Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

Hive Inspection (Local Hive)…………………….

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

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

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

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

Beekeeping, a full time job…………………….

Many bee farmers in Uganda are lacking the skills in hive management. Many were taught to simply place the hives out into the woods, wait for it to be colonized and hopefully when the honey season starts, go and harvest the honey. At times they would discover that the hives are empty. They will just wait for the next colony to come. African bees are quick in absconding and a mismanaged hive is one of the reason.

In one of our topics, we teach farmers the importance of hive management and to rectify any discrepancies. If the hive is not in good condition, eg wet or too many openings due to wood warping, they need to change the hive.

In this video below, you can see one of the lessons in hive management.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BEST Basic Beekeeping Course Prospectus 2012 – 2013

A Very Happy New Year! We are glad to present our latest BEST Basic Beekeeping Course Prospectus.

 

You can download a PDF copy of the prospectus below.

BEST Basic Beekeeping Course Prospectus 2012 -2013

January 2, 2012 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Processing, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A week of bees, fresh air and sunshine…………………….

We had just concluded another session of beekeeping course at Kajjansi beekeeping centre, entebbe. The quality of the participants are getting better. I was really impressed with this batch of students. It was no longer a,”teacher speaks, student listens” kind of classes anymore. There were so much interaction between the trainer and the students. The feedback on how to improve and finetune the program was constructive and interesting. This shows the evolution of what are needed in order to be competent in one’s progress.

KJBP-1102

October 22, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, honey, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

Route from Malacca to Ulu Tiram, Johore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am finally home.

 

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

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

KL to Azman's farm in Bangi

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

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

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

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

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

Azman and Haniz with their favorite colony.

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

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

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

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

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

Hive with a side glass window panel for easy observation.

Gentle approach is the key to gentle bees.

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

The beauty of api cerana.

Azman working on another colony.

A larger version of the observation hive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bee exhibition hall

Wall to wall bee display

Information counter

Interior view of stingless bees colony

Mr. Ong and his bees

Honey production centre

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

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

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

Universiti Sains Malaysia, medical research department.

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

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

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

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

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

Trigona, Stingless bees.

Entrance to a stingless bee colony.

Docile Apis Mellifera Italiana.

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

Observing the more nasty cousin, apis ceranas.

Entrance to the stingless bees apiary.

Top view of a stingless bee colony.

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

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

Before my feasibility study officially starts next Monday, my hands were already itching, not from bee stings, but getting ready for my hands on with the beekeeping industry in Malaysia.

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

I realized that this place belongs to Mr Ong, who has another tourist attraction located at Malacca. Somehow the set up was similar but on a smaller scale.

There were two sales ladies manning the shop. They were basically there to answer simple questions about honey and to introduce the different kinds of honey available for sale. Other than that, you would not be able to get in depth questions being answered.

I was surprised to get this information from one of them. She mentioned that only hornets and wasps venom can kill, not honeybees. She even assured me that honeybees venom are not poisonous and has healing properties. Well, I felt that this information was very misleading. She was right and wrong at the same time. All of us react differently to bee venom. Some can take a few thousand stings but others can be killed with only one sting. Some react violently to the venom and can go into anaphylactic shock which can lead to death if not attend to immediately. There are some medical benefit being investigated regarding honeybee venom in relation to apitherapy. Some Therapists use honeybee venom to relieve people who have arthritis. But that does not mean the honeybee venom can be applied to everybody.

Many people in Asia I came across, often believe what these sales ladies say. They would simply take their words for it without probing further. I asked a few more questions and then decided to stop because I knew it would be pointless for me  to pursue further.

They had a row of beehives on display. Only 2 hives were occupied, one with an Italian species while the other colony is a species commonly found in Malaysia. They are called “Trigonas”. These bees are also called “stingless bees”.

This place do have a great varieties of honey and its by products. Its educational approach was somehow comprehensive enough for laymen. Anyway, many would not know what sort of questions to ask. Overall presentation was good. But somehow, I felt that the sale ladies should upgrade themselves with better and correct knowledge in order to provide more in depth information for the customer to understand. I felt there is too much emphasis on trying to sell the product.

Little knowledge is dangerous.

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

Information comprehensive enough for laymen.

A number of choices for honey and its by products.


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

Agricultural Finance Year book 2010…………………….

Beginning of this year, I was commissioned by Bank of Uganda to write an article about the honey industry in Uganda. It was meant for their year book for 2010. It had been published and I had duplicated it for all to read.

In this article, you will have a better insight about the honey business and its potential.

Agricultural Finance Yearbook 2010

3.3   Money in Honey:  Investing for Quality Gives Best Returns in a

         High Prospect Sub-sector[1]

 Section 1 The Markets for Ugandan Honey

All honey, in the hive, is at its purest possible quality. The vegetation around where bees forage determine the flavour, colour and viscosity of the honey. Quality deteriorates because of poor harvesting and processing methods. Normally it is the human factor that plays the biggest role in compromising the quality of honey. This will be further elaborated in Section 2 below.

Honey producers can target local, regional and global markets. The local market can be sub-divided into two segments. The first such segment is almost purely price-driven. Quality here is not an issue. Honey catering for this market is promoted by street vendors, selling it in all sorts of reused packaging, ranging from soda bottles to used cooking oil containers. Some foreigners or tourists are actually enticed by these vendors in the villages, as they believe honey sold in rural areas is natural and unadulterated. To prove that the honey is pure, the vendors have a practice of dropping a dead bee inside the bottle!

The other local segment caters to the retail market such as supermarkets and sundry shops in and around all major districts. In this segment, there is a small group of consumers that go for higher quality honey that has fewer impurities. However, the bigger local demand is still for low priced honey, as most consumers are not particular or have little knowledge about honey standards.

For the higher-priced retail market, presentation and packaging are important. Usually the honey is packed in new plastic jars with a net weight of 500g. Of late, with an increase in choice of packaging materials, honey is also packed in smaller quantities of 100g and 250g. Retail prices, locally and regionally, hover around UGX 3,800 to UGX 5,000 per 500gm.

Regarding export market, honey from Uganda is said to be exported to the European Union and the Middle East. However there are no official statistics for this market. It is believed Ugandan honey is exported by a couple of companies in small quantities, directly to niche retailers, instead of being exported in bulk.

The quality of honey for the export market must be very high. For exporting to European Union countries, the honey has to meet the European Union Honey Legislation requirements (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/ ). The important aspects buyers look into are the country of origin, pollen spectrum, flavour, enzyme activity, moisture and sediment content. Packaging for such niche markets varies according to the buyers’ requirements. It can be in airtight buckets of 25kg or in individual jars, as specified by the buyers.

Bulk export is usually packed in food-grade drums of 300kg. Currently the price for bulk honey is between US$1.20 – 1.30 per kg (CIF). The minimum required quantity for bulk export is a full container load of at least 20 tons. At present, Uganda’s honey industry is still at the infant stage. Nobody yet has the capacity to tap into the bulk export market.

Section 2  Quality Issues in the Honey Value Chain

For the basic local market, honey is mainly sourced from honey hunters and traditional bee farmers. Honey hunters get their honey from wild bee colonies in anthills and hollow tree trunks, while the traditional beekeepers own a few beehives made out of local materials such as rattan and logs.

There are also a good number of modern beehives given by donors and funded projects. Both the honey hunters and traditional bee farmers got their knowledge of beekeeping from their forefathers and practise destructive methods of honey harvesting. They do not tend to the bees regularly and will only approach the colonies during harvesting season. They force the bees out of the hives with lots of smoke and fire before collecting whatever remains in the hive. The honeycombs with brood, beebread, ripe and unripe honey are then squeezed with bare hands or unhygienic equipment. Some will even boil the honey to separate honey from the wax. Investment for players in this sector is minimal. Both the producers and sellers make use of whatever they can get hold of and no expensive equipment and training are required.

For the local and regional retail market there are also more commercially-minded producers. Some are traditional bee farmers and some are members of beekeeping associations, who have gone through a form of training. They usually sell their honey to traders or packers who add value by packaging before selling to retailers. There are a significant number of players involved in this segment.

Packers are normally not beekeepers themselves. Middlemen will travel to villages to buy from various sources and resell at some centralized market in town. Most packers purchase from these middlemen, filter some of the impurities from the honey, pack and label for retail sales. Little or no testing and minimal quality control of the honey is involved. The packers only need to invest in simple filtering equipment, plastic jars and labels. Investment in improving the presentation of the end product is important, as many different brands compete for attention on the same retail shelves.

Although the packaging has improved, the quality of the honey varies greatly amongst different brands. Though some of the producers have undergone training and have acquired modern beehives such as Kenyan Top Bar hives or Langstroth hives, most of the training is done in classrooms without any actual interaction with the bees. The lack of hands-on experience in handling the bees catches most beekeepers off-guard when they encounter the aggressive behaviour of the African bees face to face during their first harvest. This has led to the development of fear of the bees and subsequently these apiarists revert back to the destructive mode of harvesting. This will result in dead bees, burnt grass ashes and melted wax being mixed together with the honey. As such, the quality of the honey will still be compromised, despite the investments  in training and the use of more expensive hives.

Often the emphasis is on short term profitability of the business, without any education on the importance of proper handling of the bees for longer term productivity and profit. This is just like putting the cart in front of the horse. Bee farmers should recognize the bees as an important asset in their honey business. They have to understand how to work harmoniously with the bees in their natural environment, rather than fighting against the bees. It is only when they can calmly work on the bees that they will abandon the hit-and-run approach of harvesting. They can then harvest correctly, maintaining the quality of the honey. When the process is right, the outcome will be right. Profitability will follow when the honey quality and yield improve.

For bee farmers and beekeeping associations that pack their own honey for retail sales, improved training will equip them to do quality control and produce higher quality honey. However,  non-beekeeper packers who buy their honey from middlemen have absolutely no control over the quality of the honey. They buy whatever is available during that period. Even if some good quality honey is produced at the source (i.e. by the bee farmers in rural areas) there is no way to prevent adulteration, mixing with other lower quality honey or improper handling by the many hands through which the honey passes.

For the export market the investment is much higher both in training and equipment. In order to maintain best quality, all involved have to be acutely aware of the consequence of not doing the right thing. Any mistake along the way, starting from the very source inside the hive, through the harvesting, processing and packaging, will lead to the honey failing to meet the stringent requirements for the export market. As such, even after the initial training, beekeepers and refinery staff have to be constantly reminded, monitored and re-trained to ensure they follow the proper procedures.

Bee farmers must harvest only ripe honey, using the proper harvesting method to ensure the honey is not laden with excessive smoke and ashes. At the refinery, the honey extraction, filtering and packing has to be carefully controlled. Throughout the chain of activities, the honey has to be handled with clean equipment and stored under proper conditions. Although the investment in honey processing equipment is also higher for exporters, the bulk of the investment actually needs to be set aside for training and follow-ups as people are always the deciding factor in maintaining the quality of the honey.

Most of the beekeeping training courses which are currently available in Uganda are only acceptable for producing for the local and regional markets. In order to fulfill the more stringent requirements for the export market, exporters will have to work closely with their outgrowers, to the extent of developing a monitoring system or database to keep track of the farmers and of their performance. Close supervision of all departments involved will ensure that the required level of competence is achieved.

Section 3  Typical Investment and Returns for a Small Apiary

There is no magic figure in starting beekeeping. The numbers of hives one can maintain depends on the competency of the beekeeper, the land available to him or her and the vegetation surrounding the land. For discussion purpose, we look at a typical smallholder beekeeper with 20 hives that are colonized.

Before comparing the different kinds of hives from which a beekeeper can choose, the other standard accessories they should be equipped with are:

A smoker @ UGX 25,000

A protective bee suit @ UGX 120,000

A hive tool @ UGX 10,000

A bee brush @ UGX 7,000

A pair of protective gloves @ UGX 18,000

20 airtight buckets for honey harvesting @ UGX 7,500 each = UGX 150,000

Basic beekeeping training @ UGX 300,000

Total standard cost                                                                    UGX 630,000

Now we shall compare the costs and income achievable using different kinds of hives. It usually takes about 18 months for a new colony to fully build up its strength and produce to capacity. Small harvests are possible in the first year, but this will be excluded in the calculation below, as it is not certain that production in the first year will be achieved.

a)For traditional beehive investment

Cost of 20 traditional beehive @ UGX 10,000 = UGX 200,000

Plus standard cost, as above  = UGX 630,000

Total investment = UGX 830,000

Honey harvest in a year = 15kg / hive

Total honey harvest in the 2nd & 3rd year = 600 kg

Selling price of honey = UGX 3,000 per kilo

Gross income = UGX 1,800,000

Net income = UGX 970,000

b) For Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) beehive investment…

Cost of 20 KTB beehive @ UGX 60,000 = UGX 1,200,000

Standard cost = UGX 630,000

Total investment = UGX 1,830,000

Honey harvest in a year = 20kg / hive

Total honey harvest in the 2nd & 3rd year = 800 kg

Selling price of honey = UGX 3,000 per kilo

Gross income = UGX 2,400,000

Net income = UGX 570,000

c) For Langstroth beehive investment…

Cost of 20 Langstroth beehive @ UGX 140,000 = UGX 2,800,000

Standard cost = UGX 630,000

Total investment = UGX 3,430,000

Honey harvest in a year = 30kg / hive

Total honey harvest in the 2nd & 3rd year = 1200 kg

Selling price of honey = UGX 3,000 per kilo

Gross income = UGX 3,600,000

Net income = UGX 170,000

To use the Langstroth beehive effectively, a much higher beekeeping skill level and precision hive construction are needed. This is to ensure productivity over a number of years, to realize the benefits of the considerable investment involved, upfront. With the current conditions in Uganda, traditional and Kenyan Top Bar hives are still the more recommended methods of beekeeping.

With improved knowledge, skills and close monitoring of the activities of the bees, harvesting can be done on a more regular basis and thus yield will increase. Also, in the rural areas where properly dried timber is not available, KTB and Langstroth hives will warp after a short while and create problems for the beekeepers when handling the bees. They will also be difficult to maintain and repair. Using local materials available in hive construction is more appropriate.

Section 4 A Honey Export Operation

To start an export honey operation, one can choose to be involved in the upstream activity of beekeeping, or to concentrate on trading. In the discussion below, we are looking at the operations of an exporter who does not engage in beekeeping itself. The company will buy directly from the outgrowers, process the honey and pack it for export. The main field of operation will be sourcing, processing and marketing.

There are two kinds of export in which one could be engaged, small scale and bulk export, respectively.

For small-scale export, the basic equipment required would be:

Honey extracting equipment, stainless steel settling tanks, filtering equipment, airtight buckets, clean refinery & storage building, pickup. The cost can range from UGX 50,000,000 to UGX 150,000,000, excluding the building.

For bulk export, the basic equipment required would be:

Forklift truck, food grade drums, palettes, honey extracting equipment, stainless steel settling tanks, filtering equipment, airtight buckets, clean refinery & storage building, truck. The cost can range from UGX 300,000,000 onwards, again excluding the building.

Expansion of a refinery can be progressive. One can invest in the minimum initially and add on more of the same equipment as production increases. Usually, companies will start with small-scale export. Once they secure more honey and orders, they can easily switch over to bulk export operations by adding on some other equipment. Whatever they have already invested in will not be wasted, as the assets are still applicable in the new operation.

At the moment, the local and regional demand for honey far exceeds the supply. In fact, local and regional prices are more attractive than those achievable for bulk export, at world honey wholesale prices. At the same time, the investment for a bulk export operation is quite substantial. Thus bulk export is not the most profitable option at the time of writing. Small-scale export to niche markets that command higher product prices is a more attractive choice to start with.

As written in Section 2 above, the investment in training and education will be much higher than the investment in hardware. It is difficult to quantify this software investment as it varies with the level of professionalism of the staff and  moreover is an on-going investment.

It is only during the last ten years that the beekeeping industry is slowly gaining attention as an additional income generating activity for the growing number of farmers who have small land plots. The local land inheritance culture of dividing land among one’s sons is causing plots to be split into smaller portions. Beekeeping becomes a viable enterprise for such small landowners, as it takes up less space compared to agriculture or animal husbandry. This newly-noticed industry is not well understood by banks in Uganda and they have not developed any special schemes to cater for beekeeping activities. They will assess any loan request using standard policies and procedures.  The following is a summary, from the point of view of a honey producer.

a) Financing Equipment: For companies engaging in honey production and processing, asset-financing arrangements are possible with some general equipment such as generators and vehicles. However, banks would be more reluctant to provide loans for equipment that is specific to the beekeeping industry, such as refinery equipment and beehives. They will only consider loans for such specific equipment if there are other assets to secure it. Risk is much higher due to the limited resale market for such items. Also, for production equipment like beehives, it will be almost impossible to repossess once the bees colonize the hives.

b) Working Capital: Unlike equipment loans where the equipment itself is an asset with some value as collateral,  banks are more stringent in facilitating loans for working capital. The usual procedure would require the borrower to use assets such as land, buildings or fixed deposit as collateral to secure the loan. They will also look into the past years’ cash flows and performance of the company in deciding the payment terms. Interest rate is in the high 20% – 30% range.

An alternative for companies without suitable assets as collateral would be contract financing, whereby, with a firm order secured from a buyer, the exporter could negotiate for a temporary loan using that as security. Unlike businesses such as manufacturing where business activities are more evenly spread out through the year, honey production is seasonal. The huge amount of money needed to buy the honey during the one or two seasons a year poses a great strain on most companies’ cash flows.

With contract financing, once the exporter ascertains the amount of honey their out-growers can harvest for the season, they can liaise with their buyer and bank for such a financing arrangement[2]. The money released in advance by the bank makes it possible for them to pay the outgrowers for the honey, process and ship it to their customer. The exporter will incur less interest expense with contract financing, compared to the case with unsecured finance, which in any case is extremely difficult to obtain in Uganda.

c) Financing for Smallholder Producers:  Local banks are receptive to opportunities to provide financial services to out-growers supported by a processor / exporter. Many banks are coming up with low cost savings accounts and are opening branches upcountry to tap into this market. However, the monthly bank charges may still be too taxing on beekeepers who may receive income only once or twice a year. Also, any loan packages come with the unaffordable interest of more than 20% and a short repayment period. Beekeeping is unlike most other agriculture or animal husbandry activities when it comes to the investment and return schedule. Almost all the investment is made in the initial period and the returns only start to be generated 18 months later. However, the beekeeper can reap returns for many years thereafter with minimal maintenance investment. If this situation is understood by the banking sector, and they develop special loan packages that take all these unique characteristics of beekeeping activity into account, then it would be viable for the outgrowers to tap into financing by the banks.

Section 5  Support by Government

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries has been making efforts to support the honey industry by assisting commercial beekeepers and stakeholders with permits for bee transfers and veterinary certification for honey exports.

The Ministry of Trade and Tourism and The Uganda Export Promotion Board also issue different certificates essential to any export of honey, while the Ministry of Finance allows tax exemption on imports of honey processing equipment and packaging.

All these greatly help in advancing and developing this industry. It would be an added boost to the development if all the necessary permits and certificates could be processed in a one-stop location. Not only is it more efficient for the exporter, it will be easier for Uganda to compile statistics regarding this industry. With more information and feedback, the Government can then formulate policies that will enhance the growth of this industry.

The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) Program provided some farmers with beehives and training. There is room for improvement in the quality of the provisions though.

With the setting up of ApiTrade Uganda, an organization dedicated to supporting the beekeeping industry, Uganda is trying to provide a regional link for producers, buyers and equipment suppliers[3]. They organized ‘Apitrade’, a honey conference / exhibition that acts as a platform for interested players in the industry to meet. It is held once every two years in different African countries; the first was in Uganda in 2008. This year, 2010, Apitrade is hosted by Zambia and in 2012 it will be in Ghana.

_________________

[1] Author:  Lesster Leow, EastWest Innovations Uganda Ltd.

[2] See also Article 4.2 in this Yearbook for a more complete discussion of bank financing linked to forward sales contracts.

[3] Apitrade Africa is a private Organization set up in Uganda to facilitate the honey industry, (www.apitradeafrica.org). Anybody who wants information about the honey industry must join as a member in order to get assistance.

July 9, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get me to the church on time…………………….

Finally after one and half month of melting, molding and working round the clock, these candles are ready to leave home to attend a wedding banquet in Canada.

Not long ago, farmers were not aware of the by products from honey farming. They used to throw honey combs away after extracting the honey out of it. Today, not only they knew that beeswax are so useful in various aspect, it is also another form of income generating component. With proper education and guidance, they now understood the value of beeswax.

To top it all, burning beeswax candles are more environmental friendly than burning paraffin based candles. Petroleum based candle gives off toxic fumes.

The finished product looks good and the process looks simple but behind the scene, the hardship of one has to go through, many will not understand. Working with Ugandans are like producing these candles. You have to mold each and individual with time and patience, one at a time.

Beeswax candles going places.

Candles going Canada.

June 27, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping bees with passion…………………….

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

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

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

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

Mr. Wamule and his apiary.

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

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

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

A combination of a langstroth and top bar hive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The brood chamber of Mr. Wamule's hive.

Home made bee escape.

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

At his workshop.

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

Stop mutilating the queen…………………….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The beginning of the end for this colony.

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

 

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

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

B.E.S.T. – TCBP1006…………………….

The program is slowly attracting the expatriates community who wanted to play their part not only in embarking on honey farming, but also in keeping the eco-system balance. This class saw a group of interesting and bubbly participants whom I can considered them the most interactive and inquisitive lot so far. I was challenged a few times to demonstrate what I taught. That was good! This is the way to learn. It is no point having me talking and participant listening. Practical observation speaks for itself.

Although we had a full registration for this class, it was disappointing to learn that a group of 5 from the local community did not turn up for the training although they were fully sponsored by an Organization. This shows the seriousness of wanting to progress. Anyway, its their losses.

TCBP1006

Tania Lazib –  “Absolutely fantastic class; Lesster’s general insight /and understanding of bee behaviour is excellent.  I came from no beekeeping experience to a point, by the end of the class, where I am comfortable planning my apiary, baiting hives, doing maintenance on the hives, and finally, collecting the honey (in a sustainable /and non-intrusive manner).  Mostly practical training with the right amount theory to back it up. There was so much more to say!”

Tania holding a comb of African bees for the very first time.

Colin LeendersHi Lesster, I would like to say that I enjoyed your bee keeping course very much. The week spent with you has changed the way I work WITH bees not against them which is what I have been doing in the past. I was amazed at how you can work with African bees using bare hands and not wearing head gear without being attacked and as we all know these bees have a lot of attitude. In the past when I have been working AGAINST them it was full on war as soon as the hive was opened and after it was closed.

Also like the fact that the course was keep simple easy to understand and loads of information about bees and honey. When I say simple I mean that after reading loads about bee keeping it can sound complicated also there are plenty of incorrect information out there, which during the course has been explained and demonstrated.

It is good to have loads of hands on learning with the bees and not all class room teaching. The classes are a good size. We had a good group which made it fun as well.

Once again thank you. I also highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in learning or working with bees. The learning curve does not have to be painful. – Colin

Colin slowly lifting up brood comb for inspection.

Gentle interaction with African bees makes beekeeping exciting and enjoyable.

The class ended with a field trip on Friday. We visited an apiary where our former student had setup after the training. I was very proud of Fred and Madrine for the development.

The apiary was very well done and bees are already colonizing and had even started the honey collection process.

Traditional hives neatly placed in line for ease of management.

An impressive apiary with colonies busy with honey collections.

Bee-utiful results from all the hardwork. The art of African beekeeping.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping training, honey, 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

Beekeeping in Rwanda……..The feasibility study…………………….

It was just like yesterday when I conducted feasibiltiy study on the honey industry in Uganda in 2001. Rwanda beekeeping industry is still at an infant stage. There are so much room for growth. I was very impressed with the vegetations Rwanda has. Rwanda do have the potential to become a major honey player in the international scene. But then again, its easier said than done because my findings had seen a number of issues that requires serious interventions. If not it cannot bloom beyond the horizon.

The rush into modernization without even knowing whether the farmers are ready for it is one of the serious issue. The lack of knowledge both on the behaviours of the african bees and the utilization of modern beehives will stunt the growth of this industry. I am not sure were there any financial planning in creating a sustainable enterprise being sensitized to the farmers before they embark on the business.

Farmers invested heavily in bee house but not knowing how to colonize hives. All sitting nicely but no where to go. The production of traditonal beehives were just digging a hole through a trunk without analyzing whether will there be rooms for proper harvesting. Prudent financial planning is needed in order for the farmer to start a beekeeping business. Without proper education, farmer's financial will be exhausted in buying expensive hives even before seeing some returns for a long time.

Regular hive management is required for langstroth. A small colony will never grow if temperature control is not observed for this kind of hive.

A modern langstroth beehive is supposed to increase the production and for easy handling of the bees. Here you see a langstroth bee hive being sealed completely with clay. The bees will definitely turn more aggressive when farmer tries to pry open the hive during inspection or if there were any regular inspection at all. The bees are naturally more aggressive than the european bees, but they are made even more aggressive if the farmer were to handle the hive with so much disturbance and movements.

A modern beehive is a double edge sword. It can produce 3 times more than a traditional beehive if managed properly, but it can also be a white elephant if it was use without proper know how.

Bad handling of bees lead to aggressive behaviour. Aggressive bees make harvesting difficult. Farmers start to rush through harvesting using a lot of smoke. Bees become even more agressive with so much smoke. Farmer start killing bees. The hive will be filled with smoke thus making the honey taste smokey. Many contaminants are deposited onto honey. Quality drops. Honey will not be able to meet the necessary requirements.

Think of the process, not the outcome. If the process is right, the outcome will be right.

February 22, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Honey Quality Control, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , | 2 Comments

Imbabazi Orphanage Director’s visit……………………

Last week was indeed a hectic week which saw us covering almost 1,200 km of traveling route. Jeff Ramsey, the Director for Imbabazi accompanied by his assistant director, Devon were here on a field trip to see my work. They intend to invite me over to Rwanda to conduct a feasibility study on a beekeeping project. They were eager to find the way forward.

Within a 5 days span, we moved from South where Timothy Centre is located and Gulu, where my commercial beekeepers are. The main highlight for the trip was meeting up with Carol Higgins from Otino Waa Orphanage, Lira. Meeting Carol would be a very good yardstick for them to understand what to expect.

"I was arrayed at the success of Lesster's technique for managing African bees. Contrasting bees managed using his process was startling. These bees were so calm and non-agressive. It is obvious to even a novice such as myself that this technique really works well." - Jeff Ramsey

Visit to Otino Waa Orphanage's apiary and refinery in Lira, Northern Uganda. Honey sale is already part of their source of income for the last 4 years.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

You can see the original article here.

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

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

Photos by Lesster Leow, Aug 29, 2010

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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

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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 | , , , , | 3 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