The purpose of bee-keeping is to produce and sell as much honey as possible. Beekeeping is a means to diversify livelihoods and make the best use of resources available to us. A diversified livelihood is a more secure one. Beekeeping also has immense benefits in terms of provision of pollinators which enhance crop yields. Bees are environmentally friendly and so are beekeepers.
Important Bee keeping equipment
The following equipment are necessary for a bee farmer for successful honey production.
- Bee hives – The boxes which house the hives. The different hives are: Pot hives (clay pots), log hives, basket hives, Kenya Top Bar Hive (KTBH) and Lagstroth hives (uses frames)
- Protective clothing: Overall, Bee veil, Gloves, Gumboots
- Hive tool- knife for cutting combs during honey harvesting
- Bee brush-used to brush off bees during inspection and honey harvesting.
- Feeder box– trough for holding bees food mainly sugar syrup.
- Smoker-equipment used to produce smoke puffs to bees during harvesting.
- Catcher box– equipment used to trap, transport and divide bee colonies. It is smaller than bee hives.
- Site preparation which involves clearing the excessive vegetation and removing the unwanted material like big stones, tree stumps and logs.
- Site fencing- surrounding the apiary with barbed wire or any other fencing material to exclude livestock and predators from accessing the apiary.
- Establish a live fence for bees to fly high when leaving or returning to the apiary thus reducing a risk of them becoming a nuisance in the neighborhood.
- Treating the hanging posts to prevent attack by termites and rotting. Posts should be sunk 2 feet below the ground and 2m apart.
Done by: trapping wild bees or Making colony division
- Making colony division
Look for combs with larvae, honey and eggs. Put these into a catcher box and place the catcher box at a strategic position near another hive. The bees will nurture the pupa or larvae to raise a queen bee. Place them in a new hive and align in the same direction.
- Trapping wild bees
Prepare the hive by:
- Cleaning the bee hives by making sure that it contains no dirt.
- Bait the bee hive with any of the following raw bee wax (rubbing the wax into the inner walls of the hive), sugar syrup (place a syrup dish around the hive and ensure it has landing boards to prevent bees from drawning), granulated sugar (sprinkle on the floor of the hive), and a water dish. Baiting is done by rubbing the above material in the inner walls of the hive. The most important bait is bee wax
For grooved top bars fill the grooves with wax by first melting down the wax completely in a flat tray. Allow it to cool and cut it into strips about 6mm wide. Inset the strip along the groove. Heat the tip of the knife and run it wax quickly along the wax. This will melt some wax and allow the strip to stick firmly into the groove.
- Feed bees during the dry and rainy seasons and as well as in the young stages of the young.
- During rainy season bees do not get time to explore, it’s misty and cloudy bees never go out and nectar is usually diluted hence bees cannot recognize it.
- Pollen is washed away. Flowers stop blooming and plants produce leaves instead of flowers and hence food becomes scarce. When you do not feed bees during this period, they can swarm or feed on the honey.
- Provide pollen, nectar and plenty of water to bees.
- Nectar contains sucrose which can be easily supplemented. Use the feeder box and dilute sugar with water in a ratio of 1:1.
- During cold weather, mix this supplement with an additive drug called Fumidil B to avoid bees’ diarrhea (nasema).
- Replace pollen by use of pollen substitute and pollen supplement.
- Pollen supplement- harvest pollen when it’s plenty by use of pollen trap and mix with other proteinous feed e.g. soy bean flour to make a cake. Introduce the paste to the hive. This is offered when the pollen is scarce.
- Pollen substitute- mix soy bean flour with dry skimmed milk, egg yolk and brewer’s yeast. And some little water to the mixer to make a paste and introduce to the hive.
Bees naturally feed on nectar and nectar from various plants. For a large scale farmers, plant a fast growing plant one of them being sunflower. Sunflower produces nectar and pollen for bees and also oils.
Harvesting of honey
- Honey is ready for harvesting 3 months after hive stocking.
- Harvest honey during dry spells, i.e. July, August, September, November, December,January, February and March. The harvest time in each area differs however so check which is the right time in your area.
- In areas where there are dominant bee plants, like coffee, sunflower etc., harvesting should be done after the flowers have withered.
- Regular weekly inspection of hives during the nectar flow will ensure that the beekeeper
- harvests as soon as the honey is ready (do not harvest unripe honey, see below)
- Ideal harvesting time of the day should be from 6.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.
How to harvest honey
- Put on all the protective gears to become sting proof.
- With your smoker, smoke the entrance of bees with around 5-10 puffs to make the bees dormant. You can use wood shavings for the smoker.
- Slowly remove the top bar with no comb attached from the hive and examine the rest of the bars with combs.
- Select the combs which are ¾ sealed full of honey.
- Brush the bees gently from the comb by use of bee brush.
- Place the lid on the bucket to prevent bees from entering into the honey.
- Return the top bar without the combs.
- Make sure that you do not harvest everything and leave some combs with honey for bees to feed on.
- This is preparing honey to attain customer’s preference.
- It is done through honey straining. This can be done by honey extractor or manually by sieving.
- When sieving, cut the combs into small pieces and put them in a bucket.
- Place the bucket under sun or high temperatures for honey to melt. Strain the honey by use of nylon net and let it settle in a plastic bucket.
- You can also melt the honey using a water Bath.
- Do not boil honey for this will reduce its flavor and medicinal characteristics.
- When using a honey extractor, honey can be harvested up to 6 times per year.
Honey packaging and marketing
- Honey quality is excellent if harvested as it is produced by bees. Do not alter the honey by either adding water or any other thing.
- Use transparent package materials made of glass or plastic.
- When labeling you must include the name of the producer, net weight, date of packaging, address and description of honey.
Other bee services and products
Pollination– pollination is a service provided by bees when collecting nectar and pollen. Bees enhance cross pollination in crops which results to healthy fruits
Bee wax- bee wax is collected after the honey has been harvested from the combs.
Propolis- it’s a greenish-black substance used by bees to seal the hive and make it water tight. Propolis is used to treat some skin diseases.
Pollen –it is collected from bee hives by use of pollen traps located at the hive entrance. It is used as a human dietary supplement and in poultry and pig feed industry.
Royal jelly or bee milk-it’s microbial and help I easing blood pressure.
Bee venom- you can collect venom without killing the bee by use of venom collector. Venom has medicinal uses: as a desensitizer to those allergic to bee stings and to treat arthritis.