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

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

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. – 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

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

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

BEST Program exploring Malaysia………………..

We got acquainted with some Philanthropists from Singapore and we are in the midst of a discussion of bringing our bee education centre project to a development in Malaysia called, “Kampung Temasek“.

Before we begin our input at Kampung Temasek, comes July next year, we will start our feasibility study on how we can establish ourselves as an education centre for those who wants to know more about honeybees and its impact on the environment. Here is the vision of Kampung Temasek;

“The core purpose of Kampung Temasek is to do what cannot and is not done in Singapore by way of educating our parents and kids about nature, the kampong spirit and the reconstitution of our innate Singaporean enterprise-spirit which no longer available in urban Singapore.

What was gained and what was lost? We gained values and skills for industrialisation, white collar jobs and systematic administration. But our loss was creativity, initiatives, imagination, the enterprise spirit and empathy with nature, community and etc.

This Kampung Temasek project is primarily an educational program for the entire family because it enables them to reawaken lost values, attitudes and skills. Starting with confidence building through adventuring and bodily coordination, the enterprise spirit will be exposed to nature and the surrounding communities to better grasp the natural and social ecosystems which sustain all life forms. These knowledge and abilities are challenged through projects which require creativity of the individual and the family.

Special trainers and enablers will be on hand to facilitate the learning process to make it tremendously enjoyable and enlightening. To free the hearts and minds of people to new challenges, unfamiliar situations and new opportunities the 21st century will throw at us since every job, vocation and interest will change.

Striving to provide an experiential enterprising education for the whole family, Kampung Temasek welcomes all enterprising spirits interested in rediscovering the missing ingredient for successful living”.

We find Kampung Temasek very much in line with our BEST program and hopefully by end of 2011, we would have developed a small education centre for the public and at the same time develop a beekeeping industry for the village community around so that it will be another source of income.

Below is the proposed plan for the development of the Bee Centre. The final location has not been decided yet. Please visit Kampung Temasek website for a more detailed insight.

Proposed Bee Centre at Kampung Temasek, Ulu Tiram Malaysia

October 3, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, 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

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

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

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

You never knew…………………….

Yesterday I received an email from a trading Company in Singapore telling me that they are interested to carry our honey products to be marketed back in my homeland. I guessed they could had gotten my contact either from the web or had read an article somewhere regarding my work as a honey farmer here.

The first few questions she asked were, “How much is your honey? Is your honey pure? Is your honey real? I want your cheapest honey.”

If it was my former self, I would had taken it personally. How can she ask me all these questions without first doing her homework on the industry. She had not even understood what a beekeeper had to go through in order to have that clean jar of honey on the table. I was very surprised with myself that not only was I not offended with these questions thrown at me, and instead replied her with an earnest answer. There are no rights or wrongs with consumers asking that kind of questions. Its just because there are not enough information for the consumers to understand about this industry, especially honey farming in a third world country. I had to thank Violet Oon for that.

Violet shared her experiences as a professional in her work, dealing with all kinds of people from all walks of life. While we were discussing about how we are going to present Uganda honey back to Singapore, we touched on the competitiveness of our honey in comparison with the honey from other countries. My main concern was that Uganda has no regular shipment or flight back to Singapore and the cost of transportation will be an issue. What struck me was when she enlightened me on the different consumers’ needs and want. I began to empathize with the way the lady approached me with her questions. There are products that are meant for general public and there are products that only meant for those who knows and appreciate the values. Its not the end product but what kind of social impact the product had benefited the community during the course of development. I should be the one having to recognize which market is best suitable for my product. Once I can place the path correctly, I will get my direction right.

Coming back to the process of harvesting honey, the many challenges that the farmers had to face had never crossed the mind of the people around the table when that small teaspoon of honey was lifted off the jar. Two of the toughest but deadly challenges faced by the farmers are mentioned below. Personally I had encountered some of the snakes during my life as a bee farmer here. With GOD’s blessing and guidance, that is our only protection from grenades or land mines. You can find more informations and pictures regarding snakes here.

THE HIGH RISKS OF HONEY FARMING IN NORTHERN UGANDA.

1) For the last 22 years, Northern Uganda had been under insurgency by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA). Although the fight had ceased and they had left for Central Africa, there are still a lot of unexploded grenades and land mines lying around. To date, United Nation are still deploying mines experts to detect and detonate land mines. Villagers, especially children were still killed by these mine till today. Our bee farmers are like playing “Russian Roulette”. They will never know when they would step on one.

Warning signs were erected at many locations to remind villagers of the danger.

2) Venomous snakes occur throughout many regions in Uganda and are a threat to the people in the agriculture industry, especially in the rural areas where they are most abundant. Out of more than 3000 species of snakes in the world, some 600 are venomous and over 200 are considered to be medically important. There are two types of categories in venomous snakes. Uganda have 13 species.

CATEGORY 1: Highest medical importance

Definition: Highly venomous snakes that are common or widespread and cause numerous snakebites, resulting in high levels of morbidity, disability or mortality.

CATEGORY 2: Secondary medical importance

Definition: Highly venomous snakes capable of causing morbidity, disability or death, for which exact epidemiological or clinical data may be lacking; and/or are less frequently implicated (due to their activity cycles, behavior, habitat preferences or occurrence in areas remote to large human populations).

Africa has the highest number of venomous snake found. Uganda is no exception. Below are the types of snakes that can be found in Uganda and the chances of the bee farmers facing them during harvesting is high. Bee hives have a warm temperature of 35ºC and snakes love to hide inside the bee hives during raining or cold nights.

Black-necked spitting cobra.

African bush viper.

Ashe's spitting cobra.

Black mamba.

Boomslang.

East African Gaboon viper.

Egyptian cobra.

Forest cobra.

Forest vine (or twig) snake.

Gold's tree cobra.

Jameson's mamba.

Puff adder.

Rhinoceros viper.

Variable burrowing asp.

To the lady who wanted to import the honey, it’s just a matter of a day’s work, but to the farmers who wanted to sell their honey so that they can provide for their family, it’s a matter of life and death.

Bee farmers is Bushenyi, Western Uganda.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Bees and Akha Tribal Folks…………………….

Pabong-ngam.

As I was ascending up the winding road to meet the Akha hill tribe folks, these thoughts came to my mind. These small little insects have so much to contribute to the society and yet they had always been taken for granted. With everywhere going through urbanization, these little insects are finding it more and more difficult to call a place their own. Many people love honey, but somehow little or no attention is paid to the creator, honeybees.

There are more than 50,000 Akha people up in the hills and are scattered all around. The tribe that I visited was situated in Maechan Province, Patung District, Pabong-ngam, Chiang Rai. All these while, these folks had difficulty in making ends meet. Originally they had a head count of about 300 but many of the young people are slowly heading down to Chiang Rai main town to look for jobs, leaving the older folks trying to eke out a living through agriculture.

Benz with the village children.

Benz came from this village and she was given permission by her parents to be sent to a missionary school at an early age. She had finished her higher education and now she wanted to contribute back to her village.

She told me that many of the young girls had already gone into the flesh trade because of poverty. There was one parent that literally sold their daughter to the flesh industry for Baht 10,000 (S$450). To them the amount is huge.

When Raymond and Koong mentioned my feasibilty trip to North to her, she was very keen to introduce her village to me, to see in what way the village can benefit from keeping bees.

I told her that there are many factors to look into before one can embark on beekeeping. I need to understand the culture of the people and their reception to bees. Many Christian Organizations are helping the village folks and I do not want to be misunderstood as a businessman trying to come in to exploit the people. This is a very sensitive issue. All of us are doing God’s work. Sometimes I just feel that these Organization should have the heart big enough to open up for discussions rather than setting their directions too stringent, not trying to expand their entrepreneurial skills by interacting with others. I fully understood their good intentions of protecting the people from harm, but sustainability is of paramount in order to see them being able to survive without that constant financial help.

Village pastor and leaders showing us the beauty of the surrounding.

Before the visit, we had a brief discussion with an American Pastor that had been in Chiang Mai for 16 years. He told me they had embarked on many projects, ranging from chicken farming, cattle rearing to fish farming. All failed. Sensitizing these villagers to proper farming is good. I believed additional skill like value adding and marketing play an important role as well. I know every Country has its own sets of problems. I have to prepare to face it if I have decided to move ahead with my plans.

Coming back to beekeeping, I had observed the vegetation and I am pretty sure these folks will have no problem to start bee farms around the hills. The situation and scenerio is quite similar to Uganda. What they are lacking is the knowledge in keeping the bees. In fact in our tour, I had seen a few farmers already keeping bees, but that is only meant for their own consumption.

Apis cerena (cave bees) were kept in tree log, just like in Northern Uganda.

I spoke to one of the farmer and he described to me how he harvest the honey from the hives when it was due. I was tickled when he told me how he had to bear with the stings in order to get to the honey. 🙂

Honey farming contributes to a large portion of poverty alleviation in most part of Third World Countries.

When Raymond and Koong told me about the Akha tribes, It will be a good experience for me too and to share my experience with them. I felt something can be done if they are ready.

Future of Akha.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One small harvest before heading home…………………….

Fresh comb honey harvested the night before.

I am excited to make my trip back home tomorrow. I guess you can say it’s occupational hazard. I must visit at least a colony before I leave. Meanwhile, I harvested some comb honey to be brought back to Singapore for my family members and friends to see what is ‘REAL RAW HONEY”.

There are so many marketing hypes about raw honey and its health benefits in the market but actually, does one really knows what does that mean or are they simply buying the label? Well hopefully this time round my family and friends are able to gain more insight of what is real raw honey harvested fresh from the farm.

Yes, although I am keen to push my honey into the Asia market after having served the European market for the last 5 years, I would also like my consumer friends to fully understand the benefit of eating honey, and not turning it into some kind of miracle wonder medicine that can cure everything. If I were to do that, I am doing a disservice to my fellow Singaporeans.

Hopefully this small talk will enable more to appreciate the existence of the honey bees and how it contribute to mankind. At least you will know that the next spoonful of honey you take, no bees were sacrificed.

Honey combs prepared in chunks.

Two floral in production - Eucalyptus and Savannah Bush Honey.

February 2, 2010 Posted by | apiculture, Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, raw honey | , , , , , | 2 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

Honey and Photography, coming together in perfect harmony…………………….

Jonathan did a fabulous shot on the comb honey we brought to Dr. Anne's tea party. His photography skill brought out the distinct character of the comb of liquid gold.

The timing was perfect and the whole moment was captured to the finest detail.

The image was so sharp that even we are able to see the reflection of the comb on the tray.

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, honey, honey byproduct, honey harvest, Honey Quality Control, raw honey | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jonathan Wong, bringing out the beauty of my honey…………………….

Jonathan Wong, a professional photographer from Singapore came and did some product shoots for my advertising campaign. The results was astonishing! He had brought out the beauty of my work. Below are my two favorite shots!

Liquid Gold by Jonathan Wong


Simply Honey! - by Jonathan Wong

November 24, 2009 Posted by | Beekeeping, beekeeping journal, beekeeping training, Beeswax candles, honey, honey byproduct, Honey Quality Control | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flashbacks………………..

Talking to Minister regarding the consequences of importing bees.

Talking to Minister regarding the consequences of importing bees.

International exposure for Ugandan beekeepers.

International exposure for Ugandan beekeepers.

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

The making of…………………….

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

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

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

TV crew from Japan.

TV crew from Japan.

Taking a deep breath before getting close to the hive.

Taking a deep breath before getting close to the hive.

In action.

In action.

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

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

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

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

Safe method of opening.

Safe method of opening.

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

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

Bee master lifting cover gently.

Bee master lifting cover gently, and away from him.

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

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

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

Bee master calming the bees with a smoker.

Bee master calming the bees with a smoker.

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

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

Gentle smoking goes a long way.

Gentle smoking goes a long way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bee master harvested honey successfully.

Bee master harvested honey successfully.

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

Practice only makes a habit. CONSTANT practice makes perfect.

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

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

Finally the dry spell is over. The weather is getting cooler and the rainy season is coming. Its that time of the year where the villagers start to plant crops again. Going up Gulu with Fischer last two days was refreshing. Same time we look at the progress of the refinery and collection centre. Hopefully it will be ready when the next season comes in April 2010.

This Centre will serve as a meeting point for all the bee farmers around the region. All future honey harvested from our selected bee farmers whom had gone thru our training will be sent to this centre for processing. Come next year I will see myself being split between Timothy Centre which is in the South and Gulu, in the North. I hope I can have the strength to see it thru.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urban Beekeeping…………………….

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

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

PARIS – STRANGE as it may seem, bees get a better buzz from the urban Paris jungle than from the countryside. There are all sorts of flowers only short flights away, and little risk of death by pesticide.

Some live in penthouse hives atop historically prestigious monuments – the spectacular steel and glass domed Grand Palais exhibition hall by the banks of the Seine, for instance. ‘Honeybees are happy in town, they have everything they need,’ said Grand Palais director Sebastien de Gasquet.

Collecting pollen and nectar is no sweat with the Tuileries gardens lying only a short distance away, ‘not to mention the Grand Palais’ own flowerbeds’, he said.

The two beehives set on the edge of the building’s huge glass dome last May are rooms with a view of the Eiffel tower and Notre-Dame cathedral. Three or four extra hives are to be added to bring production up to half a ton of honey a year.

City bees, said Nicolas Geant, the beekeeper behind the Grand Palais scheme, nowadays produce four to five times more honey than their country cousins. ‘In agricultural areas you can produce around 10 to 20 kg of honey per year per hive while in cities you can get between 80 and 100 kg’ he said. And his idea of placing beehives at the Grand Palais – Paris’s Garnier Opera house has had its own beehives for years – is aimed at illustrating the paradox.

In rural areas close to farms, there are fewer and fewer hedges, trees and flowers. But in the city ‘there are a myriad of small flowers in parks and on balconies, as well as a wide variety of trees along streets and in public gardens – acacia, lime and chestnut trees – that are nectar to the bees.’ While Paris is polluted, notably from car exhaust fumes, ‘this bears no comparison with agricultural areas where pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers kill massive numbers of bees,’ he said.

France’s Union of Apiarists (UNAF) has signalled high mortality rates near corn, sunflower and rapeseed fields, while bee deaths across Europe have been 30 to 35 per cent higher than average since the 1980s thanks to a number of factors, including the use of pesticides.

‘There are practically no pesticides in the city,’ said Jean Lacube, the beekeeper in charge of eight hives at another Paris building in the city’s chic 7th district.

City bees also thrive in a town’s more temperate climate, he added, and are safe from attacks by the deadly Asian hornet that has decimated bees in the south-west part of France in previous years.

There are some 300 beehives in Paris, Mr Lacube said. ‘But beekeeping in a city is a luxury,’ he added. ‘Beekeeping should be in the countryside, the future is not in the cities.’ — AFP

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

A few months back I posted this question in some forum regarding urban beekeeping in Singapore. Some of the replies were concerned about the danger of having bees around residential areas. Others feel that it is a good idea because the bee helps in pollination and its environmental friendly. On top of that with proper education and know how, one can have their own honey produce behind their backyard. Beekeeping in urban areas are very common in other parts of the World. Singapore has always been regarded as “A Garden City”. Can honeybees strive in this “Garden City”? What do you think?

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

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

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

Below is an extract of the article,

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

Here is the full article;

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

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

Asia……here we come!…………………….

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey (Front Literature).

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

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

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey back literature.

Uganda Savannah Bush Honey (back literature).

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

August 2, 2009 Posted by | beekeeping journal, honey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

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

Otino-Waa, Our Children…………………….

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Karl and Arleen at Otino-Waa Bee Center

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

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

Gift shop at Otino-Waa Orphanage,

Gift shop at Otino-Waa Orphanage,

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

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

Bob showing Karl and Arleen the bee centre

Bob showing Karl and Arleen the bee centre

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

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

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

Otino-Waa workshop

Otino-Waa workshop

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

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

Rattan hives made by the orphans.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Community grant from US Embassy.

Community grant from U.S. Embassy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apis Dorsata nest

Apis Dorsata nest

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

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

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

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

Honey in Kampala…………………….

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

Truck entering the compound.

Truck entering the compound.

Offloading starts.

Offloading of honey combs starts.

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

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

Honey buckets neatly stacked in the store.

Honey buckets neatly stacked in the store.

5 tons of honey neatly stacked.

5 tons of honey neatly stacked.

The morning after.

The morning after.

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

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

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

Honey talk…………………….

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

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

Once in a while I would get some invitation to do talks on honey and bees. Last Wednesday, we had a small group of 10 families wanting to know more about bees and honey. It was more of a friendly get together with children running around waiting for the honey eating session.

Many people are still unaware how does honey looks like when it is still in the bee hive. So the night before the talk, I harvested 2 fresh combs for the folks to see.

When we arrived the next morning, most of the children were already sitting at the playground with their parents. I realized that this session would not be much of a talk but more of getting the children to see where does honey comes from and how does it look like before being sold at the supermarket. Anyway, it was a good start. The children enjoyed the honey and the parents were very appreciative and that was what matters most. 🙂

Showing a fresh comb of honey to the families.

Showing a fresh comb of honey to the families.

I remembered once a friend of mine from Singapore told me that when they asked some of the kids in Singapore where does the chicken come from, some gave the answers as, “coming from NTUC Supermarket”. I was even more surprised that some children doesn’t even know that chicken has feathers. Sometimes I wondered whether has modernization made us took a step backwards towards nature. My nephew grew up sitting in front of the computer 24/7 playing games. Playing marbles, catching spiders, flying kites are childhood activities long forgotten.

I am glad that parents now are making effort to find education materials related to nature to empower their children at an early age. These early childhood development activities are very healthy for them. Education are no longer confined to classrooms. Creative methods and techniques are deployed to make learning much more interesting and exciting. I am glad I am part of it. 🙂

Uganda has come a long way. With the Country experiencing peace and prosperity, with all these activities going, it is a sign that the society is ready to move forward and the thirst for knowledge had increased. In no time, I believe Uganda will be one of the most aspiring and affluent place to visit in Africa!
That brings me to an article which I found when I was here for the first time in 2001. It was titled, “The Africa Pearl” by Sir Winson Churchill. It goes like this;

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

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

The African Pearl

My Journey is at an end, the Tale is told and the reader who has followed so faithfully and so far has a right to ask what message I bring back. It can be stated in these words – concentrate upon Uganda

“But it is alive by its’ self. It is vital! And in my view in spite of its insects and its diseases. It ought in the course of time to become the most prosperous of all our East and Central African possessions and perhaps the “financial diving wheel of all this part of the world”

My counsel plainly is concentrate upon Uganda! Nowhere else in Africa will a little money go so far. Nowhere else will the results be more brilliant, more substantial or more rapidly realized.

Uganda is from end to end one “beautiful garden” where the” staple food” of the people grows almost without labour. Does it not sound like a paradise on earth?

It is “the pearl of Africa “

From my Africa Journey by Winston .S. Churchill 1908, Uganda

Where have all the honeybees gone?

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

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

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

Carrying trial beehive to site.

Carrying trial beehive to site.

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

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

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

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

Identifying a good spot to place the beehive.

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

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

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

Siting the trial beehive.

Ready to trap bees.

Ready to trap bees.

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

The beauty of nature…………………….

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

The wonder of nature!

The wonder of nature!

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

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Getting ready for harvesting. Final briefing from beemaster.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

Farmers group at one of the apiary at Paicho district.

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

Chiang Dao – feasibilty study (final part)

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

Michael Burgett, PhD and I

Michael Burgett, PhD and I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 12, 2009 Posted by | apiculture, bee colony, bee hive, beekeeping journal, honey, honey harvest, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 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

How does one define a sustainable beekeeping project?…………………….

There are many people who want to help in alleviating poverty in third world countries. I know it is for a good cause. I admired that. Thus beekeeping is one of nature’s ways of providing a source of income opportunities for these farmers. Many Organizations will come in and give the villagers their entire high-end, expensive, complicated beekeeping equipments.

There are a few questions that always ponder in my mind. Is these kind of support sustainable? Is it really cost effective? Is it really that traditional beekeeping cannot sustain their livelihood. Is the honey produced from traditional beekeeping will be of bad quality like some always claimed? Is modernization of this industry the only way to go? Can the farmers keep up with the regular maintenance of the modern equipments?

All my honey are harvested from traditional beehives and yet they are still able to meet EU legislation when I sent them for testing in Germany. I wondered where did they get this idea that honey from traditional beehive will be of bad quality. All honey inside the beehive is good quality honey. The only time you get bad honey is when it is being harvested by the farmer without understanding the correct method of harvesting.

Recently I was reading some news about some NGOs giving funds and modern beehives again, (too many that I had lost count) for some communities and associations to start a modern beekeeping project because they feel that that is the way to move forward. In the article, they mentioned that bees are unlike poultry, where feeding is required. Bees find their own food. Is that really true? Has the Organization done any studies on this industry before helping to develop the industry? Have they really understood how the investment will lead to if the true picture is not visualized? Are they really sure that the initial investment can be recouped in one year and a farmer continues earning profits thereafter for more than 10 years, without additional capital investment or regular repairs of the beehives due to wear and tear? Are they painting a false picture that beekeeping is easy money? Will the farmers get disappointed if the whole thing turns out not to be what it seems?

Given the tough conditions of the environment, and the lack of good, precision carpentry equipments to produce the beehives, I really cannot see how the farmers are able to maintain the hives. Understanding where the farmers are coming from, in terms of the art of beekeeping passed down from generations, it will take a steep learning curve for them to handle bees in a modern langstroth beehive. It is not a one two-months kind of learning process. On the contrary, all the farmers that I am working with are so well versed with the traditional hives and the kenyan top bar hives.

I had worked with farmers with different types of beehives and langstroth is the only hive that they do not know how to handle the bees, especially the aggressiveness of the api melliferra scutellatas. In the article, the farmers were taught to put the langstroth beehive on a platform about two meters high! I was going…What!?? Langstroth two meters high above the ground? I wonder how are they going to inspect the honey chamber that is more than two meters high on a regular basis.

If the honey quality is not an issue, which I know, Lets us have a hypothetical scenerio to see the sustainability issue.

Cost of langstroth hive – Ush120,000

Honey harvested in a year as claimed –  25kg

Selling price of honey @ Ush4000 per kilo (as stated in the article) – Ush100,000

Gross loss for farmers for 1st year, excluding protective gears and other minor repair work of the beehive – Ush100,000 minus Ush120,000 = (Ush20,000). How can the farmer make profit in the first year?

Here is the cost of a traditional beehive investment….

Cost of traditional beehive – Ush5,000

Honey harvest in a year, according to my harvesting experience – 15kg

Selling price of honey @ Ush4,000 per kilo (using their statistic) – Ush60,000

Gross profit for farmers for 1st year, excluding protective gears and other minor repair work of the beehive – Ush60,000 minus Ush5,000 = Ush55,000.

Based on the cost of 10 langstroth beehive – Ush1,200,000, the farmer can acquire 240 traditional hive.

1 traditonal hive gives the farmer 15kg

Therefore for 240 hives, the farmer will get 240 X 15 X  Ush4000 = Ush14,400,000.

I do not forsee all 240 hives colonized and producing honey. If we were to go according to Pareto’s principle, we will only have 20% of the work force producing, thus giving the total production income of only Ush2,880,000 – Ush1,200,000(cost of 240 tradtional hives) = Ush1.680,000 per household. This figure is more realistic and achiveable.

If you were to multiply the cost of the number of traditional beehives the farmer can get out of one langstroth beehive, you will be able to see that the farmer will be able to sustain much better with traditional beehives. By the way, with the high cost of beehives, how many langstroth beehives does the farmer need in order to make beekeeping business a viable business? Provided that the farmers has a centre to extract the honey, I cannot see how the farmer is going the get the money to buy all the expensive extracting equipments to get the honey out.

African honeybees produce a lot of propolis and the chances of breakage of the langstroth frames due to the difficulty of prying it out is great. I use to have langstroths but it never work because the need of precision work on these frames is almost impossible. On top of that, the frames require stainless steel wires to hold the wax foundation onto the frame. The cost of stainless steel wires is so expensive here and you might not even be able to get it. So if they were to use normal wires, the honey will subject to contamination due to rusting of the wires.

Recycling the empty combs after extracting the honey is not a good idea because that will lead to contamination again. There is this possibility of fungus growth on the combs after they had been taken out from the hives. It does not save much time for the bees to build again.

In short, actual beekeeping is not as simple as it seems. There are lots of unseen factors that many chose not to recognise. I can only concur with the last paragraph in the article. It says many people have tried beekeeping but without the required knowledge, commitment. You need good preparation, training and constant advise. Like any other venture, you need to do it right to harvest right. Other than this paragraph, there are open-end questions. It’s more like the project will end when the paperwork ends.

December 26, 2008 Posted by | apiculture, honey harvest, propolis, raw honey, Sustainable Beekeeping | , , , , , | 3 Comments