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How to start commercial Bee keeping in Kenya

Bee keeping (apiculture) is done for several purposes. In Kenya, farmers keep bees to produce honey for own consumption, however, it is another thing altogether to keep bees for commercial purposes. With the current technology and modern bee-keeping methods, it is easy to produce honey today than it was years before. When it comes to producing honey commercially, a farmer must prepare correctly.

What are the starter requirements for bee keeping?

  • For starters, you need a strong, durable beehive to house your bees that will also protect them from predators and harsh weather. The common beehives in Kenya include, Langstroth Hive, Kenya Top Bar Hive and the most common, the traditional log hive. The best hive should be easy to maintain, have a simple design of the top covers and supers, have ample space between brood chambers and supers, removable frames for easy hive inspection and a hive stand. For these reasons, the Langstroth hive is the most preferred for commercial purposes.
  • A pair of gloves is another apparatus you need, preferably one made of leather but very flexible to use. Bee wax is also necessary for the colony to occupy. Look for a smoker that burns for longer periods, preserves fuel and has a nozzle that will perfectly guide the smoke accurately.
  • An uncapping fork is effective for removing comb caps without damaging the comb. During hive inspection, a bee brush with soft thistles is of great help to clear bees from the comb without making them aggressive.
  • Of great importance too is the hive tool to aid you move frames and clean propolis.
  • A bee suit is also a must-have. This should include the head veil to offer you maximum protection from bee stings. Be careful when putting on the bee suit. It should always be worn over or on top of a pair of gumboots; if you tuck in the suit into your gumboots, bees will sting you. When you harvest honey, you will need a clean honey extractor and a sieve.

What is the best location to keep your hives?

Once you have all those gadgets, you need to set up your apiary. Look for a place that is less disturbed, far from noise or human activities. This place should be well-drained lest the bees abscond due to high humidity. Avoid fields frequently sprayed with chemical pesticides to reduce bee poisoning and honey contamination; thus, if a must, use bee friendly pesticides.

The apiary should also be close to water and nectar sources. Set the hives under trees or away from direct sunlight, flooded places or areas with strong winds. If your site is exposed, erect a small shade above the hives. Leave enough space – 1.2-1.5m – to give you a working area. Where space is limited, pair up the hives.

Place all the hives at a height that you will find comfortable to work. If placed on wooden stands or wire suspensions, paint the stands and wires using used oil to drive away crawling ants. If resources allow, fence your apiary to protect it from vandals and predators like honey badgers, humans and monkeys.

FARMERS IDENTIFY THE HIDDEN FORTUNE IN TREE-TOMATO INVESTMENT

What Are The Best Plants For Bees

The nearby plants should be producing high quality nectar. Bees love wild flowers, berries, flowering herbs and a variety of flowering fruits and vegetables. You can plant agricultural crops yielding abundant nectar such as sunflower, coffee, legumes, trees, bananas, lavender, strawberries, cucumbers, tomato, squash, pumpkins, watermelons, flowering broccoli, tulips and clovers.

Fruit trees also make perfect forage materials, with trees such as acacia producing good nectar for sweet honey.  Some institutions support bee keeping by selling stingless bees, which you can go for. Some hives, however, get stocked readily with the African bees that forage around and then they make their queen bee. To stock the hives easily, spray it with sugar syrup or hang sugar syrups around. Also, smear with melted bees wax or site the hives where bees have lived before. A catcher box can also be used to trap bees and transport them to the new hive.

Earn more than 10 million per acre with 40k investment.

How Do You Avoid Absconding?

Once the bees are in the hive, they can forage from the nearby plants. During dry seasons, however, supplement the bees with food. This is very important to avoid absconding; a case where bees leave the hive completely, not considering your heavy investment.

Absconding is caused by several factors that include lack of food and water. Offer the bees sugar syrup or provide little honey and water during drought. Frequent attacks by pests are also dangerous to a colony. Careless handling also frustrates bees and may make them abscond.

This include breaking combs, excess hive smoking, banging the hive, clumsiness and roughness. Excess heat in the hive or excess cold also causes absconding. To control these, position hives in a shaded place when hot or in a sunny position with minimal shade.

You will always come in contact with bees during hive inspection or honey harvesting. During these times, wear a full bee suit and avoid woolen clothes that bees stick on. Do not visit the site when smelling alcohol, strong scent perfumes or soaps, which may smell sweet to the bees and make them follow you. Always start with the least aggressive colonies to give you adequate time to handle the pleasant colonies first.

Bees are best handled in the cool evenings. Remain confident and don’t crush the insects. If by mistake they get into you, walk away and remove them plus the stings by scraping off using your nails. Do not squeeze lest the venom spread into your body.

When done with handling, don’t walk home straight, pass through plantations of maize or trees to rub off the bees from you. One bee sting is not dangerous, in most cases it will be beneficial while in a few people it may cause allergy.

If done right, bee keeping is a venture that can sustain your lifestyle. The market is highly increasing both domestically and internationally. Focus more on the business side of bee keeping.

 

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Modern beehives will make you more money in bee-keeping in Kenya

BeeBee keeping (Apiculture) is a livestock subsector with great potential of contributing to Kenyan’s food basket as well as foreign earnings. It is an easy task to venture in as it is cheap, and it also enhances the environment through pollination. However, the type of beehives you have determines the amount of honey you harvest.

Apiculture is good for small-scale farmers and resource humble farmers due to the fact that it’s completely sustainable, has better income and needs less input (just land, some capital and labor)

Nevertheless, traditional beekeeping in Kenya has over years been producing low volumes of honey produced as well as income generated. This is largely due to beekeepers’ ignorance, poor harvesting techniques and use of ‘old school’ type hives. Lack of knowledge and outlets that buy honey exposes beekeepers to exploitation by unscrupulous middlemen and many end up selling their harvest to producers of local liquor for a song.

Types of beehives and their advantages

Traditional beehive

There are several types all made from cheap and locally available materials such as logs, pots and baskets. However, bee management and honey harvesting is difficult in such hives and usually the quality and quantity of honey is compromised.

During harvesting, combs — including brood combs — are cut off, destroying a generation of bees within a hive’s colony. Such colonies end up spending most of their time and energy (honey) rebuilding combs and replacing brood, thus remaining at a redevelopment phase at the expense of honey production.

Advantages of Traditional beehives

  • Inexpensive to make.
  • They can be produced locally and require little knowledge of carpentry.
  • They can house large amounts of bees.
  • They are the best hive if one is looking to get large quantities of wax.
  • When occupied, these hives are very hard to steal due to many cracks and openings that bees utilize to protect their colony

The Demand For Honey Is Big, How About You Think Of Bee Keeping

Kenya Top Bar Beehives

Modern BeehivesThis hive resembles a wedge box with wooden bars of specific measurements at the wide top part and a roof above the bars. Bee management is possible with this hive, making it easier to harvest and manipulate colonies for more honey production compared to traditional hives.

However, combs in the top bar hive are not supported and can break if not handled carefully. Since wax is harvested with honey, the bees are forced to build more wax to replace harvested combs, which results in lower honey yields albeit with more harvested wax.

In addition, the volume, like in the traditional hive, is fixed, so the hive can fill and get congested very quickly in the honey flow season. An overcrowded hive can divide and swarm, leading to reduced honey production.

Advantages Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) beehives

  • Colony splitting and multiplication easy.
  • Control of swarming is possible.
  • Easy to inspect to know the condition of the colony
  • Harvesting is easy and possible to select sealed combed (ripe) honey.
  • Materials for construction are available
  • Durable

Langstroth beehive (Frame Hive)

Box shaped with several compartments and frames that make the combs very strong. A mesh (queen excluder) is placed above the lowermost compartment known as the brood chamber allowing only the worker bees (non-laying) to move through.

Since entry to the hive is located at the base of the brood chamber, the queen cannot lay eggs in the compartments above the brood chamber (known as super chambers) thus combs in these chambers will contain honey only.

The honey is extracted by centrifuge, returning the combs relatively intact to the bees to shorten harvesting intervals and potentially increase yield. Combined with the fact that honey is separated completely from the brood, this extraction method ensures high quality honey.

By adding more supers, additional space can be created in the hive, which is important during honey flow period.

Advantages of Langstroth/Dadant Beehives:

  • Transportable.
  • High honey yield.
  • Easy to inspect and harvest.
  • Easy to control swarming.
  • Bee breeding and queen rearing possible.
  • Long lasting.

Success on bee keeping: This is what you need to know!

If you are a farmer, either fruit farmer of livestock farmer, having a few beehives won’t hurt you. Honey is considered as one of the best natural medicine for many ailments. Its sweet, healthy and has so many benefits. You have nothing to lose.

 

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The Demand For Honey Is Big, How About You Think Of Bee Keeping

Honey is ten times more expensive than oil and demand for this natural product is increasing not only in Africa itself but globally.

Priced at between $8-$10 (Ksh800-Ksh 1000), one kilo of honey in Kenya costs 10 times what a litre of petrol does ($ 1.2 or Ksh120). And in the Arab market, a jar of honey can fetch almost double this amount ($20-$30).
It is a price tag that has honey producers all over the world salivating. While Kenya is not one of the largest exporters of honey globally, it is a trade that is being closely watched as Kenyan producers strategise on how to pioneer their entry into this lucrative honey market. Ethiopia is the largest producer of honey in Africa, and according to USAID, produces approximately 45,300t annually. Tanzania is the second largest (8,000t, and Kenya ranks third in the region, followed by Uganda and then Rwanda, with just 4,000t a year.

African honey has a unique flavour profile, which makes it comparable to some of the premium honey in the markets.
The UAE is the most important market for us. It’s the largest with the greatest purchasing power. Price sensitivity is low, and there is an appreciation of premium products.

Read: 7 Requirements Of Successful Bee Farming, Number 3 Is The Most Important

Domestic or International?

In Kenya the demand for honey is really high. Packers or producers don’t want to get involved in export because of the logistics involved. They prefer to sell locally or in the region because there is a readily available market.
Demand for honey in Kenya is so high, that the country is unable to satisfy itself and is forced to import from neighbouring Tanzania.

So with a ready and easily accessible local market that offers good prices, Kenyan honey producers are unwilling to undergo the bureaucratic rigours of export, which involve higher transport costs and quality testing.

There are no commercial producers of honey; they are all smallholder traditional bee keepers, which exacerbates the ability to meet the large demands of markets like the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Honey is a very special item to Muslims. It’s a high-value commodity; it’s in the Quran. The Arab market wants a container a month, that’s 20t a month. We can’t even supply our own market.
Africa, does not export significant amounts to the US market, and in 2013 the US only imported 3,000 kilograms of honey from Kenya for $15,000, according to the US department of Agriculture.

The money is in the honey, that is where the future of the business lies. Indeed fast increases in the price of honey combined with flagging global volumes spell a promising outlook for producers who can scale up their volumes.

The only question is how they will do this, and whether Kenya will eventually emerge at the forefront of trade in the golden liquid.

Read: Here Are The Things To Consider When Establishing Drip Irrigation In Your Farm

 

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7 Requirements Of Successful Bee Farming, Number 3 Is The Most Important

  1. Decide on the objective

Be clear on why you would like to try and do bee farming. For honey, for pollination, for colony production and sale? this can assist you collect needed data and skills.

  1. Feasibility assessment for beekeeping

Honeybees want food (nectar and pollen) to survive, grow, multiply, and make honey that comes from various plants i.e. agricultural/ horticultural/ ornamental/ wild (herbs, shrubs/bushes, trees). Thus, the provision of bee floral resources throughout different months of the year could be a primary demand for bee farming. In different words, the success of a beekeeping enterprise depends on the provision of floral resources that are in bloom through different months of the year. A good amount of honey is harvested if a region has an abundance of honey/ bee plants among the various bees i.e. ideally among five-hundred-meter radius of the bee colony).

Thus, it’s necessary to assess whether or not a given area is sweet for beekeeping or not. If not, it’s necessary to ask if something be done to make it appropriate for farming. Feasibility assessment is conducted to search out whether:

  • An area has enough bee flora among foraging range of bees to feed on and gather honey
  • Environment (climate/weather) is appropriate for bee keeping
  • Whether it’s safe from bee predators
  • Market for honey and different bee product
  • Can something be done to make it appropriate for beekeeping?

Read: What You Require To Establish A Small Fish Pond

  1. Identify the potential site for beekeeping/ apiary placement

Based on the practicable assessment, choose a site that has many bee florae inside the hunting range of bees, free from bee predators and enemies for putting bee colonies. If the chosen site doesn’t have bee’s flora throughout the year, establish areas that have enough bee flora so the bee colonies will migrate throughout all the slack seasons or feed the colonies sugar and pollen supplements. Migration of bee colonies is particularly necessary when keeping with Apis mellifera bees.

  1. Receive adequate knowledge and training to develop skills in beekeeping

The general bee management training includes sessions on seasonal bee management; bee pests and diseases, and their diagnosis and control; bee forage management and pollination; harvesting, processing, and value addition of honey and bee products; and the establishment of enterprise development and marketing etc.

The beekeeping enterprise development and management training has sessions on product development, and value addition—processing, packaging, branding and labeling, certification, advertising and marketing, accounting and book keeping, and business plan development, and enterprise linkages with public and private institutions for strengthening the honey enterprise.

If the objective is to develop bee colonies for sale, then it is necessary to get training on queen rearing and colony multiplication. Similarly, if the objective is to manage bees for pollination, it is important to get training accordingly.

Identify institutions/ resource persons providing support in beekeeping

Identify institutions/ resource persons providing support in beekeeping in your area and participate in bee management and bee enterprise development training/s. There are different training packages.

Read: Management of green house is paramount. Why?

  1. Procure key beekeeping equipment

This includes beehives, bee veils, swarm bags, queen gates, hive tools, feeders, and smokers. Some materials such as feeders, smokers, and swarm bags can be made at home using local material. Learn to make these. The training resource persons can tell you how to make these pieces of equipment at home. It is better to buy beehives from a skilled carpenter as the beehives have specific dimensions. A small mistake in hive dimension, particularly bee space, can result in bees making uneven and joint combs which makes honey harvesting a problem.

  1. Carry out regular colony inspection and management

Regularly examine colonies to grasp the standing of colony development, disease condition, presence of queen, brood—eggs, larvae and pupae, and quantity of food—pollen and nectar stores. This may assist you decide what seasonal colony management practices ought to be undertaken. You’ll be able to examine the colonies through 2 methods: 1) from outside, without opening the hives and 2) from inside, by opening the hives.

Colony inspection from outside

Colony examination from outside is distributed so as to get an idea of the colony standing without opening the hive. Examination from outside will give the subsequent info about bee colony:

  • A larger variety of incoming and outgoing bees, and a bigger variety of pollen carrying foragers at the hive entrance signal the colony is healthy and robust
  • Larvae, pupae, and new emerged bees scattered at or before the doorway signal the colony is diseased
  • Bee excreta and black patches seen round the entrance signal the colony is abnormal or pathological
  • Plenty of dead bees with the proboscis out scattered at or before of the doorway signal the colony is poisoned
  • Crawling bees that are unable to fly signal bee malady
  • A sizable number of bees on the wing and fighting with one another and/or dead may be a signal of robbing
  • Clustering bees at the hive entrance and a far smaller variety of bees flying to forage could signal absconding or swarming.
  • A sizable number of drones and erratic bee movement could signal parturition workers or a queen less colony.

If the above symptoms are seen, it’s necessary to examine the colony by opening the hive and take applicable management steps to unravel the matter like a shot.

Colony inspection from inside through opening the hive

As part of good hive management practice, a colony is inspected from the inside after it is inspected from the outside to reconfirm its status, its abnormalities, and its strengths. Such an inspection should be done per the set objectives, starting from the collection of necessary materials. The following observations shall be made while performing an inspection of a colony from the inside:

  • Condition of queen
  • Colony strength–number of adult bees, and amount of brood–eggs, larvae, and pupae
  • Presence of bee diseases and pests in the colony
  • Symptoms of swarming and absconding
  • Need for supplementing comb foundation sheets
  • Storage of food (honey and pollen)
  • Cleanliness and hygiene
  • Need of scrapping/removing unnecessary/deformed/extra combs built by the bees.

Perform any management practices required to maintain colony health. Manage bee colonies as taught in the training.

  1. Honey harvesting, packaging, labeling, and selling

During the honey flow season when there are plenty of flowers in bloom i.e. spring, harvest honey using a honey extractor.   Pack honey in clean glass, stainless steel, or food grade bottles, label the bottles and sell directly to your consumer or through a shop owner/middle man.

Read: Best Practices And What To Consider Before Farming Tomatoes

 

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Success on bee keeping: This is what you need to know!

If you have taken up the respectable decision and the art of beekeeping then you are in for the ride you could ever imagine. Regardless of whether you do it as a hobby or as a business venture, honey bee farming has a great deal to offer. As a learner, this practice may be a touch of overwhelming. All things considered, you are managing a standout amongst the most forceful and possibly risky types of insects out there. Be that as it may, if you treat them right and comprehend the art you will get the opportunity to see their more advantageous angle with everything from honey harvests to pollination for your crops. To enable you to begin off on the correct foot, below are 10 tips each beginner must know.

Understand the honey bees

You can’t begin honey bee farming if you don’t understand what you are really going after. Understand that the achievement of this venture depends more on the honey bees than your contribution as the farmer. You will in this manner need to understand them as far as things like natural needs, colony chain of command and significantly more. Seeing this encourages you make sense of precisely what’s in store and how to manage challenges like honey bee diseases and aggression as they come.

Take your time choosing a good home for them

With regards to honey bee keeping, giving the colony, a decent home is critical in the event that you have any expectations of being successful. It is vital that the honey bees feel quiet and at sufficiently home to begin delivering the valuable fluid gold that is nectar. For this situation, you have to do some exploration regarding the honey bee boxes and hives out there. Those with removable casings are the most effortless to work with as an apprentice. This is on account of they enable you to move the honey bees, gather and complete numerous other distinctive upkeep exercises.

Read: Upland Arrow Root Farming Without a Swamp

Collect all the important apparatus ahead of time

The following vital point to fruitful honey bee keeping is guaranteeing that you have every one of the tools necessary. For this situation, you will require the honey bee boxes or hives, protective gear and a smoker to begin. It is constantly best to guarantee that you begin new colonies with new hardware to keep cross sullying from old wiped out hives.

Watch out for changing seasons

When beginning honey bee keeping, timing is everything. The best time to set up is around spring or late-spring where the flowers are in sprout. For this situation, the honey bees have a considerable measure to work with as far as sources of pollen and nectar. With autumn launches, you likewise benefit from their rush to make honey reserves for winter.

Start small with nuclear/package colonies

When starting bee farming, you may either choose to start large using a wild swarm or small with package colonies. As a beginner working with the small nuclear colonies is the best option. These are easier to manage and allow you to learn as the colony grows.

Inspect the hive regularly; not overbearingly

Inspecting the hive is very important and should be done every 7 to 10 days. This helps you identify any anomalies including diseases in the colony. It also allows you to monitor the productivity of the bees. However, it is important to ensure that you do not overdo the inspections. This is because opening and closing the hive too much disturbs the bees and hinders their productivity.

Leave some of the harvest for the bees

After all your patience and hard work, the bees will reward you with honey and other products including bee pollen and Propolis. However, it is very important for you to understand that the bees need these products more than you do. So, when harvesting make sure to leave them with enough to survive on. In this case, the best thing to do is to research on how much honey the species you work with requires for survival. With this information, you should know just how much to leave behind.

Read: How profitable is tomato farming in a green house?

Do not irritate the honey bees unless important

When you have the beehives, all set up with the honey bees fed and all that, leave them in peace. Exasperating them pointlessly will make your life a lot harder than it should be. For one, it disturbs the honey bees and makes them amazingly aggressive. It also distracts them from activities including honey making and other hive upkeep duties.

Learn from your oversights and encounters

You will commit a great deal of errors as a beginner; that is unavoidable. You will also have a ton of progress on the off chance that you are determined and very much educated. Make a point to gain from every one of these encounters to guarantee your colony’s accomplishment in future.

When you are prepared, grow and begin more colonies

With bee keeping, colonies should be as many as possible. When you have aced dealing with the first then you should consider getting another. Having two comes as a noteworthy preferred standpoint predominantly for backup reasons. If one colony ends up performing poorly, you have an additional hive from which you can acquire resources like honey and actual bees for help.

With the 10 hints given above, you ought to have the capacity to begin and support an effective colony. Simply be as readied as could reasonably be expected and willing to gain from your errors and you will be a master in the blink of an eye.