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Smoking hives

Traditional beekeeping is entirely dependent on the occupation of baskets by wild swarms. Thus the beekeeping community in Ethiopia and elsewhere has developed various methods to make empty hives or baskets attractive to swarms.

First the basket is smeared inside with a layer of fresh cow dung which is considered to prevent diseases and provide better insulation. After drying, the hive will be smoked inside with selected herbs and shrubs. The smoking materials vary from region to region. Most commonly the bark of Ekebergia capensis, Olea capensis subsp welwitchii, Olea europaea subsp cuspidate and Otostegia integrifolia are used. Many beekeepers prefer to bait the hives inside with fresh leaves of Ocimum basilicum and in western parts of Ethiopia the hive will be baited with endemic Echnops longisetus.

After smoking, the baskets will be closed on both sides with woven straw discs. A small hole is made for the entrance so that a wild swarm can occupy the basket before it is hung high up in a tree.

Reinhard Fichtl, Zurich, Switzerland

The inside of the hive is smoked using selected herbs or shrubs
PHOTOS © REINHARD FICHTL

Hives are fastened high in trees