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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.

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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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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?

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  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.

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  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.

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