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Questions & Answers in beekeeping

New beekeepers in Zanzibar are learning to establish profitable beekeeping. In this article they describe some of their challenges and Ole Hertz, the Project Technical Adviser gives advice.

To avoid heat and disturbance is it a good idea to locate hives in a beehouse?

Sometimes a bee-house is beneficial, but care is needed. If hives are placed too close together this can cause problems. The best distance between colonies is more than 2-3 m and that is seldom possible in a bee-house. If hives are very close colonies can begin to rob during harvest.

The hot environment caused the bees to abscond

Lack of fresh water can be a reason for absconding. When researched at Njiro Wildlife Centre in Arusha (Tanzania), beekeepers found that they could prevent seasonal absconding if they took care that the bees had acess to fresh water close to the apiary during dry periods. This led also to a higher honey harvest. If you provide water in a tin can, always add sticks for the bees to land on, to prevent them drowning. Always keep the cans topped up and fix them firmly so they cannot be knocked over by other animals. Providing water points for bees can also prevent the problem of bees visiting water sources used by people who may be stung if they inadvertently step on drinking bees.

When catching the queen she was accidentally killed

Why should a queen be caught? It takes time to look for the queen and this will disturb the colony so much that there is a great chance that they will abscond the next day. A good guideline for tropical and indeed all beekeeping is to disturb the bees as little as possible!

How do we move occupied hives to the newly built bee house?

Take care when moving occupied hives. Bees will return to the place where they came from if the hive is moved less than 200 m, so you must move the hives further than this. Bees should always be moved at night, when all the foragers are in the hive. Frequently some bees will return to the original location even if the hive is moved some distance. These bees can be collected in an empty hive or box placed exactly where the moved hive previously stood, and collected the following night.

Some hives have not been colonised

Hives can be baited with clean beeswax. There are also many plants which attract bees, including Citrus and lemongrass. There is usually much local knowledge about suitable plants for baiting – ask an experienced beekeeper in your location.

Zanzibar: a local style hive housing a colony of Apis mellifera honey bees. Hives in Zanzibar often have no end wall - beekeepers have found that this style of hive works best - in the hot, humid atmosphere this style provides shelter from weather with good ventilation for the colony.

At SALEM Brotherhood in Mbale, Uganda this water point has been provided for bees. The purpose is to deter the bees from visiting taps used by people in the compound and to ensure that they have plenty of fresh water in the dry season.