Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Hive Inspection (Local Hive)…………………….

There is always this misconception that low cost beehives do not produce good quality honey. This is not true. Honey from low cost beehives can be as good as those harvested from Kenya top bars or Langstroths. It is the lack of knowledge on when to harvest the honey, what to harvest in a hive.

Most traditional bee farmer will not hesitate to grab whatever they find in the hive during the flow season. Even before the honey ripens, they would had taken them out. Lack of knowledge had led to the harvesting of poor quality honey.

Below is a clip of one of our farmers inspecting his beehive. The honey inside this hive was not ready for harvesting.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Beekeeping, a full time job…………………….

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.

January 23, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

First batch of trainees for 2012…………………….

The year started with a group of very dedicated beekeepers wanting to come to learn more. It was a total paradigm shift for them compared to the way they kept their bees back in the villages. We had captured a day during the training. This was how they felt about the whole course.

January 22, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Preparation for the first course for the year…………………….

We will be having our first course in one week’s time. Pre training hive inspections are done to make sure the course runs smoothly.

January 8, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Ulu Tiram, Johore (The final lap)…………………….

After 28 days of traveling around West Malaysia, visiting researchers, professors and bee keepers, I had finally reached the place where all things will take place, Kampung Temasek, Ulu Tiram, Johore.

Route from Malacca to Ulu Tiram, Johore

Kampung Temasek is the main reason why I did this tedious feasibility study. Before we can ascertain that the project will take off on the right foot, we have to make sure that the potential of having a bee education centre and the introduction of beekeeping into the community will benefit all parties involved.

For those who are unfamiliar with this project, basically Kampung Temasek is about “The School of doing”.

The second houses from the right had been earmarked as the bee education centre.

Kampung Temasek, The School of Doing is an outdoor laboratory for schools to run their curriculum such as mathematics, science, geography, history and others in a natural environment. Schools can experiment programs and activities that they cannot usually do in Singapore. For example, students can spend one week from their academics semester to learn mathematics through build a solar oven by calculating how much energy is collected from the sun and the science involve in cooking an egg or they can walk into the forest to learn about the bio-diversity and how the eco-system work. Our aim is to reinforce the students’ learning through Doing. City schools can now access this outdoor learning platform in just 30 minutes after Singapore Customs, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia!

There will be many activities at the Kampung and my responsibility is to convert one of these houses into a educational centre where the younger generation or public will have an opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the most amazing insect, the honeybees. It will be a paradigm shift for them to overcome the fear and to learn to live these them harmoniously.

Other than serving as a bee education centre, it will also be a place for the local community or “Orang Asli” to come forward to be trained as bee farmer, to have another source of income to provide for their family. In fact we had already identified a village to begin with.

When everything is completed, Kampung Temasek will be a place where schools can bring the students to learn more about outdoors activities, closer to nature. Parents with their children, can explore on something more meaning, like understanding how trees, plants and insects help in balancing the ecological system instead of sitting in front of the computer 24/7.

Reaching home on 28th evening, I then realized that my whole body was aching from all the traveling. Somehow the biological clock inside me was telling me its time I need a break. I can feel my whole body crashing in with flu, cough and fatigue.

I am finally home.

 

August 29, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Bangi, KL (The feasibility study Part 5)…………………….

KL to Azman's farm in Bangi

I had an amazing time when I visited Azman, a bee farmer in Bangi, Kuala Lumpur. We started communicating some time last year this time and he knew I was heading to Malaysia this time of the year. He told me I must come visit his apiary and share with me his enthusiasm.

I was really impressed with his achievement and his apiary is the first that I came across that uses Africa beekeeping method, the Kenyan Top Bar hive system. I would not be surprised he is the first in this part of the world that applied top bar beekeeping.

This visit meant a lot to me because on this feasibility study, I wanted and needed to know how api cerana will react to top bar hive method of beekeeping. In Uganda, African honeybees do very well with KTB and I am very familiar with the method. I felt like I was back in Uganda when I approached Azman’s apiary. On top of that, I feel that top bar beekeeping is more economical for the local folks. They do not need to acquire expensive langstroth and to buy European bees to start this enterprise. By the way, the cost of 1 langstroth, comes with bees, cost RM1,800 (US$625). That package provides only the brood box, base board and cover. It does not include the queen-excluder and super. I don’t think many local villagers can afford that kind of money to start the business.

I was greeted by a large plantation of star fruit and I am confident that his bees would have no issues on nectar and pollen source. I saw the bees buzzing happily around the flowers only stopping for a moment when there were about to enter the flowers.

This was his first attempt in keeping bees and I can say that he was already doing it well although there were some pointers that he needed to look into. He had teamed up with his friend, Haniz and both are equally passionate about keeping bees.

Azman and Haniz with their favorite colony.

They started only with one colony. By the time I visited them two days ago, they already had colonized 6 hives. The development of their apiary had set a good example for all. For a start, they did not spend money on buying bees or expensive equipment. They collected used wooden crates and palettes. With no prior experience and based on their own judgment, recycled these planks and palettes into smaller version of the top bar hives. Everything was going through trails and errors. Somehow the bees still found their way to these hives.

When Azman did his first hive, he wanted to see the activities within. He created a glass window on the side of the hive. This had became his observation hive. Very often he would simply open up the side panel to see these lovely ladies working hard.

Api cerana somehow has a bit of her distant cousins (api mellifera scutellata) behaviour. They can be aggressive at times if not handled properly. Azman and Haniz would have to spend more time with them to learn more about their behaviour and to overcome them.

Azman had always wondered how do we handle African honeybees without protective gear. I told him it would be much easier because api cerana or asian bees are not as aggressive as the African cousins. He was pleased when he saw the real thing after having seen my blog during our training program where most of the participants were trained to handle the African honeybees bare hands.

Smaller version of KTB compared to the one I used in Uganda.

Hive with a side glass window panel for easy observation.

Gentle approach is the key to gentle bees.

The joy of handling different species from different part of the world.

The beauty of api cerana.

Azman working on another colony.

A larger version of the observation hive.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Malacca (The feasibility study Part 4)…………………….

Bus route from Kedah to Malacca. Took a break half way at Kuala Lumpur.

The bus ride from Kedah to Kuala Lumpur took almost 6 hours. I had a break in Kuala Lumpur before a friend of mine drove me another 2 hours further South to the thriving city of Malacca.

Extracted from Wikipedia – Malacca (dubbed The Historic State or Negeri Bersejarah among locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south. The capital is Malacca City, which is 148 km south east of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, 235 km north west to Johor’s largest city Johor Bahru and 95 km north west to Johor’s second largest city Batu Pahat. This historical city centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008.

Although it was the location of one of the earliest Malay sultanates, the monarchy was abolished when the Portuguese conquered it in 1511. The Yang di-Pertua Negeri or Governor, rather than a Sultan, acts as the head of state now.

Mr. Ong had been a beekeeper for the last 25 years and his bee farm could be considered one of the largest one in the whole of West Malaysia. He used to keep apis cerana in the seventies but after the introduction of European bees, apis italiana, Malaysia honey industry using apis cerana was completly wiped out due to the introduction of viruses by the European species as well.

Since then, the domestication of apis cerana had been unsuccessful until of late, many small scale farmers are beginning to use apis cerana again. it is a good sign that these species coming back.

Right now, Mr Ong had been keeping the European species after learning how to treat them. He does not have any of the asian species anymore but instead started to keep stingless bees. He found keeping stingless bees are very interesting too.

Bee exhibition hall

Wall to wall bee display

Information counter

Interior view of stingless bees colony

Mr. Ong and his bees

Honey production centre

August 22, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Kedah (The feasibility study Part 3)…………………….

FAMA Kuala Nerang Kedah.

My third destination was Malaysia’s Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority or FAMA in Kuala Nerang, Kedah.  FAMA is a marketing agency established by the Government under the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry.  As the Government’s marketing arm for agricultural products, FAMA is responsible for various marketing activities.  Amongst its responsibilities are to set targets and product standards, monitor performance, as well as develop marketing strategies for Malaysian agricultural products. Their job role can be summarised into the following;

Market control and extension, Strategies, Development of national food terminal, Marketing contract, Entrepreneur development, Export manuals, Development of marketing infrastructure, Market information and Branding and promotion.

Frontage of the sale centre.

The setup was very professional and their marketing concept for Malaysia’s most popular honey, “Tualang honey” was very successful. I was really impressed with their presentation in the beginning. After a long discussion and exhange of ideas, my views changed.

There was a video presentation at their sales department. Eco-tourism was being promoted at the sales centre. It showed the beauty of Malaysia rain forest and the mesmerizing journey one can embark on to see the untouched virgin forest. You pay MYR400 to join the eco tour.

One of the main attraction were the sighting of the largest honeybees in the world, Apis Dorsata. You can see them colonizing on the tallest tree, the Tualang tree. You can even see these majestic colony from the ground. You get to see the harvesting of their honey during the night. Now here comes the sad part. In the video, I saw the destruction and killing of these incredible insect. These honey hunters climbed the tall trees to get to them. Once they were within range, they would use fire and smoke to chase and kill them in order to get to their honey. During the collection, many bees perished.

Discussion with the officials during the visit.

Being a bee keeper and a bee lover, I felt the pain when I saw the destruction during the harvesting process. Well I guess there is always this case where the market demand, supply have to be met.

Due to the demand created by the market force, these honey were harvested as soon as the bees place them into the combs, even though when they were still unripe. Api Dorsata are very aggressive when comes to protecting their nest. The only way these local folks knew were to destroy them in order to get to their honey.

The meeting ended with a tour to their honey processing plant. I left the place with a nice gift produced by FAMA.

Slide presentation by FAMA staff.

Small quantity of "Tualang" honey from the village.

Getting ready for some basic honey test.

Refractometer reading moisture content at 24.5%. EU honey standards, (20% max).

Scrapping off the top foamy portion of honey.

Honey being placed in a heating chamber to reduce moisture content.

Packing section.

Products ready for market.

Sales centre promoting eco tourism

Honey showroom.

Gift presented by Mr. Mohd Zaimi Bin A.Razak (Division Director Product Development).

FAMA team from Kuala Nerang, Kedah.

August 18, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Kelantan (The feasibility study Part 2)…………………….

It was a 7 hours drive from Penang to Kota Bahru, Kelantan. The road was challenging with many sharp bends two third of the way. I put on my safety belt after what I had experienced in March. The bus was traveling at 120km on a 70km speed limit road. I just prayed that I can reach there in one piece.

Universiti Sains Malaysia, medical research department.

My first visit in Kelantan was the University of Science of Malaysia (Universiti Sains Malaysia). This is where all the research on the medicinal values of honey in Malaysia were done. A number of honeybee species found in Malaysia . Mainly they are  the “Apis Dorsata”, “Apis Mellifera”, “Apis Cerenas” and “Trigonas”. Currently they are also working on a type of honey harvested in their traditional honey hunting method by their local people, (Orang Asli). They called it, “TuaLang” honey. I had seen many places selling this brand of honey and they are selling like hot cakes now.

This feasibility study had made me understand more about the honey industry in Malaysia. There were so many issues one can never imagine. There are more to it than meets the eye.

Just going into the second day, I began to see the similarities between Malaysia and Uganda when come to this industry.  Honey hunting is still the predominant method used among the local community or the “Orang Asli”. The only difference was that in Malaysia, they need to climb very tall trees (Tualang tree) to harvest honey from Apis Dorsata while in Uganda, honey hunter collect honey from crevices, ant hill and hollow trunks.

Although it was the fasting month and usually this is the most busy part of the year,  all the Professors and researchers were very helpful and I left the place with all the information needed for my study. Later in the day I was invited to a local who kept honeybees  for their outward bound education camp. Finally after one month, I was introduced to these ladies in Malaysia.

Professor Dr. Nor Hayati Othman and her team of Professors and Researchers at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Trigona, Stingless bees.

Entrance to a stingless bee colony.

Docile Apis Mellifera Italiana.

Explaining the harm caused by human if honeybees were not handled correctly.

Observing the more nasty cousin, apis ceranas.

Entrance to the stingless bees apiary.

Top view of a stingless bee colony.

August 16, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Beekeeping in Malaysia – Kelantan (The feasibility study Part 2)…………………….

Beekeeping in Malaysia – Penang (The feasibility study Part 1)…………………….

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.

My first encounter with bees is visiting a tourist destination in the middle of Georgetown, Penang. Its called the “Bee Gallery”. Here you can see the various types of bees found in Penang.

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.

A very good effort made to educate public on the different types of bees.

Information comprehensive enough for laymen.

A number of choices for honey and its by products.


August 4, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, raw honey | , , , | 4 Comments

Keeping bees with passion…………………….

Colin with his neighbor, Monique, inside his first set of bee colonies.

During my visit to Colin’s apiary over the weekend, I chanced upon a very passionate beekeeper. He has been keeping bees for more than 25 years. I was very impressed with his setup and he has a small workshop that produces all his hives. Colin had been passing his place a number of time but didn’t get a chance to stop. Since I was there, might as well make an effort to stop to see what is interesting.

Mr. Wumale wasn’t at his apiary when we drove up to his home. He was at church. He was a brilliant marketing person I should say. He had his phone number painted  on one of his wooden door and that was where we managed to contact him.

His enthusiasm was contagious. He sounded like a hugh man over the phone but when he arrived, my perception of him changed. What was in front of me was a bouncy, petite guy with a big voice. I am quite certain his heart is as big as his voice. I managed to obtain a short interview with him and about his passion.

Mr. Wamule and his apiary.

Mr. Wamule start beekeeping more than 25 years ago and his intention was to harvest honey and brood for his own family consumption. Brood mixed with porridge was a delicacy back then. His constant interaction with bees took him further than his homeland. He made an effort to wanting to learn more. During the earlier years, beekeeping in Kenya was more advance so he took off to Nairobi to understand more about beekeeping. He wanted to develop his passion into a business. He came back equipped with knowledge and vision of how to modernized his way of keeping bees.

I was impressed with his thirst for knowledge and the creativity of developing a system that suited him well.

Walking through his apiary, you could see that he had combined the beekeeping method of top bar hive and langstroth. Being curious, I asked him why? He told me that after he had returned from Kenya, he decided to capitalize on both system. What is suitable for him and what is not. He felt that both system has it advantages and disadvantages. Having the top bar horizontal management, he does not have to exert himself when comes to harvesting. A super filled with honey can be very heavy for someone his size to lift.

A combination of a langstroth and top bar hive.

He liked the idea of the framed langstroth and especially the separation of the brood chamber from the honey chamber. So in his workshop, he came up with his own prototype, a langstroth that looked like a top bar hive or should I say, a top bar hive that looked like a langstroth. 😛

His quest for modernization was due to his passion and love for bees. He admitted that previously, due to lack of knowledge, he used to hunt for the honey and brood. He felt that this wasn’t the way to go in terms of sustainability. On top of that the destruction bees made him felt guilty. Then the wonderful phrase came out from him, “I love bees and I do not want to harm them”.

You can see the twinkling in his eyes when he talks about how his system had reduced so much death within the hives during harvesting. You can sense his joy when he touched on his new way of harvesting his honey, with the introduction of the queen excluder and the bee escape. That was the best lesson he had learnt during his trip to Kenya. Many modern beekeepers might not find his discovery interesting, but for someone who had little or no resources, able to make an effort to progress is something highly commendable.

Mr. Wamule was so ever willing to share. He brought us to an empty hive and explained how it works. Although it seems there are still rooms for improvement but the creativity does deserved an applause.

Now that all his children had grown up and left to start their new life. He can enjoy his passion with a lighter burden on his shoulder. I guessed Mr. Wamule is one of the rare few in Uganda that will put honeybees first before money.

*If you love your job, you don’t have to work a single day in your life – Confucius.

The brood chamber of Mr. Wamule's hive.

Home made bee escape.

Mr. Wamule and his hive. The cover is hinged.

At his workshop.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | 1 Comment

Stop mutilating the queen…………………….

Recently one of my student bought a few colonies from a local bee expert. He found one of his colony behaving strangely. They were all outside just below the entrance and on the grass. He was wondering what had happened.

When I looked at the picture, immediately I knew that the queen had her wings clipped. What a sad sight!

Many overseas “professional” beekeepers were paid handsomely by NGOs to come here to teach the locals on beekeeping. They would spend a few days showing them what they did back in their own country with their European species. After which off they go. Most of these overseas beekeepers have no experience with African bees and have no idea how to curb the high absconding rate of African bees. And do you know what were their solutions? They teach these farmers to clip the wings of the queen to prevent them from absconding. What a stupid idea! Imagine if someone were to cut off both your legs against your will to prevent you from leaving, how would you feel. In other words, your defense system would be compromised and your chance of survival would be slimmer.

I wonder why do they call themselves beekeepers when in actual fact, they show no empathy and well being for them. They mutilated the queen for their own convenience. There are other ways to prevent these poor little insects from absconding and yet, they chose the inhumane way.

Honey bees, like all other living creatures, have it natural instinct that the hive is not suitable for them. It could be due to infestation of other predators or the food source is not there. There must be a reason why they need to abscond to a safer or better place. Just put yourself in their situation. I believe you will do the same thing.

Take a look at the picture below. The queen tried to abscond but because her wings were clipped, she could not fly but fell onto the ground. The rest of the family followed. I can assure you that in no time, the whole colony will be consumed by predators. This will be the end of this colony.

The queen's wing were clipped. She could not fly but instead fell to the ground. Her colony gathered around her. Death sentence by human.

The beginning of the end for this colony.

Not too long ago, I was approached by a beekeeper from overseas and she wanted me to join her workshop. She gave me a video showing her working with African bees. It was a total mess. The bees were literally attacking everyone in the class and I cannot imagine how many bees perished during her workshop. End of the video, it showed her proudly displaying a modified traditional bee hive that can never work with the harsh environment and the behavior of these African bees. It was her first time in Africa and working with African bees.

 

June 20, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | 1 Comment

B.E.S.T. at Kajjansi…………………….

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.

Michael calming the bees on a beautiful morning.

Lifting up a comb to inspect the activities of these ladies.

Olivia could never imagine that she literally held a comb of bees (bare hands) on her second day of training.

Louis slotting back the repaired comb.

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.

May 31, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | Leave a comment

Training video…………………….

As part of the our on going training program, we have developed this video for our B.E.S.T. program. Participants are supposed to digest what they saw and during discussion, they are supposed to highlight the do’s and don’ts.

Are you able to spot the mistakes?

April 14, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Processing, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

First group for 2011…………………….

17th Jan – 22nd Jan saw the first group of participants for the BEST program for 2011. It was a diversify group because all of them came from various district in Uganda. Even the participants attended were getting more challenging.

Some of them had never kept bees while there is one who is a beekeeper. He is 74 years old. He had been in Uganda for more than 25 years as a development worker introducing sustainable agriculture activities through education on basic accounting and book keeping.

They were prepare to go through the program to overcome the fear in order to embark on the business.

TC-BP1005

Participants were taught to overcome the fear by gradually letting them handle colonies of different strength progressively.

Fr. Stanislas

This training is a “MUST” for anyone who is willing to keep bees. In this training, I learned how to handle bees in a very gentle way. My fear for bees has reduced – Building a relationship between the beekeeper and the bees is very crucial.

Father Reverend Stanislas is from Togo and currently he is pastoring a church in Lira, Northern Uganda. They had embark on beekeeping for sometime now but he felt that the project has rooms for improvement. He came for the training so that he came equip himself with more knowledge so that he can share it with his fellow folks in Lira. Fr. Stanislas is very hands on himself.

Stan Burkey

The first of importance is how to handle the bees – keeping them calm, non aggressive, how to use smoke to calm and to move the bees. How to handle the bars – all in all, very practical and very hands on. Instructors was very open to discussion, patient, willing to evaluate new ideas. Excellent foundation for further bee management.

Stan Burkey is a private consultant providing a very important component in rural development enterprise – financial planning, book keeping. Many small scale farmers do not know how to manage their earnings, calculate profit and loss. Stan would assist them in getting their books right. 40 years of experience in a few African countries. His contribution had enlighten many such farmers, turning them into entrepreneurs.

Muyomba Wilberforce

I have realised that in order to benefit from beekeeping, one has got to know how to handle the bees and make them your friend instead of enemies. This program teaches how to use the bee tools in order to deal with the bees, not to mistreat them but use the tools to work with the bees.

I so much like the hands on training that we have had which expels out the fear and panic. I aslo like the interactive training whereby you ask and discuss all that you have seen in the apiary.

This training is introductory but really loves a lot of indepth information like how the bee behave and their program in the hive such that you know the time to work with them.

Wilber force is currently working with an NGO is agriculture sustainability. He is embarking on this enterprise so that he can develop his own bee farm at his home. He hopes in the not to far future, he can use his apiary as a model bee farm to help his community to start beekeeping as another source of income to supplement their current earnings.

William K Mugisha

I liked the creative aspect of the training..Practical, Participatory and Interactive. The training emphasized the establishment of a relationship with the Bees.. at the end of the training all of us the participants were confident enough to drop the veils and the gloves, to get Up-close and passionate with the bees. (theoria cum praxi)

Lesster confidently evaluated The beekeeping Industry (based on his 10 years experience in the industry in Uganda) and  gave us the challenges in the industry. The participants discuss the Bee-economics and individual prospective investment plan which he selflessly discusses.

William work as an Information Systems Consultant in his own company where he is the Director. He is also an Associate Consultant at Uganda Management Institute in the Department of Information Technology. He is looking forward to start his Commercial Bee keeping as well as promoting Api-Tourism back home in Kisoro District and to create his own Honey Brand.


January 23, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Feedback from our participant…………………….

One of our students had written about her experience when she attended our training on her blog. I would like to thank her for the feedback. You can get to see more pictures posted by her here.

November 17, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My share of pain and experience…………………….

Aftermath of visiting african bees without knowing their prowess. Picture taken in 2001.

Many had not seen the tough times that I had gone through with the bees here. This was the result for not handling Api Meliferra Scutellata well. I had this picture taken way back in 2001 when I still had not much experience and knowing the aggressiveness of this species. It was after 4 days when the swell had subsided before I could take this picture. I had about 40 stings on my face from this stunt of not respecting and donning my bee suit.

I recalled having my first colony behind my backyard. Every evening when dark fell, I would put on my bee suit, veil and glove. I would light my smoker, grab my hive tool and brush, all ready to face the african bees. All dressed up not knowing what to do and expect.

Every time I tried to open the hive, the whole colony would simply “pour” themselves out of the hive, crawling all over my body. I would use the brush to brush them off, making them even more aggressive. After an hour, I would give up, slammed the cover and literally crushed all the bees that were out.

Come next morning, no one could walk near the hive. They would still be hovering around the hive, attacking any moving creatures that had gone near their habitat.

10 years with these notorious ladies and finally now I am able to interact with them harmoniously. Working with them requires a lot of understanding……. about their behaviour, the environment, our own temperament while handling them. Perseverance had paid off. When was the last time you did something for the first time? 🙂

Practice only makes a habit.....CONSTANT practice makes perfect! Picture taken in Nov 2010.

 

November 8, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training | , , , | Leave a comment

Flying without wings…………………….

1st November 2010 – 6th November 2010.

An exciting week! We saw participants coming all the way from United States of America and our neighbor, Rwanda. The lesson plans were somehow adjusted to accommodate the inquisitive minds of this group. Everyday they discovered a new frontier about the life of these little insect. Different strokes for different folks.

I was glad that the feedback at the end of the training were very encouraging. Here are some testimonials from this class;

Michael O Doud (USA), "Hands on - very good - very practical & classroom instruction a very good blend of practical that tied well to the sharing of deeper aspects of beekeping. We were challenged to think for ourselves. The exposure to both the traditional bee hive and the modern hive experience".

Ndayishimiye Muhimpundu Georgette (Rwanda), "We did much practice about how to handle bees and understand the different methods applied for different hives. We were also taught to make use of the smoker correctly. The documentary on bee behavior was interesting. The teacher gave us many information and advice".

Devon Kuntzman (USA), "The ecology approach to beekeeping. Your ability to help us gain confidence. The hands on approach. Your enthusiasm. I would like it to be longer and spend more time handling the bees. I would be interested in attending more trainings".

Jayne Wick (USA), "The interactive aspect of lab/class "What did you see" - then explain the variety of situations and conditions. Thank you so very much".

The lessons did not end when the classes end. We scheduled Friday evening for a get together to have early dinner followed by a casual session, tackling all those unanswered questions that were still lingering on everybody’s mind.

Bee-ain storming session.

Class TC-BP1004

This is the beginning of a new journey for these new beekeepers. Our program includes a comprehensive tracking system to monitor the performance of every individuals. All trainees were issued with an identification card to monitor their progress.

Identification cards for future honey traceability and beekeeper's performance tracking.

November 7, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Transferring a colony in a badly rotten hive…………………….

Part of the training program at BEST, we will have a display of a colony hiving in an old rotten bee hive. In order for this colony to survive in this harsh environment, it literally fabricate a layer of wall of propolis to reduce the opening. This is to prevent large predators like rats and snakes to enter the hive.

Many farmers experienced bees absconding and their reason was that the hive was not good enough for them to stay. This is not true. So long as the food supply is there and there are not much predators disturbing the hive, they will stay.

We had adopted this colony so that we can use this colony as training exhibit showing how tough the situation the African honeybees can endure and same time use it to conduct lessons on colony multiplication.

October 3, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Valuable Life & Business Lessons You Can Learn from Bees…………………….

Bees are more smart than scary, and instead of wasting time running away from them, we should start studying them. Their life and business lessons rival the strategies taught at some of the best colleges out there, so check out this list of 10 skills you can learn from bees.

  1. They’re expert communicators: Bees triangulate distances and direction, and are in continuous contact with their hives as they search for food sources. They’re not off “hunting” for themselves; instead, bees never seem to break contact with the group and keep each other informed to stay alive and recruit other bees to help them collect pollen where it’s most plentiful. Can you imagine if there were no secret stashes or ulterior motives in business?
  2. Bees are associative learners: Bees never stop learning and use natural forces to direct their actions in terms of finding food and monitoring the environment. They continue to visit the types of flowers that consistently offer them rewards, noting color and odor, and then effectively ditch them if weather patterns or other elements make the reward harder to obtain in search of other flowers. If we could learn as quickly, and then let go of past processes in order to move forward, we’d be profit-making machines, no exceptions.
  3. The more, the merrier. And the more productive: Swarms of bees result in a very social insect, promoting flexibility and adaptability, robustness, and self-organization, according to AskNature.org. Scientists have found that when surrounded by a pack, bees that “fail,” don’t cause major problems because all the others pick up the slack. Innovation, optimization and streamlined processes result from self-organization, which seems to naturally occur in swarms.
  4. They have different jobs and stick to them: It’s a controversial lesson in efficiency, and one that’s often rejected in the United States, where cross-mobility is appreciated. But bee colonies have a strict hierarchy and class system, and the hive works so well because worker bees sting and forage, male drones mate, house bees build the honeycomb and tend to the queen, and so on.
  5. Their product is attractive to many industries: Bees don’t just make the honey you put on your ice cream. Their wax is used for cosmetics, religious products and lots of food products, and they also pollinate plants and even whole orchards. Furthermore, their honeycombs and hives are still inspiring architects today because of their complexity and relative durability. What’s the business lesson here? Always aim to create a product and/or service that’s attractive and even necessary for lots of industries and customers, making your company indispensable and practically invulnerable.
  6. They’re highly adaptable to even drastic changes: Bees that have been relocated thousands of miles — from Hawaii to Louisiana in this case — are still able to locate and collect pollen in just an hour. New locations, temperatures and environments don’t sway their end goal or bottom line.
  7. They continue to evolve: Scientists believe that honeybees first spawned 130 million years ago, during the landmass of Gondwana. After the breakup of the landmass, some honeybees became extinct, but most have evolved and sub-speciated according to their new environments. Even after continent break-ups and climate changes, bees are still around and working just as furiously.
  8. Age levels are directly related to work habits: Bees delegate different jobs according to age level, showing an understanding for natural ability, stamina and practice. Young bees, for instance, aren’t allowed out into the field unless there has been a serious blow to the population. Would you want your brand new intern making independent sales calls on his first day? Take a cue from the bees and associate new workers with “housekeeping” for the first few weeks.
  9. Bees depend on their queen: Every colony or company needs a strong leader. When queen bees are absent or have died, bees start squabbling and are less organized. During the interim between queens, colony morale is down, and honey production is lower. Even the mere presence of a strong leader (hint: you don’t have to micromanage) is vital to directing workers.
  10. Bees have an innate sense of responsibility and a desire to work: While you can’t force an instinct upon someone else, you can train employees to almost instinctively notice when work needs to be done, minimizing wasted time and micro-mangement. Bees start working a few hours after they’re born, noticing the dirty cells that need to be cleaned around them and eventually moving on to clean the queen, guard the hive, and forage for pollen and nectar, and contribute in any way that’s needed.

You can see the original article here.

September 10, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Honeybees – Life Cycle…………………….

Wanted to know more about the life cycle of honeybees? Watch the video below from http://www.hilaroad.com.

August 7, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , | Leave a comment

When there are bees, there will be honey…………………….

July 19, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Winning Combination…………………….

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.

Final product - 100% Certified Organic Shea Butter.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Beekeeping in Southern Thailand…………………….

Arrived in Bangkok on 23rd Feb and immediately on the following morning, Raymond and his wife, Koong, drove me down South to visit bee farmers to have a better understanding on how they keep Apis cerena. We arrived in a district called ‘Chum Porn” and there is a large community involved in honey farming. According to the village folks, they are called “The Cave Bees”.

During my last trip, I had gathered some information from Professor Michael Burgett, that Apis cerenas were kept successfully in the South and it will help tremendously if we are able to transfer the knowledge to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Chiang Dao. So far the species has still not yet been use widely in the North. One advantage of using these species is that it is easily available and to capture them, literally cost nothing. This might be a good way for the rural farmers to start beekeeping rather than having to buy colonies.

When I went to open up a colony, I can feel the calmness in them and they were not as aggressive as the African siblings.

Came back on the following day and tomorrow we will be heading up North to Lampang, Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao. Long journey again. Gotta sleep early. 🙂

Raymond and Koong preparing for the trip.

Beehive for Apis cerena

Interior view of the hive.

Bee farmer and I.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal | , , , , , | 2 Comments

First good news of the year!…………………….

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

Bee farmers having a short animated interlude before heading to the farm.

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.

Rose amongst the thorns. We are seeing more women coming forward in becoming bee farmers.

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.

Farmers are trained to utilize whatever is available on the ground. Basic beekeeping is the way to go.

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.

Most of our honey going EU comes from these traditional hives. The honey harvested still meets EU honey legislations.

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. 🙂

January 10, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, beekeeping journal, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, propolis | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Contribution to World Food Chain…………………….

Julius and Martin.

Julius and Martin are my bee masters from Gulu. My work of sharing the importance of having to produce quality honey does not stop at the village. I will make effort to bring the leaders down occasionally to Kampala to show and explain why we need to pursue excellence in what we are doing.

Before I came, keeping bees in the the North is just to produce enough honey for their own consumption and many did not realized that it can be an income generating activity.

Bringing them to the city will somehow motivate them to realize the potential and many aspect of moving forward after being in insurgency for so many year, thinking that there is little or no hope for their future generations.

I had been working with them for three years now and I do feel their sense of wanting to progress. What amazed me was the speed in which they picked up the skill from honey hunting to honey farming.

Proud to have their honey certified, packed and sold at the largest supermarket (Shoprite) in Kampala. At the same time, in support of an Orphanage (Kids of Africa) paying forward for the future generations.

Once that is achieved, they are able to pat themselves on their shoulders and showing the world that they can also be part of the world food chain by producing high quality honey for the world to embrace.

Their trip to the city this time included a short session on how to transfer bees from one location to another. According to them, this is the first time in Uganda beekeeping history that they are able to learn how to do that. They had done short distance transfer but never in their life ever thought that we can transfer bees 120km apart.

They first learn to observe the temperament of the bees before handling them.

They will be part of the team to transfer the colonies to Timothy Centre within the next 3 weeks. It seems that we are unable to fulfill my planned schedule of completing the task before Christmas. Anyhow, the show must go on.

Timothy Centre will be the FIRST-ONE-OF-ITS-KIND apiary in Uganda where bee farmers coming for training will be able to understand the different kinds and methods of beekeeping around the world. They will then be able to fully understand what sort of method best suits them. Rather than just having to listen to others, always thinking that the most expensive and modern hives is the way to go.

Sealing the hives before transportation.

For the time being hives that are going to be deployed at the Centre will be the Traditional Log Hives, Rattan Hives, Kenyan Top Bars and the Langstroths. Timothy Centre will also serves as an information Centre where NGOs who have beekeeping projects, wanting to introduce it as part of their curriculum, to have a better understanding on the way forward in initiating it to their farmers.

Packed and ready to go.

Modernization of beekeeping industry in the North takes time. The current situation requires a lot of effort, especially apiary management. Why the need for these farmers to learn how to relocate hives is that most of the hives were placed in an awkward position where it is so difficult to work on them safely and gently. Others had their beehives located too far apart between every hives, making it time consuming for farmers to work on them.

Taking a quick break to have a shot to show their fellow village folks back home of their adventure. 🙂

Our findings for the honey industry here is this – there is no such thing as whether modern bee hives produces better, higher quality honey compared to traditional log hives. All nectar collected from the bees and being converted to honey are good quality honey. It is the process of how the farmer approach the hive, handle the bees and extracting the combs. Most of our honey harvested are from the traditional log hives and yet they are able to meet EU honey legislations.

Bee hives arriving at Timothy Centre apiary.

The other misconception about beekeeping in Uganda is that farmers were being told that it is one of the simplest form of income generating activity. They simply place a modern beehive on a tree, just wait for the bees to come and deposit honey and collect them during harvesting season. So many quickly jump onto the band wagon but later realized that it was not true, Finally giving it up totally losing their hard earned money to those who sold them the idea.

Too many hypes on modernization but little emphasis on sustainability.

Julius and Martin with the team from Timothy Centre.

Two new neighbours for Timothy Centre apiary.

Julius, 68 and Martin, 45, and the other 300 farmers that I am working with do faced many obstacles but somehow we are determined to face them one at a time.

The only time we failed is the last time we tried. We have not try the last time yet. 🙂

December 21, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, honey harvest, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Back to work…………………….

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.

Packing beehives into truck to be deployed at Timothy Centre.

Off to Timothy Center, Masaka.

December 12, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, propolis, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pre-flight check……………………

ktb300

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.

francis open hiveWe 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.

francis lift comb300There 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.

bees on top300Although 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.

broken combIn 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? 🙂

November 4, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Flashbacks………………..

Talking to Minister regarding the consequences of importing bees.

Talking to Minister regarding the consequences of importing bees.

International exposure for Ugandan beekeepers.

International exposure for Ugandan beekeepers.

October 3, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The making of…………………….

Last year was a year of filming. After the media team from Singapore left, another TV media crew from Japan came and did a documentary. I was invited to assist them in calming the bees before the filming. They had no idea that the African bees were so aggressive. The camera man got stung and he nearly fainted. He applied insect repellent prior to the filming without checking with me, thinking that would repel the bees. On the contrary, bees hate scents. We had to go around the villages a few time to identify a suitable colony for filming. By the time the shoot was over, it was coming to 11pm.

The main objective for this filming is to showcase the possibilities of bees by-product, beeswax. After the harvesting of beeswax, the crew proceed to an orphanage in the North which was funded by Japanese NGO. The orphans were taught how to use beeswax to make crayons.

I had to leave them for other commitment after making sure that they were not injured during the engagement with the bees.

TV crew from Japan.

TV crew from Japan.

Taking a deep breath before getting close to the hive.

Taking a deep breath before getting close to the hive.

In action.

In action.

It took quite some time for the host of the program to pluck up the courage to approach the bees.

It took quite some time for the host of the program to pluck up his courage to approach the bees.

October 3, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Constant practice makes perfect…………………….

Safe method of opening.

Safe method of opening.

Last week, my bee master came and had a refresher course with me at my house. Handling bees and using the smoker needs constant practice. This way, my bee master will then be able to share the knowledge with the rest of the bee farmers in the villages.

Beekeeping in Uganda is quite different from beekeeping in developed Countries. Most of the farms are deep in the villages and you will never know what you can find underneath the cover of the hives. Constantly we have to remind our village folks to open the hives away from them. If we are lucky, we only get rats or frogs hibernating underneath the covers. We had come across cobras and adders lying comfortably underneath as well. We just do not want to get ourselves in for a shock. It could be our last harvest if this simply rule is not applied.

Bee master lifting cover gently.

Bee master lifting cover gently, and away from him.

Lifting up the cover needs utmost care. It had to be taken off gently to avoid sudden and abrupt movements. This way, the bees will remain calm and we have to maintain this calmness throughout the whole operation in order to have a non confrontational harvest.

Nothing is perfect. This colony happened to conduct their flight activity from the back due to a gap between the last two bars and having the queen at the rear. It became a good training hive because this will get the farmer to think and use his initiative on how he is supposed to work according to the environment.

All these while, farmers were taught to harvest honey only during the night. In fact, its more of honey hunting than beekeeping.

Bee master calming the bees with a smoker.

Bee master calming the bees with a smoker.

Bees do not really flies in the night because they can’t see clearly. Instead they will crawl or cling on to any movements. Most of the bees are thus killed during the operation. Farmers simply brushed them off vigorously from their body, crushing them mercilessly. I believe harvesting during the day is a more positive approach. But then it boils down to how you handle them again.

The understanding and gentle usage of the smoker is very important. Too little smoke, the bees will not be afraid of you. Too much smoke, it will instill fear of a fire and thus they will retaliate. If the farmers were taught to observe and understand the movement and behaviour of the bees when smoke is introduced, he will stand a better chance of a non-confrontational harvest. Smoking is a skill which I find most of the bee farmers are lacking.

Gentle smoking goes a long way.

Gentle smoking goes a long way.

Many farmers are still having this idea that smoking as much onto them will make them go away. I will always use this analogy on them, “If someone were to direct a lot of smoke on your face to choke you, how would you feel?” That makes them think.

If one were to smoke the bees gently, you will find them hurrying back to one destination, the queen. Some worker bees will try and locate the queen to wait for her instruction. Other worker bees will spread themselves among the unripe honey and restore them into their honey sacs. In case if the queens command is to abscond, the colony will have sufficient supply of food at the next destination before resuming normal work pattern. Bees had developed a systematic approach within its community. If we were just to be more patient and learn their behavior, it will help us in our beekeeping work.

Opening up the hives starting from the back away from the queen and brood chamber.

Opening up the hives starting from the back away from the queen and brood chamber.

When the worker bees had ingested enough honey, most of them will be calm. Many farmers do not realize that. This is when you can slowly lift up the topbars to inspect them.

All these movements have to be performed as slowly as possible. Bees vision have a refresh rate of only 15 frames per seconds. If movements are slow, it is as if there are no movements at all according to the bees vision. So aggression is minimized.

In a bee hive, the front portion where the bees have their flight activities will always be the brood chamber while the back part of the hive will be the honey chamber. During honey flow period, most of the combs will be emptied to allow storage of nectar which later be transformed into honey.

Farmers were reminded not to harvest all the honey but to leave some for the colony. They will then stay.

Bee master harvested honey successfully.

Bee master harvested honey successfully.

Nothing makes a farmer more happy when he is able to harvest honey in a proper way, without killing bees in the process. On top of that, he knows that the honey harvested is clean and pure without the taste of smoke.

Practice only makes a habit. CONSTANT practice makes perfect.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | apiculture | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

Mobile phone towers threaten honey bees: study…………………….

1779585690-mobile-phone-towers-threaten-honey-bees-studyNEW DELHI (AFP) – – The electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phone towers and cellphones can pose a threat to honey bees, a study published in India has concluded.

An experiment conducted in the southern state of Kerala found that a sudden fall in the bee population was caused by towers installed across the state by cellphone companies to increase their network.

The electromagnetic waves emitted by the towers crippled the “navigational skills” of the worker bees that go out to collect nectar from flowers to sustain bee colonies, said Dr. Sainuddin Pattazhy, who conducted the study, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

He found that when a cell phone was kept near a beehive, the worker bees were unable to return, leaving the hives with only the queens and eggs and resulting in the collapse of the colony within ten days.

Over 100,000 people in Kerala are engaged in apiculture and the dwindling worker bee population poses a threat to their livelihood. The bees also play a vital role in pollinating flowers to sustain vegetation.

If towers and mobile phones further increase, honey bees might be wiped out in 10 years, Pattazhy said.

Original article – http://sg.news.yahoo.com/afp/20090831/tts-india-environment-bees-science-9819610.html

September 1, 2009 Posted by | Beekeeping, beekeeping journal | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Interesting findings about CCD…………………….

Read an article the other day regarding the problem with “Colony Collapse Disorder” where the honeybees simply vanished from the surface of the Earth. Scientists had came out wth some findings. It has to do with the way modern honey farming are done. Modern honey farming recycle the honeycombs. Now the scientist found traces of pesticides residue that were remained in the combs. This is a very interesting point to look at. Slowly bee farmers around the World are taking effort to understand traditional way of beekeeping.

Below is an extract of the article,

“Scientists Untangle Multiple Causes of Bee Colony Disorder PULLMAN, Washington, July 29, 2009 (ENS) — A microscopic pathogen and pesticides embedded in old honeycombs are two major contributors to the bee disease known as colony collapse disorder, which has wiped out thousands of beehives throughout the United States and Europe over the past three years, new research at Washington State University has confirmed. Working on the project funded in part by regional beekeepers and WSU’s Agricultural Research Center, entomology professor Steve Sheppard and his team have narrowed the list of potential causes for colony collapse disorder. “One of the first things we looked at was the pesticide levels in the wax of older honeycombs,………….”

Here is the full article;

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2009/2009-07-29-094.asp

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

Asia……here we come!…………………….

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey (Front Literature).

For the last 5 years, we had been supplying our honey to Switzerland and East Africa region. Slowly but surely it is gaining popularity through word of mouth from those that came and visited me from Asia and orders are coming from Singapore, Malaysia and Japan now. We have decided to launch our honey on a bigger scale with this new packaging. Due to the cost of freight, it is more economical to airfreight the honey on a bigger volume of 1.4kg.

I guess people now are getting more affluent and particular when come to honey consumption. The feedback I got from my buyers are that they are beginning to appreciate honey coming from bees that are resilient to viruses which are affecting honeybees in most part of the world. We do not treat our bees with antibiotic or mite removal solutions. Sometime back, Europe banned some honey importers because they found traces of antibiotic in their honey. We are glad that our honey met all EU honey quality legislations.

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey back literature.

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey (back literature).

Uganda is one of the last frontier where the bees are still resilient to viruses and diseases. We allow the bees to live as naturally as possible with minimum human intervention to maintain this blessed status. It could be this reason that the bees here are not succumb to viruses and diseases. They are protected by mother nature.

August 2, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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…………………….

P1010764.JPG

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

Gone Beekeeping……………………

gone beekeeping

May 26, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal | , | 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

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

Invitation to conduct feasibility study to set up beekeeping industry in Chiang Dao Province.

Finally I managed to get my hands on the right adaptor to power up my laptop and to surf after 3 days! Computer is so part and parcel of my life that I will suffer from withdrawal syndrome if I do not work on my computer. Anyway, this was really a sudden pleasant surprise for me to be invited to Chiang Dao (70km North of Chiang Mai). This could be a new journey for my beekeeping life. I am supposed to visit this province to explore on the viabilty in developing a beekeeping industry with the villagers.

Left Singapore for Thailand on 1st March. I had to postpone my trip back to Uganda till 15th March. As usual, landed in Thailand at 2035hrs and got stuck in traffic for about 2hrs before reaching my friend’s house at Charan Sanit.

Traffic jam (One night in Bangkok)

Traffic jam (One night in Bangkok)

Morning comes and we started off the 10hrs drive from Bangkok to Chiang Dao. To make the long trip an interesting one, we stopped at quite a few places for breaks and snacks and to experience some interesting happenings.

Stopping along the roadside for brunch

Stopping along the roadside for brunch

Snacks....snacks.....snacks...

Snacks....snacks.....snacks...

We passed Ayutharad and visited a model agricultural farm set up by the Queen to cater for the farmers. Villagers can come to this farm to learn more about agriculture.

Model agricultural farm for Thai farmers.

Model agricultural farm for Thai farmers.

Mushroom production hut

Mushroom production hut

Cultured mushroom

Cultured mushroom

We discovered we cannot stop anymore if not we will not be able to make it before midnight in Chiang Dao. Beautiful and smooth 10 hrs drive, not like Uganda roads.

Smooth road to Chiang Dao

Smooth road to Chiang Dao

03/03/09 – Today first visit is to a bee farmer who has about 100 beehives in Chiang Dao. He told me he deployed his colonies in Lampun, about 120km from his home. What we did was to inspect his bees in his garden and had a good discussion with him.

Thai beekeeper showing me his bees in his garden.

Thai beekeeper showing me his bees in his garden.

Slowly lifting up the ladies' veils

Slowly lifting up the ladies' veils

The ladies are comfortable with me now after knowing I meant no harm.

The ladies are comfortable with me now after knowing I meant no harm.

Getting a closer look to make sure they are in good health.

Getting a closer look to make sure they are in good health.

Arranging them back in place before closing up the hive

Arranging them back in place before closing up the hive

The italian species are definitely more sweet and gentle compared to their cousins, the African honeybees.

The Italian species are definitely more gentle in its behaviour compared to their cousins, the African honeybees.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments