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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.