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
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
Kenya Top Bar Beehives
This 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
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:
- High honey yield.
- Easy to inspect and harvest.
- Easy to control swarming.
- Bee breeding and queen rearing possible.
- Long lasting.
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.