Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Pioneers @ Kajjansi B.E.S.T……………………..

It was a very successful start for our B.E.S.T. program conducted at our new training centre at Kajjansi. We had yet to name this new centre. Although the setup was not as comprehensive as the one at Timothy Centre, but somehow all the unforeseen happenings made the lessons exciting. One participant accidentally broke a comb and we had to repair in order not to let the brood perished. Another participant was not sensitive to the reaction to one of the colony that he continued to aggrevate them. They had seen how these ladies can be so aggressive when come to defending their nest.

All in all, a thumbs up for the group. 🙂

Feedbacks from our first batch of students for Kajjansi!

Olivia Murphy

1. The trainer was very calm, knowledgable and had many years experience with African bees. This created confidence in the students.

2. The training facilities were very comfortable and appropriate. Very easy to get to. it’s convenient.

3. Because it was a small class, I felt that it was well contained and well attended to.

4. Because of the training methods, I felt safe.

5. I enjoyed myself (interaction encouraged)

6) Tea & Coffee (very nice touch)

7. I like the duration of the class. Not too long and not too short. Just right.

8. Most of all, I like that everyday we experienced the beekeeping through practical practices. From that we got our theory.

9. We took care of nature through the methods we learnt, NOT destroy!! – Olivia Murphy

Louis Chua

I like the training as it helps me to really realise that beekeeping is not that scary as thought. This training is very systematic and this allows me to learn it step by step, what to do and what not to do.

Having some practical and theory competition at the end of the course really get everybody involved in the learning process of proper beekeeping. – Louis Chua

Kasoma Brian

1. The training had been practical that it makes you used to the bees.

2. Free interaction between the trainer and the trainee.

3. When the trainer is teaching, he is so clear and understandable.

4. The trainer is friendly.

5. Am confident that I have got the relevant training and indeed I have got enough training to establish my bee farm.

6. The whole course has been interesting. – Kasoma Brian

Michael MuprhyI like the fact that our training was based on real world experience. Our trainer has a knowledge of African bees which is extensive. The training was “hands on”. Excellent course, excellent trainer. – Michael Murphy

Faisal Muruhura

I got knowledge about beekeeping

I got to know how to work with bees

I happen to see the queen in a hive and I can differetiate the queen from other bees, the drone and the workerbees

I learnt how to arrange the hive in an apiary

I happen to know beekeeping and how a farmer can improve the colony

I happen to know the process of beekeeping starting from handling – Faisal Muruhura

Dramiga Rashid

I like the lesson much

I like the way we do the team work

I like the way we share the idea and skill, the way of explanation

I like the environment

The knowledge we got from the instructor

The way I progress from the lesson everyday

The time the lesson starts and stops – Dramiga Rashid

June 4, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | Leave a 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

Development for B.E.S.T. Program (second course)……………………

B.E.S.T. program is developing its second course. This course includes value adding such as candles making and propolis production.

We are also in the process of developing another training centre nearer to Kampala City. It will be at Kajjansi, Entebbe Road. Once the model farm is established, this training centre will serve those who prefer to have their training done closer to Kampala. In fact the first batch of trainees had already started yesterday.

Production of propolis is underway. For those who had not heard of “Propolis”, I had link the Wikipedia site here.

Production of propolis tinture and propolis paste under FAO guidelines.

May 30, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, Honey Processing, propolis | , , , , | 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

UN alarmed at huge decline in bee numbers…………………….

A huge decline in bee colonies under a multiple onslaught of pests and pollution, urging an international effort to save the pollinators that are vital for food crops. -- PHOTO: AP

GENEVA – THE UN on Thursday expressed alarm at a huge decline in bee colonies under a multiple onslaught of pests and pollution, urging an international effort to save the pollinators that are vital for food crops.

Much of the decline, ranging up to 85 per cent in some areas, is taking place in the industrialised northern hemisphere due to more than a dozen factors, according to a report by the UN’s environmental agency.

They include pesticides, air pollution, a lethal pinhead-sized parasite that only affects bee species in the northern hemisphere, mismanagement of the countryside, the loss of flowering plants and a decline in beekeepers in Europe. ‘

The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century,’ said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner. ‘

The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees,’ he added.

Wild bees and especially honey bee colonies from hives are regarded as the most prolific pollinators of large fields or crops. — AFP Share

Original article – http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/TechandScience/Story/STIStory_643729.html

March 11, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey harvest | , , , | 3 Comments

US Ambassador’s visit…………………….

During the last training, we had the honour to have the US Ambassador to Uganda, Mr Jerry Lanier, his wife and several staffs from the US Embassy visiting us. Timothy Centre acquired a grant from US Embassy and they were doing a tour to visit projects.

We invited the Ambassador and the team to get up close and personal with african bees. It will be their first time ever. They took the challenge.

A short brief to prepare everyone what to expect before entering the apiary.

Rare sight for all of them. Up close and personal with the aggressive african honey bees for the US Embassy staffs.

Calm african honey bees.

Cool combinations...

Ambassador, bees and me.. 🙂

January 23, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

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

Another batch going Switzerland…………………….

Past few days were spent running around town, getting all the documents prepared for the shipment. This morning finally saw the shipment ready for flight. The forwarder came on time to load the buckets up. Hopefully it will reach Switzerland safely and on time.

Logistic management in Uganda still has a long way to go. One of my previous shipment, one ton of my honey was left at Entebbe airport for 10 days and nobody notice all the buckets sitting there and going nowhere. Luckily honey is non perishable. If not I will be in deep trouble. My customers were very amazed that how come such things happened. How to compete with the rest of the World if Uganda is not going to look at these issues seriously.

Yesterday I was chatting with the Chief Veterinarian. He is the person that will approve and certify all agriculture export like coffee and in this case, honey. I was surprised when he mentioned that we were the only Company that is exporting honey to Switzerland. He told me that honey going into EU is very difficult because of the stringent quality test required. He was glad that ours are able to meet the EU standards and being exported out. How he wished there were more honey with the same quality in the market.

Uganda honey going places.

October 28, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, Beekeeping, honey, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New range ready for Christmas…………………….

Christmas is round the corner. Creativity plays a major role in keeping on par with market demands. We had just increased our range of beeswax candles for sale. More choices, more sales. 🙂

Here are some history about beeswax candles;

Candles have been used as an artificial light source for an estimated five thousand years. The first candles were made of boiled animal fat (tallow), a substance that when burned gave off heavy smoke, an inconsistent flame, and an acidic odor. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that candle makers discovered the burning properties of beeswax, the substance secreted by bees to make their honeycombs. Beeswax candles quickly became preferred over tallow candles because when burned, the beeswax candles emitted very little smoke or odor; and beeswax candles burned with more consistency than tallow.

But bees weren’t cultivated. And this rare and prized substance could only be afforded by Europe’s nobility or by the Catholic Church. It later became canon law that candles burned inside a Catholic cathedral must be composed of at least 60 percent beeswax, a law still in effect today.

By the 9th century candle making had become so perfected that the nobility were using beeswax candles to tell the time. Candles were poured and shaped with enough beeswax to burn for exactly 24 hours. The candle maker then marked the candle with 24 lines. The candle’s owner could tell what time of night it was by the section of candle that was burning. In the 13th century, guilds of candle makers began springing up throughout Paris. The next notable innovation for beeswax candles came when guilds started using wicks made of twisted cotton instead of wicks made from rushes, linen, or flax.

The whaling industry provided the dominant fuel source for tallow candles in the 18th century. Sperm whale oil (spermaceti wax) was used more in North American and European candles than other animal fats. But compared to beeswax, the spermaceti candles still smoked more and emitted an unpleasant odor.

Cotton wicks improved next when candle makers began braiding their cotton wicks instead of just twisting them, allowing for a more consistent burn. Using braided cotton wicks is one of the only changes to beeswax candles since their original conception in the middle ages.

For nearly 1500 years, beeswax candles would be considered the cleanest and most pure form of artificial light until the popularization of electricity in the 1900s.

Original article from here.

All packed and ready for export.

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Beekeeping, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons turning into action…………………….

Last Friday morning, we visited some of our trainees to see how far had they gone with our training. It was indeed a very nice surprise when we met with Simon Peter and his family.

When we arrived at his place, he was in his working clothes, out in the field. He was happy to see us and was so enthusiastic that we were there. Immediately he led us to one of his shade to show us what he had done – 20 local bee hives! He was in the midst of identifying a suitable plot of land to start his apiary. Simon is also a brick maker. He told us that once he is able to get some income from his selling of his bricks, he will start his apiary.

To me this was very motivational. The effort that all had put in had not gone to waste. Although the results are slow, but there are results from the training. Nothing is more satisfying than to see the participants benefitting from the program. I am proud to have Simon as one of our BEST farmer.

Simon and wife, the beginning of a success story.

October 10, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Less is more…………………….

Beeswax is one of the by-product from honey farming. Many bee farmers are not aware that it can be another income generating activity if they were taught to process and value add. One of the main items that can be produced from beeswax are candles. Beeswax candles are well received because of its natural origin. They are not chemically treated like paraffin candles. In fact burning beeswax candles are more environmentally friendly as one does not inhale toxic fumes in comparison to burning paraffin candles. The advantages out weigh the normal paraffin ones.

One of our programs at BEST is to empower the farmers to utilize what is available in honey farming and to teach them about value adding. By collecting empty combs from the hives, they were taught how to convert honey combs to beeswax using whatever they can find locally.

Simple understanding of how things are done do not require expensive equipments. Take for example, a simple solar wax melter are just a few pieces of wood nailed together. Having it painted black to increase the heat absorption rate. Inside are just a few stones to harness the heat , a simple pot cover, with holes drilled acting as a sieve. Under the harsh African sun, the combs will melt through the sieve in a sauce pan, giving them the raw beeswax.

 

A simple method of turning combs into beeswax.

 

 

Here is a smaller and simpler version of the solar wax melter.

 

Once the conversion is done from combs to wax, the rest is getting it moulded into different shapes and sizes ready for market. As part of the training program entails entrepreneurship, for those farmers that do not have the facilities to start their own production, we get them involve in the candle making process so that on top of producing honey, they can come to the centre with their beeswax, sell them to us and gradually teach them to use their income to start their own small business. we will help them to acquire moulds from overseas where they have no access to the products.

 

Beeswax turning into beautiful candles

 

 

A candle is born.

 

 

Candles before going on to the next stage, packaging for market.

 

October 10, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 1 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

Village folk without social responsibility…………………….

This is one issue we beekeepers have to face, the irresponsibility of farmers around the apiary. During dry season, some of the villagers will take this opportunity to start a fire in order to collect firewood (charcoal) after the forest had burnt out. They don’t care whose land it belongs to.

Yesterday afternoon, our land not far from the apiary was set aflame. Due to the dryness of the trees around, the fire spread quickly and by 6pm, it had moved towards the apiary and Timothy Centre’s guesthouse.

We can’t do much but pray that the wind would change direction and move the fire away from the apiary. The security guards did a fine job by containing the fire. Eventually the fire subsided before midnight and I thought the cool air would not get the glowing flame light up again. At 2am, I heard crackling sound and I went out to take a look. The fire had started once more. Luckily this time round the fire was not near although it was big. I did not capture the earlier fire because my camera was not with me. Below picture was taken at 2am.

The flame was about 10 meters tall.

October 2, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping training | , , , , , | Leave a comment

BEST Program on 30/08/10 to 04/09/10…………………….

Photos by Lesster Leow, Aug 29, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

BestProgram300810_040910, posted with vodpod

Class TC-BP1003

Simon Peter The training has been fantastic. I had learnt a lot from the apiary. Before I came for the workshop, I had it in mind that bees were the greatest enemies of human being in life, but after I came to learn that once when you attend to them carefully and tenderly, they can give you whatever you want from them. They can know that you are their master and cannot be aggressive to you. I have learnt how to make money from bees and how to sustain myself by getting money from bee-products like honey, beeswax. I am now very much conversant with making bee hives and this will help me to make money from it. This is all I have learnt from this workshop. Thanks Timothy Centre and thanks Lesster and Karl.

Doreen Semucho – This training has improved our understanding on how to handle bees so carefully for the better harvest of honey. We have also learnt other uses of bees like pollination. The training has been practical which has enriched the trainees interest on how to keep bees as an economic activity. We’ve really learnt so many other things and we are committed to put this to practice and to teach our community the goodness of protecting and keeping bees.



September 9, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

Training on 5th July – 10th July 2010…………………….

5th July saw the second batch of trainees undergoing the program. The idea of having the interviews for selection before training was prudent because we saw serious farmers who were prepared to pay the price of hard work. If not we will not be able to see the results if committed farmers were not chosen.

The 6 days training also saw them spending most of the time in the field, hands-on. By the end of the training, we received very positive feedbacks especially having them recognizing the importance of real field experience rather than classroom lectures of honey farming throughout the course. We had a very interesting participant and we shall talk more about him later in the blog.

TCBP/1002

Our classes were kept to a maximum size of 12 and below. We do not want classes to be of any larger less it might cause stress to the bees if activities were to be conducted throughout the next 6 days. African bees are well known for its aggressive behaviour. The classes will not meet its objective if the farmers were unable to work on them when they turn aggressive.

The class started with the participants introducing themselves and sharing with all why did they decide to embark on beekeeping. This gesture is common here and I do find it is a good practice. It will somehow enable the participants to interact more freely and to share their experiences as we went along.

Different types of hives were shown to the farmers in order for them to have a better understanding.

Most farmers are still unaware of the different types of bee hives that can be used for honey farming. The course provides the insight of the history of beekeeping, the different methods applied in different parts of the World, the advantages and disadvantages of the various hives used. Most important of all the migration of honey hunting to honey farming.

One of the first topic that we had touched on was sustainable beekeeping. It is pointless if we would just simply teach them about beekeeping without them realizing how to keep the business sustainable. We need to instill in their thoughts that the most productive method is the method that will suit them best, in terms of financial and skills.

Beekeeping is a full time job. We have to change their mindset that beekeeping is not easy and simple. You don’t simply put beehives out in the field and wait for the honey flow season to starts. After which you go and collect the honey and sell. All these have to go. When there are no interaction with the bees, you will see zero results.

When the time comes for harvesting, they would find the colony so aggressive, so much so that instead of harvesting honey, they would destroy and kill all the bees before they can to get to the honey.

The fear of these insects was always there and the only method they knew were to approach them during the night with fire to avoid stings. That was what they were taught from their parents and grand parents. The end results – beautiful honey destroyed and contaminated during harvesting.

They were quite skeptical in the beginning when we told them they will be moving into the apiary in the afternoon. We will work on the bees in broad daylight. Some did not believe it. In order for them to accept the fact that beekeeping can be done during the day, we went down to the apiary and let them have a feel of the bees busy flying in and out of their hives.

Hives were neatly placed with short, trimmed grasses for easy mobility and management.

The following day, the team started early to begin their basic on apiary management. Previously some were taught that they were supposed to hide their beehives among tall grasses because bees loves to colonized in thick bushes. This is not true. In fact having all the tall grasses and thick bushes would hinder the mobility of the farmer. On top of that, farmers can even be injured or killed by snakes hiding or moving around. Thus we demonstrated why it is important to have a clean neat apiary for easy handling of the hives during apiary management.

Every batch will be taken to task to start an apiary from scratch. We allocated another part of the farm to have them clear the area to prepare the siting of their bee hives. This time round, they will be setting up 2 rattan hives, 4 Kenyan top bars and 1 log hive coming from Gulu.

After which, they were taught to bait all the hives before deploying them out into the field. Baiting is an important process for it will hasten the process of colonization. Many a times, farmers would use cassava flour or honey or even sugar, placed inside the hive to attract the bees. They did not realized that these items will also attract other insects like ants.

Below are some of the shots taken during the 6 days training.

Team were divided to work on different hives.

Karl's team working on Kenyan top bar.

The rattan hive was covered with dried banana leaf as waterproofing. A combination of natural substance which the bees like were introduced to entice a colony to come.

Rattan hive ready and in place.

Ssali inspecting a brood comb.

Traditional log hive made out of a palm tree.

One of the lesson, making rattan hives.

Rattan hives ready for coating.

Last day of training - harvesting honey during the day.

BEST bee farmers in Uganda.

Earlier in this blog, I mentioned that we had an interesting participant. his name is David Sengaali. He was born physically challenged. His left hand was born stunted but his determination of being a good beekeeper was admirable.

David preparing reed for the basic structure of his rattan hive.

David started beekeeping when he was 9 year old and got his skill of honey hunting through his grandparent. He would move around with them and other beekeepers in his village whenever they went for honey hunting. At the tender age of 9, he was fascinated by these insect and wanted to know more. Soon the desire to keep them was so strong that he started to build his own hive and caught bees in places like abandoned ant hill and hollow logs. He would then transfer them into his hives.

Soon village folks around came to know about his passion and they started to buy honey from him. Honey is like medicine to these villagers. With that little source of income, he managed to send himself to school.

25 years had past and now he makes his living by making bee hives, smokers and bee suit for Organizations. His passion had turned into a business for him.

He chanced upon our project 2 months back and was curious when he saw our apiary. He wanted to know more about our operation and approached Karl. When he heard that we are conducting training, he requested to join in so that he is able to increase his knowledge in beekeeping. My interaction with him found out that his knowledge in beekeeping was good. He does have potential in this trade. I will be monitoring him from now and I believe he will be a good candidate to be a future bee trainer under our wing.

Below is a video of him making his own rattan hive during the training.

Photos by Lesster Leow, Aug 7, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Web album best program, posted with vodpod

July 13, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Bees @ Village of Hope…………………….

Over the weekend, I was invited to Village of Hope, in Masindi to assist in removing a colony of bees that had built its nest inside a rooftop of one of the building. The colony arrived at a bad time because Mike and his team were supposed to have the place fully operational by end of this coming week for inspection. Luckily the colony had been there for only about two weeks and they had not reached its full force yet. If not, it will be more difficult to handle them.

I was glad Mike did not chose the easy way out, which was to get a pest controller to terminate the colony. Life was already tough enough for these bees, we tried not to make it any tougher for them. If we were to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, we were actually intruding into their habitat. Although many felt that we humans are the most superior being amongst animal and insects, we should still stay humbled and learn to live with nature in a more peaceful way. What goes around, comes around.

Mike and Bosco getting to know the bees.

After dinner, we decided to let the bees get to know us. We had to do this at night for we need to wait for the foragers to return. In case we needed to transfer them down, we would not miss out the foragers.

When Bosco started to pry open the bottom plank of the roof, they started buzzing, showing their unhappiness. My initial plan was to see whether I could avoid using the smoker. Soon from trickling movement, I could sensed that they will pour themselves out within the next few seconds. Immediately we have to move back and activate plan B, using the smoker.

Smoking simulates forest fire. Bees fear forest fire. Smoking the bees is not as simple as it looks. One must fully understand why, when and how to introduce smoke to the bees. It will then be effective.

Too little smoke, there will be no effect on them. Too much smoke, they will turn aggressive. They will start flying in all directions, making it very difficult to contain them.

It took us about 20 minutes before we can proceed with the opening of the bottom panel.

The view was breathtaking! It was indeed a strong colony as they had already built up to 8 combs with some having brood while other having honey stored.

The smoke had calmed the bees.

The situation looked calm and we decided that we should not make things ugly by having to dislodge the colony. Moreover, we were not equipped with any empty hive to contain them and to relocate them if we were to bring them down.

So our plan of action was to destroy part of the combs, making them feel that this was no longer a safe place to stay anymore. They would find another location and leave this nest the next morning. Our main objective for this decision was that we do not want any confrontation resulting in casualties on both sides. Patience will make us arrive to an amicable solution.

Comes next morning, we went to observe the bees, they were very still. This shows that they were waiting for the queen’s instruction what to do next. Meanwhile Mike shared with me his plight, that he had a deadline to meet. We do not know know long before this colony will find another location to nest.

So we decided to help them hasten their decision by creating a bigger smoke just below the hive so that they have no choice but to abscond and leave the nest immediately.

Bosco ignited the drum of wood shavings, the smoke and heat started to rise. Within 10 minutes, the queen took flight, stopping at a nearby tree. The whole colony started to follow, forming a large dark cloud. The whole area was buzzing and bees were seen flying in all directions. Those who are not accustomed to this scene will tend to be wary of being attack by them. Usually they would not disturb anyone because they are focusing on joining their queen.

Mike and Bosco clearing the remaining combs.

By 10am, everything had quiet down with saw the colony clustering on the tree top. This was where we moved in to clear the remaining combs, painted it with wood varnish demolishing all traces of smells from a previous nest. No other colony will choose this location again.

My first impression of the village when I arrived was a, “YES”! I was impressed with the way things are developing if an orphanage was to take place. The feeling I got was very down to earth, very real. This beautiful family, Mike, Janelle and Jenna, had done a wonderful job, transforming a barren piece of wilderness into a productive, positive haven for these children to move ahead with their lives.

Having such a setup which is very close to the way life should be in Northern Uganda, the orphans are able to grow steadily physically, mentally and spiritually, not having that vast paradigm shift, not taking things for granted. They will learn how to appreciate the changes and opportunities given to them to start life afresh. I can say that the focus right now for the orphans is really their needs and not our wants. The need of a good home, the need of medical attentions, the need for proper education and the need to identify the importance of sustainability. I had seen one too many. Without that portion of self sustainability, projects will not last.

We chatted and had lunch on Sunday before I took off to Gulu to see my bee farmers. We shared many common objectives. Well done! Mike, Janelle and Jenna! 🙂

Bosco, The Douds and I.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | 1 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

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

Eucalyptus Honey on sale at our boutique

Finally the test report is out and we are able to introduce a new range for our boutique, Eucalyptus honey.

In our Mellisopalynology report, pollen count shows 95.8% belonging to the Myrtaceae family. Less than 3% consist of Mango, Combretaceae, Anacardiaceae, Senecio-group and Musa. Our Eucalyptus honey is thus considered Monofloral. The enzymes (Diastase) activities detected was found to be much higher than the recommended EU Honey Legislation in Europe. This shows that the honey was filtered raw and natural and has never been heat treated or had gone through UV lights or any forms of heat energy such as microwaves. Diastase, this enzyme is responsible for converting starch to dextrins and sugars and is introduced into the honey by the bees.

The moisture contents of our Eucalyptus Honey falls below 20% and this is one of the most important aspect when buying honey. According to the EU honey standards, honey having more than 20% in moisture content determines the rate of fermentation. Unripe honey harvested are usually having a moisture content of 23% or more. It will taste sourish.

Our Eucalyptus Honey is dark amber and has an intense and persistent peppermint after taste. It crystallizes much faster are usually preferred as an excellent accompaniment to cheeses, pastries and herbal teas.

In Uganda, villagers are often seen using Eucalyptus Honey as a home remedy for mild cough and cold.

Eucalyptus Grandis or E. Grandis is well known in Uganda, being first introduced around 1912. It is commonly planted for fuelwood and poles and is an important source of income for small farmers. As other sources dwindle, E. Grandis is increasingly being recognised as a valuable source of timber too. It is easy to raise from seed and coppices vigorously when cut. Many of the E. Grandis trees in Uganda have hybridised, however, and thus it is important to use only improved seed from tree breeding programmes (mainly in Southern Africa) for commercial plantations here.

Eucalyptus Grandis.

In Uganda, E. Grandis is best suited to deep soils in the cooler, moist areas – particularly in the west – around Kabarole and Bushenyi, in the West Nile region and in the south-west (Kabale). On suitable sites and with good management, E. Grandis can grow extremely quickly: Mean Annual Increments of over 50 m3/ha/yr can be achieved in such areas, though an average of 25-35 m3/ha/yr is more likely. Rotations of 8-15 years are expected for the production of sawlogs and large poles.

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

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

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

Up close and personal……………………

Really appreciate Jonathan for taking time to come from Singapore to capture moments of my work in still life. He had also shared a lot on the art of photography. Its all about inspiration and being able to capture the feeling and moment there and then. The final challenge is to capture the African bees closeup at 5pm. The timing for opening up beehives during the day is crucial. The weather must be cool in order for the bees to stay calm.

Come next week, when Jonathan leaves for Singapore, we will resume the transfer of bee from Kampala to Timothy Centre at Masaka.

Sending a little bit of smoke signal telling the bees we are coming in peace.

Waiting for the bees to calm down before signalling Jonathan to come forward for the shoot.

First time for Jonathan to come so close to a colony of African bees.

Another magical moment for Jonathan's profile. Up close and personal.

December 9, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, propolis | , , , , , , , , | 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

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

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

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

Some facts about honey consumption……………………

Went to open my letter box yesterday. The test report had arrived! 🙂 This evening I gave a call to Professor to thank him. We had a long talk about the report and the honey we had harvested. There are so many things one will never believe what we can find from this tests. Many people only knew about honey from salespeople telling them how good the honey is or whether your grandfather or grandmother used to take them. Too much of marketing hypes. If you really ask the salesperson what actually is inside the honey, they will never know. I recalled sometime back in Singapore, when I asked one of the salesperson whether the honey was harvested riped or unriped, she gave me that queer look. 😛 She simply brushed me off telling me that the honey are pure honey and my grandfather used to take them???? I was wondering how did she ever knew my grandfather? I didn’t even knew him.

As much as one knows about internet and googles, one can find tons and tons of general and common information about honey, cut and paste from one website to another. Having said that, you can find at supermarket, salespeople trying to sell their product as if theirs is the ultimate honey and a miracle wonder compared to the rest of the honey from other honey suppliers. Little did one realised that most of the honey are coming from the same source. Same product, different packaging.

From the scientific point of view, honey is simple sugar. It is more easily digestable compared to complex sugar. What is important are following questions one should ask when buying honey from the supermarket;

1) Is the honey pastuerised? Once honey is heated, all the nutritional properties are damaged, enzymes are destroyed.

2) Is the honey collected from bees that are treated with anti-biotics? Most of the commercial bee farm, the bees are infected with some form of viruses.

3) What are the percentage of anti-biotic contamination? Is it within the safe level. There are cases where the anti-biotics are spilled over into the honey.

4) How does one define pure honey/Organic honey/natural honey/raw honey? What are the difference? Many a times, I find honey branded “Organic” but do not have any Organic certifications.

5) What is riped and unriped honey? Good quality honey are honey that are ripe and has a moisture content of less than 20%.

6) How can one harvest so much wild “riped” honey from one country and sold at the supermarket in tons? Wild honey are usually honey harvested from a species of honeybees called, “Apis Dorsata”. They are also known as “The Himalayans bees” or “The Giant Honeybees”. They are normad bees and only colonised on one hugh honey comb, unlike the “Apis Meliferra” honey bees. “Apis Dorsata” will “eat” the honey back before they are ripen before they travel to another destination.

Apis Dorsata nest

Apis Dorsata nest

7) If one is selling “Wild Honey”, are they “Honey Hunting”? Are they killing the bees in order to acquire the honey? “Wild honey” are seldom ripe. Unripe honey has a higher moisture content and are usually sourish in taste. Fermentation takes place at a much faster rate. Usually you are advised to consume the honey within a short period of time. Ripe honey will not ferment and has no shelf-life.

8 ) What sort of floral are they honey derived from? Different floral has different character in taste and colour. It must coincide to confirm the country of origin.

9) Tracebility? Do you know exactly where your honey is coming from? Or the honey has been mixed from all over the world.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, honey, honey byproduct, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honey in Kampala…………………….

First part of the honey harvesting work is finally done! 🙂 Hurrah! The next part – getting the honey extracted from the combs begins tomorrow. The journey of the honey from Gulu to Kampala took 10 hrs. By the time it reached Kampala, it was 2358hrs. This time round we had 2 more guys helping out in the transferring of the honey from the truck to the store. It took us 1 hrs to transfer them.

Truck entering the compound.

Truck entering the compound.

Offloading starts.

Offloading of honey combs starts.

House girl helping out in the offloading. Ugandans have very strong necks.

House girl helping out in the offloading. Ugandans have very strong necks.

Honey buckets neatly stacked in the store.

Honey buckets neatly stacked in the store.

5 tons of honey neatly stacked.

5 tons of honey neatly stacked.

The morning after.

The morning after.

95% of all these honey were harvested from traditional log hives. Honey samples from this batch sent to Hohenheim for test has met EU honey quality parameters. Many young NGOs always feel that only modern honey farming is the way to go. I feel that they have to do more studies before they come to that conclusion. They are throwing away good money by not having a better understanding of this industry first.

All you can is all you can do, and all you can do is enough.

June 7, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Things are moving…………………….

Honey storage room at collection centre

Honey storage room at collection centre

Honey harvesting season is over! Since early March, the farmers had been busy with the harvesting and they saw all their hardwork paying off. Was up in Gulu last few days to finalized the paperwork for the honey to come to Kampala. Am very pleased with the harvest and this year’s operation. The farmers were very co-operative and were also glad that they had found another source of income to supplement their livelihood, especially able to pay school fees for their children.

I was chatting with some of the farmers and asked them what they intend to do with this extra source of income. Some are going to reinvest in more beehives so that come next year, they will have more production. More production means more income. Others are thinking of buying some chicks to start a small poultry farm producing eggs for their local market. When I heard these, I was very proud of them. How I wish readers can be there to see the smiles on their faces. 22 years of insurgency had made them so wanting to get out of poverty. The Acholis, (people from Gulu), are really hardworking and serious with their work. Our honey production had increased 20% compared to last year. Ugandans with these kind of attitude are worth supporting. These farmers really impressed me.

Honey ready for transfer

Honey ready for transfer

The best news of the day was receiving a call from Professor telling me that the honey samples harvested from this season, which was sent to the University in early April had met European Union Honey Standards requirements again. (a pat on the shoulder) 🙂

Beekeepers' paradise taking shape

Beekeepers paradise taking shape

Coming back to the collection centre, it’s taking shape and with this period having abundant rainfall, things are growing and the flowers and plants are developing nicely. Soon I will be able to stay there, saving money from staying in hotel and best of all, my great dane can travel with me.

The next task is to organize the whole lot to come to Kampala. Meanwhile, we have started packing for Shoprite Supermarket here in Kampala since I had brought a few buckets back with me during my last trip. The honey will be sold under “Kids Of Africa” brand. A portion of the proceeds will go to the orphanage.

"Kids of Africa" honey packed and ready for delivery for Shoprite Supermarket, Kampala

"Kids of Africa" honey packed and ready for delivery for Shoprite Supermarket, Kampala

May 31, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s colonized!…………………….

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

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

Trial / test hive at Timothy Centre

Trial / test hive at Timothy Centre

Closer view of the hive with a new colony.

Closer view of the hive with a new colony.

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

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

Carrying trial beehive to site.

Carrying trial beehive to site.

Honey season is over. I will be embarking on my next project – Timothy Centre in Masaka. Karl and I had known each other since 2005 and we had always been keeping in touch, discussing beekeeping.

When he was given the task to develop a girls’ school in Masaka, he approached me to see whether would I be interested to join force and start a beekeeping project at this new centre. This is exciting for me for it will be another challenge in Uganda. Honey will never be enough for me because of the demand I am facing. Many challenges awaits me and the most difficult challenge I have to face is to instill proper handling of bees and honey onto the farmers.

Timothy Centre is still at its infant stage and it is Karl and Arleen’s baby from now on. I hope with this apiary being setup, it will benefit all, including farmers around the centre. We will conduct beekeeping training for the farmers so that they will acquire another skill to improve their source of income.

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

Setting up an apiary is not that easy as it seems. There are a lot of preparation and also understanding the environment and surrounding. Once the apiary is properly sited, and when the bees colonized, it will be very difficult to change the location later on. Hopefully this trial beehive will enable us to do an analysis to see whether beekeeping is suitable here.

If it is successful, I can forsee that this beekeeping project could well be my biggest project ever in my 8 years stay here. We had some indepth brainstorming session and the developing ideas we had is really exciting. I shall keep our plans for the time being until everything is concrete and finalized.

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

Siting the trial beehive.

Ready to trap bees.

Ready to trap bees.

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

The beauty of nature…………………….

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

The wonder of nature!

The wonder of nature!

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

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey | , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Quest for excellence…………………….

This footage was done in 2002. Professor Horn was observing the health of the African honeybees. I was his understudy then. We discovered that the bees in Uganda are free from any diseases or virus. No medication is required. Almost the whole beekeeping industry in the New World are succumbed to some diseases or virus. Not in Uganda. There are no traces of American Foul Brood, European Foul Brood or Varroa Mites,which are very common in other parts of the World.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 12, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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

Api Mellifera Scutellata

Have you ever wonder what would happen to the bees if you and I or any beekeeper did not exist? Nature will have its way of making sure of their existence one way or another. Greed comes with destruction. I may sound esoteric, but yes I am a commercial beekeeper. I do make a living harvesting honey from these wonderful insects. And NO, I do not believe they require human intervention or modification with their way of lives to provide honey for us. All we can do is all we can do, and all we can do is enough. Maybe it was this journey of mine for the last 8 years that I saw too many bees sacrificing their lives in the name of eradicating poverty. It has become so fake! So much so that the joy of being in this industry is somehow marred by notion from Organizations claiming that they are making a better life for the people.

But they have forgotten some………….the bees. 😦

The meaning of beekeeping is to grasp the joy of the evening sun, walking towards your beehive, interacting very closely with what GOD has allow us to see – peaceful communal living amongst the bees. Trying to help us understand why we as humans have to succumb to discontentment.

But instead, we destroy nature’s way of putting all things in their correct prospective. AHBs did not asked to be in USA, it was we humans that brought them there in the name of science. So I guess we have to take responsibility in learning to live with them and not just destroy them.

I do not re queen my weak colonies, I let them decide how and when they want a new queen. they are their best judge. I can only say I will work doubly hard to make sure I go into the forest to trap more swarming bees for my apiaries.

I had been approached by some commercial beekeepers that this is not the way to produce more honey commercially, but still it all boils down to greed again. I am still happily producing enough honey for my customers without jeopardizing the lives of these insects.

I believe for any hobbyist beekeeper, the challenge should not be bothered by how much honey his or her colony can produce or how strong is the colony. The challenge is to watch how they grow and procreate, be it fast or slow. Having honey is a bonus for your tender loving care for them. And most important of all, how they live. 🙂

I would like to leave these few words for you to digest – Beekeeping…..for better or for worst……for the bees!

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