Uganda Honey

Honey in its purest

B.E.S.T. in progress……………………

Honeybees were once treated as enemy or pest when it gets into a home. Not anymore. With proper education and sensitization, we can actually live harmoniously together with them.

Mr. Zolkaflil Aris had a colony of apis cerana nesting in his letter box for almost a year now. Being an animal lover, he was reluctant to have that colony destroyed. He was wondering what to do with it.

When I arrived at his residence in Damasara, I realized that urbanization had destroyed many natural habitat for these little ladies. I believed if they had their choices, they would not want to interfere with us humans. But with the fast pace of urbanization and deforestation to make way for our development, their natural habitat were somehow encroached.

I shared with Mr. Aris how he can convert his letterbox into a comfortable home for these honeybees and learn how to live with them. In return, this new hobby of his will be rewarding. For the effort in looking after them, they will provide a regular flow of honey for his family.

This idea had created a win win situation for all. Instead of killing them, with proper knowledge instilled, human and insect can live harmoniously together.

Mr. Aris was taught how to calm the bees with a simple smoker.

Opening up the "beehive" for the very first time.

A colony of apis cerana well under controlled.

A little bit more smoke to let them stay in place.

A wild colony of apis cerana had became a family pet for Mr. Aris.

After going through the process a few times, He felt that honeybees were not as dangerous as one always looked at them if there understood their needs and wants. Getting aggressive is just part of nature’s way in protecting themselves. If they were handled with tender loving care, they can be very good house pets.

Before we part, his wisdom gave me a new light in having honeybees as pets. He said,” Whenever people go for holidays, they tend to worry about their pets. Where should they put them, who to feed them, will they be stressed if they don’t come back soon. But as for honeybees being so independent, they do not have to worry for them, they find their own food and look after themselves”.

He had bought a new letter box for his normal mails since then.

I am glad that I had embarked on a journey that life lessons never end. 🙂

B.E.S.T. – Bringing Ecology and Society Together.

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September 12, 2011 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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

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

Photos by Lesster Leow, Aug 29, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

BestProgram300810_040910, posted with vodpod

Class TC-BP1003

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

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



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

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

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

Below is an extract of the article,

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

Here is the full article;

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

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

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

Was at the University beginning of this year conducting a feasibility study on rural beekeeping in Chiangdao, North of Chiangmai, Thailand. Here is a video footage while I was at the University observing some bees and having a discussion with the Professor. The honey bees they are using is a very docile species. Apis Mellifera Italiana. That is why it was not necessary for me to don on my beesuit. But when it comes to African bees, Apis Mellifera Scutellata, I will definitely have my suit put on with the veil flipped back. If they became aggressive, I will then fully cover myself.

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

Chiang Dao – feasibility study, part 2.

4/3/2009 – Made my first stop at Chiangmai University, Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture. Had a very good insight of the beekeeping industry, thanks to Assistant Professor Pichai Kongpitak. His passion for developing this industry in Thailand made me feel much more confident that if I were to start honey farming here, I will not be lost. 🙂

Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiangmai University

Entomology Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Chiangmai University

Professor Pichai Kongpitak and me.

Professor Pichai Kongpitak and me.

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

Opening up a hive at the University.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Close up view of the observation hive at the University.

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

These bees are a healthy lot!

These bees are a healthy lot!

This part of my fact findings had given me more confident in crystalizing the direction for the bee farmers in Chiang Dao. The main issue lies in the sensitizing of the farmers and to guide them in making the correct decision for themselves. Let see what turn up next.

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

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

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

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

Traffic jam (One night in Bangkok)

Traffic jam (One night in Bangkok)

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

Stopping along the roadside for brunch

Stopping along the roadside for brunch

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

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

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

Model agricultural farm for Thai farmers.

Model agricultural farm for Thai farmers.

Mushroom production hut

Mushroom production hut

Cultured mushroom

Cultured mushroom

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

Smooth road to Chiang Dao

Smooth road to Chiang Dao

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

Thai beekeeper showing me his bees in his garden.

Thai beekeeper showing me his bees in his garden.

Slowly lifting up the ladies' veils

Slowly lifting up the ladies' veils

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

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

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

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

Arranging them back in place before closing up the hive

Arranging them back in place before closing up the hive

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

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

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

Going places…………………….

My leaking roof had been bothering me for the last three years and finally I can get it changed. My bees have to find a new home because if I were to leave them out in my garden while the roof is being fixed, they will become aggressive with all the banging. So for the last few nights I have to caged them up and transfer them to one of my apiary 16kms from my home. This is the final hive that I need to transfer and boy was it heavy! There are about 60,000 bees inside this beehive. One false move, they can kill.

Preparing the transfer

Preparing to transfer a honey hive into an enclosure

Lifts off!

Tied and lift off!

Nicely fit!

Nicely fit!

Final check.

Final check before transporting bee hive to another location.

January 7, 2009 Posted by | bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Api Mellifera Scutellata

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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