of paramount in order to see them being able to survive without that constant financial help.

Village pastor and leaders showing us the beauty of the surrounding.

Before the visit, we had a brief discussion with an American Pastor that had been in Chiang Mai for 16 years. He told me they had embarked on many projects, ranging from chicken farming, cattle rearing to fish farming. All failed. Sensitizing these villagers to proper farming is good. I believed additional skill like value adding and marketing play an important role as well. I know every Country has its own sets of problems. I have to prepare to face it if I have decided to move ahead with my plans.

Coming back to beekeeping, I had observed the vegetation and I am pretty sure these folks will have no problem to start bee farms around the hills. The situation and scenerio is quite similar to Uganda. What they are lacking is the knowledge in keeping the bees. In fact in our tour, I had seen a few farmers already keeping bees, but that is only meant for their own consumption.

Apis cerena (cave bees) were kept in tree log, just like in Northern Uganda.

I spoke to one of the farmer and he described to me how he harvest the honey from the hives when it was due. I was tickled when he told me how he had to bear with the stings in order to get to the honey. 🙂

Honey farming contributes to a large portion of poverty alleviation in most part of Third World Countries.

When Raymond and Koong told me about the Akha tribes, It will be a good experience for me too and to share my experience with them. I felt something can be done if they are ready.

Future of Akha.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interesting discovery…………………….

I had mixed feelings when I left the apiary in Lampun. I was amazed when I saw how beekeeping was done. European honey farming methods and Asian honey farming methods are completely different. I really appreciate the bee farmer to allow me to have a better insight on honey farming in Thailand.

The term “beekeeping” derived from the way how a bee farmer is supposed to look after the bees, how the farmers is supposed to make sure that the honey is only harvested from combs that are filled and capped with honey, with no signs of broods or larvae. Usually the brood will not survive once they were taken out from the hives. They required the constant temperature the worker bees provide. The incubation period is very vital for the young brood to develop properly. I wonder is this one of the causes nowadays where bees are less resilient to viruses?

When I exchanged notes with Professor Burgett while having lunch, he shared the same sentiments. For those who are in the beekeeping industry will know what we meant.

Comb harvested with brood still intact. Honey portion are not capped yet, meaning that the honey is still unripe.

Worker began to decap the brood comb.

Honey harvested from our farm in Uganda. Only fully completed capped honey combs are harvested for consumption. No traces of brood is present in order to meet EU requirement.

After witnessing the difference, somehow I felt very proud of my farmers. They had done a wonderful job by providing such good quality honey for the world to taste. Uganda beekeeping is so many years behind modern honey farming Countries but yet, they can fulfill the EU requirements. A pat on their shoulders.

March 4, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A beautiful welcome gift from Chiang Mai…………………….

Driving from the South to the North took us 2 days. We had to time our route so as not to get ourselves caught in the unrest in Bangkok if there are any.

Saw the colony on the window edge when I entered the room.Something interesting happened and you will never believe it! By the time we reached Chiang Mai, we were dead tired. We stayed at GardenView Hotel in Chiang Mai. When I opened up the door to my room, I saw something huge hanging outside the window. As I walked closer to see, I was very shocked and surprised to see a colony for the Himalayan bee, (Api Dorsata is the largest honey bee species in the World), clinging on to the window.

The sight was breathtaking! One can never have the opportunity to view this species so up close. Api dorsata are very aggressive when disturbed. Imagine the size is about the size of your pinky.

I really could not believe my eyes! It was as if Chiang Mai is welcoming me with such a special gift, a gift from God!

Picture taken from the outside of the window.

I could not resist. I had to open up the window, (8th floor), to get a better, clearer picture for my collections. It was indeed a priced photo.

One interesting behaviours about this species is that every afternoon, they will leave the nest in a swarm and start to defecate. During the Vietnam war, American Soldiers who were on their tour of duty experienced it and initially thought it was a chemical warfare deployed by the Viet Cong. It was known as “The Yellow Rain”.

Up close and personal with Dorsata.

I had the honor to see them up close and personal. 🙂

Api Dorsata

Professor Burgett and Dr. Pichwand immersed in deep thoughts.

March 3, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal | , , | 9 Comments