Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Rare view in a traditional local rattan hive…………………….

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 🙂

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September 28, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 1 Comment

My first colony…………………….

This clip was taken in 2001. This was my first colony I captured myself. I have to thank a Ugandan beekeeper. His attitude made me determined to get my own colony. He was supposed to be a very good beekeeper. He was just too arrogant to share. In the beginning, my work was very tough. Most Ugandans are unwilling to share. They worried that people will be better than them. I guess these are their setbacks.

I wanted a colony to study and request him to teach me. I will pay for it. Days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months. Everytime I asked him when I can start the lesson, he kept telling me to wait. In fact, he took my money but did not make any effort to arrange for the training.

Finally when Professor Horn came, the first thing I asked was to teach me was how to capture my own colony. It was exciting when I got this first colony which I called my own.

The view was breathtaking when they entered the hive. I was in my room when I heard a loud humming sound. When I look through the window, I saw a black mass approaching my backyard where my hive was situated. Without a second thought, I grabbed my video camera as I know they are coming. I was so excited that I did not ask myself was it dangerous to get myself in the flight path of a swarming colony. That I forgot to ask the Professor.

I simply stood in front of them, capturing them while they are entering the hive. I guess they did not mind me there. After 30 mins, the whole swarming process was over and everything quiet down as if nothing had happened. 🙂

September 25, 2009 Posted by | bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gulu – Refinery and collection centre…………………….

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.

September 10, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Timothy Centre, development in progress…………………….

Yang have to take the back seat now because he is too big for the front.

Yang have to take the back seat now because he is too big for the front.

Yesterday took a trip to look at the development of Timothy Centre. Karl told me that the fences are up. The next thing will be to clear the land further and start to identify the locations for the bee colonies before we transport and deploy them at the apiary. As usual my “bodyguard”, Yang accompanied me on this trip 🙂

This time round I had brought my farm Manager, Francis, to show him how I wanted to do up the bee farm. Francis had been with me for the last 2 years and so far he seems promising. The last 2 field operation staffs got fired because they were caught stealing honey from my farm, selling them and pocketing the sales proceeds themselves. In Uganda, one will have to be on their toes. If you slack in monitoring the people, they will try to be funny. This is one of the many challenges you face working in Africa. 🙂

Apiary main entrance.

Apiary main entrance.

Karl’s staff had done a great job with the fencing. It is made from eucalyptus poles coated with used engine oil and paint to prevent termites from eating on them. Eucalyptus trees are abundant in Uganda. It reproduces itself very quickly and there are no shortage. Its a good form of renewable energy.

Getting the roof up for the guest house.

Getting the roof up for the guest houses.

These guest house near completion.

These guest houses near completion.

Timothy Centre is busy getting the rest of buildings up. So far a few guest houses is underway so that the management / operation team will be relocated there to see things through.

Plot for honey refinery and training centre.

Plot for honey refinery and training centre.

Central store.

Central store.

Following closely will be the construction of the honey refinery and the training cum resource centre. The training centre will be used not only for training bee farmers, it will also be used for other agricultural activities. The main objective with the resource centre is to establish a basic test centre for testing the quality of the honey before we send samples to The University of Hohenheim for a more detailed Melissopalynology test. It will also be used to develop more by-products from honey farming for example, propolis, bee pollen and beeswax.

I guess the most important aspect of working in Uganda or any Africa or Third World Countries. one must be prepared to give your 100% to make sure the project will be a success and after which able to train the locals to take over the whole operation with you taking a backseat just overlooking the whole project. It is pointless to give so much to the community without giving a second thoughts of the repercussions of what will become of the project if fundings are stopped due to the economy crunches or we are no longer able to run the projects. With all the expensive equipment hanging around with no extra funds to maintain, it will then become “White Elephants” or be sold as scrap metals.

Identifying locations for the bee hives to be deployed.

Identifying locations for the bee hives to be deployed.

My working relationship with Timothy Centre is mutual and we shared the same philosophy. We believe by dumping money into a project and buying the most expensive equipment to make the place look glamorous is not the way to go. Becoming a comfortable and motivating place the Ugandans to work in is important but not becoming a haven where they think it is a place that they can simply take things for granted. Project must include entrepreneurial skills in order for the project to reach self sustainability at the shortest possible time. Timothy Centre is taking that step by complementing our private business solutions to the community. This way, the project will not have to rely only on donors funds……..for ever in order to keep the project going.

Recently I visited one project and the set up was fantastic! The equipment they used was like “WOW”! When I asked the in charge, when are they going to let the locals run, they told me that they are still waiting??? I was wondering are they waiting for the locals to run or are they still waiting for more funds. In fact, I don’t see much locals but too many volunteers from overseas. To me, I find that they are just babysitting the project. Once the overseas management leaves, I know the project will fall apart. The locals and the benefactors will never be able to blend themselves back into the society after being “pampered” by this wonderful lifestyles. Sometimes I wonder does the donors really know how the money were spent. They are doing a disservice instead.

Taking a break after the walk.

Taking a break after the walk.

I guess this happens everywhere. Donors just donate without first understanding what is on the ground or how the funds will be utilised. I recalled the recent incident in Singapore where a charitable Organization will perform stunts to entice the public to donate. Later it was found out that the people that are running the Organization is using the money otherwise.

I really hope these donors do look into their contributions so that they do not create an “economy” that is unrealistic for the benefactors. Once the Organizations leave, no one will buy their produce at that luxurious price because the real market will never pay that price. That will lead the farmers back to square one, crying out that there are no market for their produces after they had been taught to grow.

September 4, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Urban Beekeeping…………………….

The roof of the Grand Palais, Paris holds two bee hives. -- PHOTO: AFP

The roof of the Grand Palais, Paris holds two bee hives. -- PHOTO: AFP

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

Original Article – http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Lifestyle/Story/STIStory_417525.html

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?

August 16, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chiangmai University – Entomology Department…………………….

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.

July 25, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Otino-Waa, Our Children…………………….

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Karl and Arleen at Otino-Waa Bee Center

Development of the beekeeping resource centre at Timothy Centre is underway. In order for Karl and Arleen to have a better understanding on how the resource centre is going to be, I brought them to Otino-Waa in Lira. 4 years ago we did a honey farming project with this orphanage and the project was successfully implemented. Today Otino-Waa is producing EU quality honey for the market. Otino-Waa in Luo, means “Our Children”. The orphanage is run by an American couple, Bob and Carol Higgins, that has painstakenly built from ground zero a couple of years back. Now the place has turned into a haven for these lost children.

When I first met Bob and Carol 5 years ago, they came to my house with 12 kids aged between 14 to 17 and they wanted to learn how to start an apiary so that they can have honey produced from their own farm. We had a 6 days “Introduction to beekeeping” course which saw the children learning how to set up an apiary and getting acquainted with the bees. Of course there is Douglas, a 40 years old Ugandan who will be basically be in charge of these children when comes to the real management of the bee project in Otino-Waa. The orphanage now has 250 orphans from different parts of Northern Uganda. Some were rescued from the jungle when they were abducted by the “Lord Resistance Army” while others had lost both their parents from AIDS. There are some who were abandoned by young parents who left them at the hospitals or police stations.

Gift shop at Otino-Waa Orphanage,

Gift shop at Otino-Waa Orphanage,

Bob and Carol did a great job transforming these children from street kids and urchins into fine young boys and girls. The girls are learning home economics and tailoring while the boys embark on carpentry and catering and beekeeping.

Great effort were made by Carol to teach the children to be independent and self-reliant. This gift shop has become a talking piece in Lira. Most of the gifts, art and crafts were done by the orphans. Not forgetting the bee centre, The boys had harvested honey from the farm and were sold at the gift shop as well. In fact soon after the bee centre was setup, it has attracted bee farmers in the community to bring their honey to the centre to sell. Bob and Douglas will make sure that the farmers acquired the basic requirement of the quality they wanted. Those who are not familiar with the requirements will be taught on how to observe the quality parameters.

Bob showing Karl and Arleen the bee centre

Bob showing Karl and Arleen the bee centre

After having our lunch, Bob brought Karl and Arleen to visit the orphanage and the bee centre. The bee centre is Bob pride and joy. Every single brick layed and every drop of paint was his hardwork.

All the beesuits at the centre were made by the students in the tailoring department. We even saw some very innovative beesuit that Carol and the children had thought up. You can literally feel their sense of achievement when you hold the suit close to you. I felt so proud of them when I saw the development. It was just like yesterday when I agreed to train the children. 5 years on and it was a dream come true for Bob and Carol. Their determination and passion had paid off.

Tough times never last………….. tough people do. 🙂

Otino-Waa workshop

Otino-Waa workshop

I admire their philosophy in life. Although these children were deprived with a lot of things, Bob and Carol make sure that they are not spoon fed but given the right directions and way forward in becoming a good person. The moral education which they instilled into them is fantastic! Although they were given the best, but they also make sure that these children are not pampered to the extend that they cannot blend themselves back into the society when the time comes. A luxury once enjoyed, becomes a necessity.

All the fittings and furnitures were done in-house, with local materials. Nothing comes easy for them. This way, the children will then appreciate what they have because they have to work hard for it. There are still many in Uganda think that money falls from the sky. Many organizations made them think this way because of the way they splurge on them without understanding the repercussions.

Rattan hives made by the orphans.

Traditional method of beekeeping. Renewable energy. Palm tree trunks are a good source for making bee hives.

Being successful in projects do not mean that everything have to be most expensive or with the most modern and updated equipments. Take these local beehives made at the orphanage for example. They are very basic but yet, they produce results. In fact, the results from these hives are more positive than other modern beekeeping methods.

Karl and Arleen realised that Bob and Carol had so much in common. They shared the same philosophy. They were happy to see such a successful project being developed in the North. A new friendship had established and indeed, there are so much things we can learn from each other. Life experiences in Uganda is much more important than implementing own experiences based on the environment we grew up on.

*There are no strangers in our lives………..it is only friends that we have not met yet. 🙂

Bob and Carol’s project was so successful that U.S. Embassy recognized their hardwork and supported their work for the last three years. I am very proud of their success! 🙂

 

Community grant from US Embassy.

Community grant from U.S. Embassy.

July 8, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Honey talk…………………….

A comb of honey still with the bees clinging on it.

A comb of honey still with the bees clinging on it.

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. 🙂

Showing a fresh comb of honey to the families.

Showing a fresh comb of honey to the families.

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;

Kids looking at how honey are kept by the bees in the beehive.

Kids looking at how honey are kept by the bees in the beehive.

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

Where have all the honeybees gone?

Bee-u-tiful honey harvested from this beautiful garden for these beautiful children.

June 5, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, Honey Quality Control, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s colonized!…………………….

Two weeks ago, we placed a test/trial beehive at Timothy Centre [see post] to see how good is the proposed land to start the apiary. Usually setting up a single beehive to trap the bees is the first thing to do. We will observe the trial hive to see whether the place is suitable for beekeeping. Yesterday afternoon, I received a call from Karl. He told me the hive was colonized  on the same morning. He was very excited because he witnessed the colonizing process. The process is breathtaking. You can literally see the whole colony following the queen into the beehive. The photo below was sent to me by Karl after the bees had settled in.

The next move is to visit the hive at Timothy Centre to assess the strength of the colony to decide what is the way forward.

Trial / test hive at Timothy Centre

Trial / test hive at Timothy Centre

Closer view of the hive with a new colony.

Closer view of the hive with a new colony.

May 10, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Timothy Centre – the next big project!…………………….

Carrying trial beehive to site.

Carrying trial beehive to site.

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.

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

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.

It will take roughly about two weeks for this beehive to be colonized. If anything less than two weeks, it will be a bonus. Looking after a young colony is like looking after a baby. Much care and attention is needed if not they will abscorn and all your effort will be wasted. African bees are well known for their abscording rate but that is because not many really try to understand what’s the reason.
Siting the trial beehive.

Siting the trial beehive.

Ready to trap bees.

Ready to trap bees.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Extracting honey from honey combs…………………….

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.

A simple hand wounded honey press filled with honey combs

A simple hand wound honey press filled with honey combs

Ephriam pressing combs to extract honey

Ephriam pressing combs to extract honey

Francis pressing combs

Francis pressing combs

Liquid gold in motion

Liquid golden honey flowing

April 22, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The beauty of nature…………………….

7 weeks of concrete jungle and now I am back to true blue nature! 🙂 Going into the second year working with the bee farmers in Gulu. While traveling up to meet them, I had to stop to take this breath taking view, a beautiful tree with her branches spreading over a radius of nearly twenty metres. I just stood there and admired the tree. Thinking out loud, how this tree had seen twenty two years of insurgency and I believed she also felt the pain and suffering the villagers had gone thru. Now that Gulu is at peace once more, when I looked at this tree, it does gives me a sense of serenity, peace and tranquility.

The wonder of nature!

The wonder of nature!

Honey flow season had begun and we are preparing for the first harvest for the year. Odong, one of my beemaster and I went round a few villages last week to meet up with the bee farmers and refreshing them with some pointers on getting better quality honey thru proper handling of the bees and honey.

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chiang Dao – feasibilty study (final part)

05/03/2009 – I was very lucky and the timing was so right that I was able to meet up with a very experienced Professor in Entomology from America at Chiangmai Univeristy. He is Professor Michael Burgett, Emeritus Professor of Entomology, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University. He had been going to Chiangmai for the last 27 years, researching on mellifera and cerenas. His presence sped up my learning curve. In my course, I was contemplating whether should I introduce Api Cerena or Api Mellifera. Both have its advantages and disadvantages. After having a long discussion with him, we come to a conclusion that we should explore the possibility of introducing cerenas instead. Professor is also keen to explore the possibilty of using KTB, Kenya Top Bars, which I am using for my African Honeybees.

Michael Burgett, PhD and I

Michael Burgett, PhD and I

Api cerena, commonly known as “Jungle Honeybees” here, are easily available all over Chiang Dao. The advantage of this species is that the villagers can learn to trap them for free. Whereas for the mellifera species, they were introduced in Thailand sometime back and they are bred commercially. My main concern was, if the villagers were to start beekeeping, we have to look into the sustainability with the farmers. The cost of a starter pack of mellifera bees will cost the farmers between Bht1500 – Bht3000, depends on when they are buying them. If the sale is much closer to the honey flow season, which is around this time, the bee starter pack will be more expensive. We had a good lunch and bade goodbye before I set off back to Chiang Dao to start a “get-to-know” session with a few of the villager’s representative. They will then disseminate the information to the rest of the villagers. Its more productive this way. But anyway, The first message I sent across during the session was to let the farmers choose which type of bees they prefer to work with. This way they can decide what’s good for them.

Village representative gathering for the first "Get-to know" session.

Village representative gathering for the first "Get-to know" session.

Current type of beehive that are used by some of the villagers to collect honey.

Current type of beehive that are used by some of the villagers to collect honey.

Demonstrating on how to "bait" the beehive in order for the "jungle bees" to be attracted to it.

Demonstrating on how to "bait" the beehive in order for the "jungle bees" to be attracted to it.

March 7, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chiang Dao – feasibility study, part 2.

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. 🙂

Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiangmai University

Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiangmai University

Professor Pichai Kongpitak and me.

Professor Pichai Kongpitak and me.

I had the privilege to be able to see some of his work.

Opening up a hive at the University.

Opening up a hive at the University. You might be wondering which is more dangerous and threatening, the bees or him behind me holding a chopper. 😛

Clearing the feeder to have a better view of the bees.

Clearing the feeder to have a better view of the bees.

Carefully raising up one frame to observe the behaviour and activities amongst the bees.

Carefully raising up one frame to observe the behaviour and activities amongst the bees.

This box contains all the brood. It is called "The Brood Chamber".

This box contains all the brood. It is called "The Brood Chamber".

Close up view of the observation hive at the University.

Close up view of the bees inside the observation hive at the University.

These bees are a healthy lot!

These bees are a healthy lot!

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.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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