Bees for Development Journal Edition 133 - December 2019

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Bees for development Bees for Development Journal 133 December 2019


No 133 December 2019


The Journal for sustainable beekeeping 1

Bees for Development Journal 133 December 2019

Dear friends This edition of BfD Journal brings you some new and amazing bee stories. Opposite you can read how honey is being used to cure patients at a hospital in Sierra Leone – honey has been found to provide better treatment than conventional antibiotics: one of the reasons is because honey is too complex, diverse and natural for bugs to develop resistance. Bees for Development Ghana is helping the hospital to keep bees so that they can harvest their own, high quality honey on site. Next you can read the story of Danilo Colomela from Italy – he decided to ‘go-it-alone’ to learn beekeeping – and followed his own natural method using top-bar hives. Now he has colonies of honey bees that survive well without any form of treatment, and is pleased with his honey harvest of very clean and natural honey from healthy honey bees, free from any residues of medications against Varroa. Following is an article by Wolfgang Ritter explaining why ‘the African way’ of beekeeping

Issue 133 December 2019 In this issue


Masanga Hospital Bee Project....... 3 Appeal.......................................... 5 International Meeting of Young Beekeepers Announcement.......... 5 Natural beekeeping in Sicily......... 6 The African Way: healthy bee colonies and sustainable income . 8 Traidcraft Exchange – Africa Honey Programme............13 News............................................16 Book Shelf....................................18 Look Ahead..................................19 Beekeeping Training Posters.......20 Bees for Development Journal Produced quarterly and sent to readers in over 130 countries Editor: Nicola Bradbear PhD Co-ordinator: Helen Jackson BSc Subscriptions cost £30 per year – see page 18 for ways to pay Readers in developing countries may apply for a sponsored subscription. Apply online at

in simple hives with little human interference is ‘the healthy way’ too. And this approach is further endorsed by George Williams’ article on page 13. It is not just that frame hives do not work well for tropical African honey bees, neither do they fit well with local socio-economic conditions. And now for something completely different! what3words is a really simple way to describe location, and can be a very helpful way to record precisely where your bee hives are situated. The inventors of what3words have assigned every 3 metres square in the whole world with a unique 3 word address that will never change! The threeword addresses are easy to remember and share, and are as accurate as GPS coordinates. You can look yours up at their website, and quite often the words, although completely random, seem to have some funny relevance For example, BfD’s office what3words address is: northward.drones.catch!

Nicola Bradbear Director, Bees for Development

Bees for Development Works to assist beekeepers in developing countries. Bees for Development Trust gratefully acknowledge: Alan & Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust, Artemis Charitable Trust, Didymus Charity, E H Thorne (Beehives) Ltd, Ethiopiaid, Hiscox Foundation, Hub Cymru Africa, Millom Rotary Club, National Lottery Community Fund, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Red Rivers Food, Rowse Honey Ltd, The Rotary Foundation, UK Aid Direct, Wales for Africa, Welsh Government,Yasaeng Beekeeping Supplies and many other kind organisations and individuals. Copyright You are welcome to translate and/ or reproduce items appearing in Bees for Development Journal as part of our Information Service. Permission is given on the understanding that the Journal and author(s) are acknowledged, our contact details are provided in full, and you send us a copy of the item or the website address where it is used.

Cover picture: A beautiful landscape with hives that are home to the bees looked after by Danilo Colomela. Danilo lives in Sangana in Sicily, where he practises natural beekeeping. See page 6. Copyright: Danilo Colomela

Bees for development 1 Agincourt Street, Monmouth NP25 3DZ, UK Tel: +44 (0)1600 714848

Bees for Development Journal 133 December 2019

The Masanga Hospital Bee Project: production and use of quality honey for wound treatment in Sierra Leone Kwame Aidoo, Director, Bees for Development Ghana Images © Kwame Aidoo


The Masanga Hospital in Tongolili District in Sierra Leone has a long history of effective treatment of wounds and ulcers with honey. Patients from all over the country and neighbouring West African countries including Guinea, Liberia and The Gambia have received treatment from the Hospital. Patients with wounds caused by leprosy have received healing from the Wound Clinic of this referral and teaching Hospital. From before the civil war up to today, specialist doctors at the Hospital have used honey for wound healing with amazing results. Wounds dressed topically with honey have healed quickly, paving the way for skin grafting, and patients have gone home fully recovered. The major challenge facing Masanga Hospital has been the lack of good quality honey for more than 500 patients who visit the clinic every year. According to Dr Jonathan Van Nunes, the Medical Officer in Charge, the only source of honey has come from local honey hunters. These hunters fell trees and extract honey under unhygienic conditions. Dr Van Nunes stated that even though the quality of honey from the hunters was questionable, the Hospital has no alternative sources. However, healing results at the Wound Clinic have been very good.

Baiting the first top-bar hive built in Masanga dressed with antibiotics and other herbal preparations at home develop into long standing ulcers with serious health consequences for the patients. Interestingly, patients who report to Masanga Hospital with these wounds are healed within two weeks of treatment with honey dressings. He has identified the following wound infesting bacteria that are commonly found in many rural farming communities of Sierra Leone and especially in the swampy agricultural landscapes where rice is cultivated:

Scientific trials

Dr Van Nunes reports the many scientific studies he and his colleagues have conducted over the years, comparing several orthodox wound dressing antibiotic medications with honey. Results show that most laboratory developed antibiotics have little or no effect on the bacteria that infest the wounds of patients reporting to the Hospital. Small wounds that are

• • • •

Lighting and working a smoker

Escherichia coli Klebsiella pneumonia Proteus mirabilis Staphylococcus aureus

Temba Conteh trying his hand at basket hive making 3

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Dr Jonathan van Nunes weaves a basket hive during the Training Workshop

A lady participant plasters a basket hive with clay mixed with rice husks

All these bacteria which infest wounds and Mycobacterium ulcerans (the Buruli ulcer bacterium) are inhibited by the antibacterial properties of honey from the area with amazing results. Findings at Masanga confirm other scientific studies of the wound healing properties of honey published by Libonatti et al (2014).1

heal. After his discharge from the Hospital, Tamba tried several medications prescribed by doctors, herbalists and others but with no positive results. He was then advised to visit Masanga Hospital which was at that time known for effective treatment of wounds and leprosy patients. He went back to work in Freetown for a while to find the money needed to pay for his treatment in Masanga. On arrival the doctors dressed his ulcer with honey only and within two weeks his ulcer was healed and was subsequently prepared for skin grafting. This was successfully performed, however just as he was going to be discharged, Ebola broke out in Sierra Leone necessitating a government quarantine order for months on the Hospital. Tamba used his time helping out at the wound clinic, working hard to the admiration of the doctors. He was subsequently trained to dress wounds and later employed full time in the Hospital as a wound dressing specialist. He is very happy and passionate about his work and especially the use of honey for dressing wounds. He participated in the Beekeeping Training Workshop and promised to become a good beekeeper to produce top quality honey for his clinic.

Two unique patients at the Masanga Wound Clinic:

Mohammed I met and interacted with two patients at the weekly Wound Clinic. The first was during the dressing session: Mohammed had been admitted to the Hospital about two weeks earlier and has received honey dressings for an ulcer which had affected his entire ankle and almost eaten away his right foot. Mohammed was happy with the treatment he has received so far with honey dressings and told me the doctor was very satisfied by his quick recovery. He said the doctor was going to perform a skin graft operation soon to enable him to be discharged. Unfortunately for 22-year-old Mohammed, his other leg was amputated at the thigh as a result of an ulcer. He had reported at the Hospital too late for the leg to be saved. The amputated wound healed quickly with honey dressings before skin grafting.

The Beekeeping Training Workshop

The main objective of the Bee Project in the Hospital was to train some selected staff members and farmers from five adjoining villages to keep bees to produce quality honey for the Wound Clinic. A five-day Training Workshop was organised to develop production apiaries on the 600 acres of forest land owned by the Hospital. The participating farmers will also keep bees and produce honey and beeswax which will augment that from the Hospital’s apiaries. Marketing opportunities for surplus honey will be explored by the Hospital and the farmers to improve income levels.

Tamba Tamba had an amazing story to tell of his life. Some years back he had been healed of any ulcer at Masanga Hospital and now works full time in the same Hospital as a Wound Dressing Specialist. As a young man, Tamba helped his father on the farm until civil war broke out. One day as they worked on the farm, they were suddenly attacked by the rebels who killed his father. He managed to escape into the forest where he spent the night in an abandoned hut. Unfortunately for him there was a black cobra which bit him on the right ankle. He laid down helplessly and could not move; his whole body swelling and numb. He was rescued by some villagers who took him home to receive first aid from government soldiers who had arrived at their village in pursuit of the rebels. He was then air lifted by military helicopter to Freetown Government Hospital for further treatment. The snake bite developed into an ulcer which refused to

The first Training Workshop taught participants basic honey bee behaviour, hive construction using timber (top-bar hives) and local materials (grass, palm fronds and raffia palm) to make basket hives. These were for an apiary at a selected site in the forest and participants were taught how to set up their hives to attract and manage bee colonies. Other beekeeping equipment was shown, and their uses discussed. At the end of the Workshop, all participants including Dr Van Nunes were fully prepared and ready to establish apiaries that will 4

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produce and supply quality honey for effective wound dressing at the Hospital. As the new beekeepers of the Project grow their hive numbers, our expectations are that viable trade of honey, beeswax and other hive products will develop in Masanga and other parts of Tongolili District. A second Training Workshop for honey harvesting, processing and packaging will be organised in March/April 2020 when the colonies managed by participants are ready.

Postscript Last month, on November 23, Dutch doctor Wouter Nolet (age 30 years) died of the Lassa virus he contracted while working in Masanga Hospital. A second doctor who also contracted the virus is still under surveillance in The Netherlands. Lassa fever does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the public is very low.

Antibacterial activity of honey: A review of honey around the world by Carina Libonatti, Varela Soledad, and Basualdo Marina. Journal of Microbiology and Antimicrobials Vol.6 (3), pp. 51-56, March 2014. 1

Our thoughts are with all friends and family of Wouter at this sad time.


the affected beekeepers due to damages to infrastructure. As far as we can estimate, 682 beekeepers in Chimanimani (Manicaland, Zimbabwe) have been affected, losing 2,912 bee hives. In Chikukwa (district of Chimanimani), there are at least 164 beekeepers, with at least 600 hives washed away by the floods. Solomon Chikwee from Ngangu (Manicaland, Zimbabwe) says: “I had 250 colonised hives, 150 are destroyed or taken by the floods.” He has been hit hard by landslides and flooding. There is urgent need, expressed by beekeepers in the affected areas, to help them rebuild their lives with external help. Many lost their hives with honey bee colonies, or the honey bee colonies absconded. Beekeepers have been unable to harvest honey and are missing the funds they need to reconstruct their normal lives. This is an urgent intervention and funds will go directly toward: replacing hives, training on hive making and reforestation.

In March 2019 devastating Cyclone Idai caused havoc in Southern Africa. From the east coast of Mozambique, it travelled through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Madagascar, causing around 1,300 deaths. More than 3 million people suffered loss of family members, their possessions, homes and livelihoods. In these nations of sub-Saharan Africa, beekeeping helps to support families and can be also a ready source of quick cash when needed. It is a feasible alternative to forest products like charcoal, where the beekeeper becomes a protector of the forest - as honey production is directly related to the health of the forest. Many beekeepers in Manicaland (Zimbabwe and Mozambique) have lost their hives, and consequently their livelihood, because of Cyclone Idai. Swept away by the flooding, destroyed by rock and landslides, or thrown out of the trees by the fierce winds. APIMONDIA (the International Federation of Beekeepers Associations) and Bees for Development, have started a joint effort to raise funds and support beekeepers affected in these areas by Cyclone Idai. It is challenging to collect information about

Please donate to this Appeal and visit

Application to host young beekeepers meeting

After receiving your email, we will contact you and discuss your ideas. In 2022, we expect 50-70 participating countries (each country is represented by three young beekeepers under 18 and up to two adults). The duration of the meeting is usually five days. All the best with your beekeeping endeavours! Jiri Piza, IMYB Coordinator

Dear fellow beekeepers

Information about previous IMYB meetings can be found on our website:

After a successful 10th International Meeting of Young Beekeepers (IMYB) in Slovenia this year, we are already looking forward to the 11th and 12th year meetings which will take place in Slovenia and Russia respectively.

The IMYB is an annual meeting for young people interested in beekeeping. It is designed for participants 12-18 years old to compare their knowledge and skills, make new friends and find out more about other cultures and countries.

We are excited to announce that we are now taking applications to host the 13th meeting of IMYB in 2022. We ask candidates to sign up at by the end of December 2019. 5

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Natural beekeeping in Sicily Danilo Colomela (translation by Giulia Lepori), Italy Photos © Michał Krawczyk

I was born in Palermo, a big city in Sicily. In 2005 I decided to live away from the city. Together with my wife Simona we moved to Sagana, a rural area approximately half an hour by car from Palermo. Here we found what we were looking for: tranquillity, contact with nature, and the possibility to experiment with a simple life of reduced consumption. The place is too beautiful and the house too big to be lived in by only the two of us. Therefore, we decided to establish the Centre for Development of Consciousness – Thar dö ling ( We imagined the Centre as a gym where it would be possible to train the consciousness, like an instrument for positive change in the person and in the community. At first we continued to work in the city – a commuting life – which allowed us also to renovate the buildings. After some time and with the help of permaculture (a methodology to design sustainable human settlements) we understood that the Centre and the place itself could become the very source of our livelihood. With this new outlook, we redesigned our life in a systemic way, and we began inserting various elements into the project, for example aromatic plants, donkeys and fruit trees, to create a productive and resilient system on different levels. One of these elements is the honey bee with the numerous functions that she carries out.

Checking the health of the colony In this initial phase I focused on the main goal of understanding if there is a form of beekeeping that can totally avoid treatments, the inhibition of swarming, nutrition and commercial hybrids. The colonies that I breed come from swarms, and from settled colonies that I caught, which have the genetics related to the territory where I live. After six years, I noticed that there are colonies that survive (in my experience, around 20% of caught swarms) and others that do not survive. Those that did not make it all died by the end of the second year and, among them, 80% by the end of the first year. The loss of a colony is always painful, but death is part of life. I think that it is not useful to excessively help a colony that does not have the genetics for the territory where they live.

In 2010 we asked an expert beekeeper, Giovanni Caronia, to install some of his frame hives on our land to learn by observing his work. After three years the will arose to have an exclusive relationship with the bees and I delved into the theme of natural beekeeping, which really fascinated me, particularly because of the similarities with Fukuoka’s natural agriculture. In 2013 I built my first top-bar hive. I chose this horizontal hive as I considered it very didactic from my beginner’s point of view.

Another important fact that I have observed is that the freedom of swarming eventually leads to an overall reduction of such impulse, which means that

The colony is looking very healthy

Honey extraction using a press 6

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Recovery of a wild colony

Swarm rescue!

the colonies do not swarm every year. The colonies’ general health is good. At times, some of them show the signs of little epidemics caused by viruses, probably spread by Varroa. However, these seem to disappear after some days.

nutritious food; beeswax is useful for natural cosmetics, while propolis is useful for tinctures for the care of human beings and plants. Finally, I would like to share data regarding the latest harvest: average production per hive was 4 kg of honey and 200 g of beeswax. After six years of experimentation, I consider myself satisfied with natural beekeeping modality, which in my opinion gave various results. The products obtained are of the purest quality. With regard to quantity, the relationship between outcome and employed time/energy is rewarding, especially if I compare my harvest with the data from organic beekeeping in frame hives, in the area (12 kg per hive). Besides, by not eliminating the drones I offer the resilient colonies’ genetics the possibility to spread in the territory, for the benefit of the whole population of honey bees.

On many occasions I could observe the cleaning behaviour among bees, also known as grooming. For example, the bees with Varroa infestation tend to clean themselves of the Varroa, or they are cleaned by their companions through their mandibles. With regard to hygienic behaviour of the brood, the bees rapidly remove anything that presents problems (dead or sick), also often caused by Varroa. During these years, I could see that the bees have the possibility to spot the “abnormal” brood. Sometimes the anomalous brood is uncapped, therefore the level of humidity changes inside the cell and Varroa is no longer able to reproduce, whereas the bee larva can continue its metamorphosis.

In this experience, what is most important to me is still the selection of colonies that are more adaptable to the territory, therefore more resistant and self-reliant in controlling parasites and diseases. By increasing the possibilities of healthy life conditions for the bees, I feel that I am working towards a multispecies collaboration for a more harmonious future on earth.

After noticing that a significant number of colonies survive, I started working towards the second goal: the production of honey, beeswax and propolis. The products derived from natural beekeeping are of the highest quality and can be used to promote human health. The honey, extracted by press, is a great

The landscape of the natural apiary in autumn when the heather is in bloom 7

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The African Way Healthy bee colonies and sustainable income maintenance Wolfgang Ritter, Ute Schneider Ritter, Martin Ritter, Gozde Okcu, BEES for the world Honey bees, as pollinators of plants for better harvest and as producers of honey, make an important contribution to our food. In recent decades there have been some massive losses of bee colonies in America and Europe, for which a series of causes has been identified. Diseases appear to play an important role. As an expert on the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE, Paris) and the World Federation of Beekeeping Associations (APIMONDIA, Rome), Dr Wolfgang Ritter has been searching for many years for systems, where bee colonies survive disease without the use of medication. Looking at the OIE atlas of bee disease spreading you can detect many white spots on the African continent. Certainly, it can be concluded that respective examinations have not been conducted. But more often bee colonies especially in East Africa usually do not have problems with brood diseases like American Foulbrood and Varroa virus infections.

In Uganda, Ute talks with a beekeeping family about their situation. Especially women repeatedly stress how strange it would be for them to treat bees with medication when they and their children have insufficient means

Bee health in Africa American Foulbrood has been known since ancient times and should have occurred in these parts of Africa also. However, the first evidence of Paenibacillus larvae, the pathogen of American Foulbrood could be confirmed recently in Kenya obviously showing no clinical signs of this disease. In our own examinations in East Africa, we could neither state an outbreak of American Foulbrood nor prove its pathogen in honey samples taken from food

stored around brood areas. The bee races there evidently exhibit strong hygienic behaviour enabling them to remove any infected larvae before the infectious spores can develop.

Images © Wolfgang Ritter and Ute Schneider-Ritter

The Varroa mite has been recorded for a long time in North and South Africa. Its distribution was proved recently in East, Middle and West Africa. Because of the epidemiology of this parasite, it can be concluded that is has been present all over this continent for many years. Problems with this parasite are only rarely reported from Africa. If there are reports, they mostly come from so-called “modern” apiaries, where the application of American/European management methods using multistorey hives and comb frames has been introduced. Here, medical treatment has been applied or is going to be considered, because of these losses. During our examinations in East Africa, we found Varroa mites and some viruses transferred by the mite including Acute Bee Paralysis Virus and Deformed Wing Virus, but without showing considerable effect on the colony’s health or causing visible damage. Obviously, the strong hygienic behaviour also helps the bees keep the infestation rate of Varroa mites low.

Development cooperation does not mean introducing something learned and experienced at home but listening- sometimes for a very long time – and to learn from those conversations. Eighty-year-old Aba Asefa tells Wolfgang and Ute of BEES for the world and Tilahun Gebey of Bees for Development Ethiopia, about his beekeeping experience

In discussions with beekeepers and experts accompanying us, we could more and more clearly reveal other correlations. The key factor seems to be the bees’ swarming instinct, the connected self-healing capacity by honey bee colonies and the permanent exchange with wild bee populations. 8

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swarms per year or serial swarms are not exceptional. In American/European management system with multi-storey hives, the bee colony’s swarming instinct only develops when a colony has already grown to a considerable size. Therefore, it may become difficult for swarms in some regions to find enough food to survive in times of forage scarcity.

Swarming to change the location

In some regions in Africa, especially where the availability of forage or water depends on seasonal fluctuations, the bee colonies used to migrate on certain routes. Contrary to swarming for reproduction, all bees leave their nest when a colony migrates. The reduced and eventually stopped brood rearing are signs that migration is on the way. As soon as the remaining food stocks can be stored in the honey stomachs of the bees, migration starts.

In local forestry beekeeping, such as here in Tanzania, hives to be occupied by bee colonies are hung in trees and are easily managed. To pick up the hive someone must climb on the tree. On the ground you can work in peace, because all the bees are up in the tree.With a forked branch and a self-releasing knot, you can hang the box up again without anyone having to climb again

The bee races in East Africa react sensitively against disturbance and abscond from their nest when they are bothered too much. This can be initiated by frequent ant attacks or if a colony is badly affected by Small or Large Hive Beetles. Also, frequent or massive manipulations by humans can be the cause. In nests of absconded or migrated colonies, the combs are rapidly destroyed by wax moths and natural sanitisation is accomplished.

Local African bee management

Great variety of nesting places

To understand all this, you must understand first the East African way of managing bee colonies. In small-scale farmers’ apiaries, the bee colonies are kept nearly exclusively in hives with fixed combs. A detection of brood diseases is only possible by examining bees, food and debris. In many regions, they have already switched to use hives based on the principle of top-bar hives: the combs can be moved because they hang on mobile top-bars. A frame is not necessary, because the combs are not fixed to the slanted sides (angle circa 68°) thus staying mobile. The top-bars form a complete surface and protect the bees` nest. Consequently, only a small gap is opened when the nest is inspected. In many African regions it is common to open hives of the sometimes-defensive bee colonies only at night. We demonstrated to the beekeepers in East Africa how to handle and examine colonies in top-bar-hives even during the day. For honey harvest, the combs are extracted, squeezed out or they drip out in baskets, the method usually used with any local hives. In this way the combs are always newly built and contrary to the American/European management system, less contaminated with pathogens of diseases and residues from the environment.

Of course, there is the question of where the swarms or migratory colonies fly to. Reproduction swarms are looking for a nesting site at a distance of at least one kilometre from their former one, to decrease the risk of a possible transfer of diseases and to increase the chance of finding abundant food supplies. Absconding colonies sometimes choose a nesting site more in the vicinity. Even outside of forests it is very easy in Africa for bees to find new nesting sites; because it is common everywhere to hang small containers or hive-boxes in trees as swarm catchers. As soon as they are occupied, the beekeepers take them and include them in their

Swarming for reproduction

Local and top-bar hives are considerably smaller than multi-storey hives and are not extended by supers with frames and combs. Therefore, the bee colony itself defines the size of its nest. In those nests adapted to the colony size, bees can care better for brood hygiene and remove infected or infested brood. In addition, the small hive volume avoids that combs are left uncontrolled by the bees and are destroyed by wax moths or Small and Great Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida). A small hive volume stimulates the colony’s swarming instinct. As nothing is done against swarming, the colonies swarm quite frequently. All African bee races show voracious swarming behaviour: several

To avoid too much heat for beekeepers and for their bees as well, colonies are placed in the dense bush or under trees (here in Uganda). The beekeeper is explaining to Gozde and Martin from BEES for the world which hives are not populated. If there is enough forage, an absconded colony can easily be replaced by a swarm caught in the trees 9

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wild bee population swarm-tree

Bee yard


transport reproductiveswarming absconding natural migration

Bee colonies either leave their apiary to multiply by swarming, to migrate to new regions, or to escape a disturbance. As soon as there are good foraging conditions, the colonies return and can be caught easily in hives placed in trees. At the apiary, they are places in new hives or remain in the swarm catcher hive. This cycle of swarming and exchange with the wild bee population represents an essential element of the self-healing capacity of the African bee own apiary. This complies with any honey bee’s need to settle in a nesting hole over five metres above the ground, with a volume of around 40 litres. In local East African beekeeping, it is usual to indicate the total number of owned hives and the portion occupied by bees, because the number of colonies kept changes according to the season and local conditions. The statement: “I am the owner of a number of bee colonies” is strange in this area and has probably been suggested from abroad. If beekeepers are instructed to keep the bee colonies in their apiary throughout the year, they must provide them with food and water and honeycombs must be stored. This presents additional problems without bringing benefits.

therefore essential elements to provoke self-healing with bees in East Africa. In this way the bee colonies can prevent the outbreak of diseases like Foulbrood and the collapse of colonies because of a Varroa virus infection. This process is similar to sanitisation measures usually practised in Europe and other parts of the world to control Varroa and other diseases. If this natural renovation of the brood nest and the repeated swarming is interrupted, as it is done in most of the management methods applied in America and Europe, problems are frequently caused; because nest and body hygiene behaviour alone - extraordinarily well developed with the African bee races - is not sufficient to prevent the outbreak of diseases and to provoke self-healing.

Swarming and bee health

Development co-operation and its effects

The different forms of swarming seem to be of great importance for bee health. Absconding and migration swarming lead to the complete demolition of all combs by wax moths. In swarming for reproduction, disruption of brood rearing occurs. In the “old colony” it can only start again after the new queen has mated with drones. In the swarm itself, the “old queen” can only continue brood rearing after combs are built and the first stored food is available. African bees collect a lot of propolis. This has a high anti-viral and antibacterial effect. They usually cover the open inside of the nesting sites with propolis to protect everything from infections.

Many projects of development co-operation aim at increasing the productive capacity of bee colonies in Africa by introducing the American/European management method in multi-storey hives and intending as well to increase the beekeepers’ income. But by this strategy also the problems are imported to Africa. Local apiaries called “modern” are reporting high honey yields but also of increasing health problems in their bee colonies. Varroa treatment is requested or already practised. Because of this, the medications commonly used by beekeepers in America/Europe are on the “wish list” of African beekeepers. As the local climate is mostly

The disinfection of the nest as well as the construction of new combs and the interruption of brood rearing are 10

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too hot for vaporizing substances such as organic acids and ethereal oils, medication with synthetic substances is preferred. Unfortunately, such treatments are often disposed of in the African market when they are no longer saleable in Europe or other parts of the world. Residues in honey and wax inevitably occur. But what is even more serious is that every single treatment is detrimental to the natural self-healing capacity of the bee colony and prevents the bee colony from maintaining its natural tolerance against the Varroa mite. Also, the importation or spreading of nonindigenous bee races is an even more fatal error. Though it apparently helps to make beekeeping more profitable and to reduce the risk of financial loss, it finally leads to a disaster concerning bee health. This has been seen in Egypt after the importation of Apis mellifera carnica from Europe. Only endemic races are optimally adapted to the specific local conditions and can develop stable natural tolerances. In addition, costs and workload for the honey harvested are generally lower. Who wants to get more honey offers more hives to be occupied.

In East Africa, bee colonies are often treated only at night, which usually leads to high losses. Here Dr Wolfgang Ritter of BEES for the world demonstrated to a group of young Ethiopian beekeepers that during the day it is much easier to assess the condition of bee colonies without bee losses

Development cooperation without sustainability

large enterprises are built up, however not achieving good prices for their honey on the world market. In consequence, they flood the local market with cheap products in turn depriving small-scale farmers and families of their means of existence.

Not only are the bees suffering. By the importation of hives and equipment beekeepers are lured into a financial trap. It is often difficult to replace the “donated” items on the local market. Not only stainless steel but also wooden boards are too expensive in some regions for the local population. Beekeepers are equipped with devices like honey extractors which they do not need. On the local market, honey filtered through muslin or pressed out, and comb honey also, sell very well. It would be much more important to prefer the use of local natural resources for comb construction and to support local craftspeople.

Fostering the African Way The income from selling the honey from a small number of bee colonies already allows a family to afford school fees and uniforms for their children thus offering them better chances for their future. In cooperation with our local partners our organisation “BEES for the world” fosters local management methods and reveals options apart from often well intended but wrongly implemented development aid. Our aim is to produce high quality products by the African Way: honey for the local market and wax free of residues for the world market. Therefore, local apiaries are enabled to generate additional income from the beeswax only rarely utilised in many parts of Africa. We do not offer money to a project structure but a business model including a partnership. The major part of the benefit from selling the wax is given back to the local partners in order to train additional beekeepers locally and offer them the opportunity to build up their own apiary. In particular, the second born boy, left without access to land, profits from such support and they can stay in their home villages without being forced to try to make their living as daily workers in the overcrowded capitals. Honey bees and the “African Way” can contribute to a better future for Africa, but beekeepers all over the world can learn from African beekeepers, especially concerning bee health.

Without doubt, productive capacity is increased by the introduction of the American/European management method required and practised by development cooperation but also by local institutions. In most cases

BEES for the World supports African beekeepers to produce top quality beeswax and sell it on the European market while promoting the African way of beekeeping, most favourable for bees, beekeepers and the environment. The income from sales will be refunded to support African beekeeping communities via training provided by Bees for Development.

In Ethiopia, training is organised locally by Mr Tilahun Gebey, Director of Bees for Development Ethiopia. Only participants reaching their respective training target are invited for the next training course. Hive construction with locally available materials, as demonstrated here, is part of the basic training. It is followed by the housing of swarms and honey harvest 11

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REFERENCES CHEMUROT,M.; BRUNAIN,M.;AKOL,A.M.; DESCAMPS,T.; DE GRAAF,D.C. (2016) First detection of Paenibacillus larvae the causative agent of American Foulbrood in a Ugandan honeybee colony. SpringerPlus 5:1090

NEUMANN,P.; CARRECK,N.L. (2010). Honey bee colony losses. Journal of Apicultural Research 49 (1): 1-6 NGANSO,B.T.; FOMBONG,A.T.; YUSUF,A.A.; PIRK,C.W.W.; STUHL,C. et al (2017) Hygienic and grooming behaviours in African and European honeybees—New damage categories in Varroa destructor. PLoS One 12(6), e0179329

CHERUIYOT,S.K.; LATTORFF,H.M.G.; KAHUTHIA-GATHU,R. et al. (2018). Varroa-specific hygienic behavior of Apis mellifera scutellata in Kenya

RITTER,W. (1988) Varroa jacobsoni in Europe, the tropics and subtropics. In: Needham,G.R.; Page,R.E.; Delfinado-Baker,M.; Bowman,C.E. (eds.) Africanized honey bees and bee mites. Ellis Horwood, Chichester, UK: 349-359

Apidologie 49 (4): 439 DIETMANN,V.; PIRK,C.W.W.; CREWE,R. (2009) Is there a need for conservation of honeybees in Africa? Apidologie 40 (40): 285–295

RITTER,W.; MICHEL,P.; BARTHOLDI,A.; SCHWENDEMANN,A. (1990) Development of tolerance to Varroa jacobsoni in bee colonies in Tunisia. In: Ritter,W. (ed.) Proc. Int. Symp. on recent research on bee pathology, Sept. 5-7, 1990, Gent, Belgium: 54-59 ; RITTER,W. SCHNEIDER RITTER,U. (2016)) Bee diseases: examining options for their management in Africa. Bull. Anim. Hlth. Prod. Afr., Bee: 19 - 25

ELLIS,J.D.; MUNN,P.A. (2005) The worldwide health status of honey bees. Bee World 86: 88-101 FRIES,I.;RAINA,S. (2003) American Foulbrood and African Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) J. Econ. Entomol. 96(6): 1641-1646 LE CONTE,Y.; ELLIS,M.; RITTER W.( 2010) Varroa mites and honey bee health: can Varroa explain part of the colony losses? Apidologie 41 353-363

SEELEY,T.D.(2007) Honey bees of the Arnot Forest: a population of feral colonies persisting with Varroa destructor in the north-eastern United States. Apidologie 38: 19-29

MULI,E.; PATCH,H.; FRAZIER,M.; FRAZIER,J.; TORTO,B. et al (2014). Evaluation of the Distribution and Impacts of Parasites, Pathogens, and Pesticides on Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Populations in East Africa. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94459.doi: 10. 1371/journal. pone. 0094459

SEELEY,T.D.; SMITH,M.L. (2015) Crowding honeybee

colonies in apiaries can increase their vulnerability to the deadly ectoparasite Varroa destructor. Apidologie 46: 716- 727

Panoramic views of bee colonies in trees in Tanzania: in many regions, swarms are caught in hives placed in trees. If it is far away enough from a beekeeper’s own apiary, their own reproduction swarms or absconding colonies can be caught


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Bees for Development Journal 133 December 2019

Traidcraft Exchange – Review of East Africa Honey Programme George Williams, Impact and Learning Manager, Traidcraft Exchange, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK Images © Traidcraft Exchange


Traidcraft Exchange is an international development NGO that uses the power of trade to bring about lasting solutions to poverty. Working with partners, we implement development programmes in Africa and South Asia, work directly with businesses to improve their supply chains, and campaign in the UK for justice and fairness in international trade. In 2018 we launched a new five-year strategy which deepened our commitment to documenting our programme approaches, their achievements and the lessons learnt. As part of this, in 2019 we conducted a review of our work in the East African honey sector and summarised the key findings in a Programme Briefing available online*. Here are some of the highlights from the Programme Review:

Introduction to Traidcraft Exchange

Traidcraft Exchange is the sister organisation of Traidcraft plc, one of the UK’s leading Fair Trade companies. Traidcraft plc was established in 1979, and in the 1980s began sourcing honey from Fair Trade producer organisations in developing countries. The first range of Traidcraft honeys were sourced from beekeepers in China, Tanzania and Zambia. As the UK’s Fair Trade market matured in the 1990s, Traidcraft’s honey sourcing extended to include Bangladesh, Chile, India, Malawi, the Philippines and South Africa. The practical experience within the wider Traidcraft family of working with and developing honey supply chains, as well as the sector’s challenges and opportunities, informed Traidcraft Exchange’s decision to put honey and beekeeping at the heart of its East Africa Programme in the early 2000s. Since 2008 the programme has worked directly with over 9,000 beekeepers across Kenya and Tanzania.

Watende Yusuf Matinbua Gani is a Tanzanian beekeeper. She participated in the second phase of our Programme in Rufiji District

Realistic expectations and the centrality of trust Collective working through producer institutions is fundamental to the Traidcraft Exchange approach to empowering small producers and can be found across our programmes in cotton, horticulture, jute, tea and more. In the East Africa Honey Programme however, low levels of trust between beekeepers has prevented their institutions from undertaking collective marketing. In some contexts, such as central Kenya where demand for honey is very high, this does not appear to have limited beekeeper incomes. However, in other contexts, our understanding is that collective marketing would enable beekeepers to attract bulk buyers and higher prices. Despite the groups functioning well in other respects, low levels of trust prevent members from taking this next step.

The East Africa Honey Programme

The overall aim is the economic empowerment of small-scale beekeepers through developing strong, sustainable honey value chains that are efficient, effective and equitable. The approach is captured in the diagram opposite.

Learning and questions that remain: Institution Building The Traidcraft Exchange East Africa Honey Programme demonstrates that within two years beekeeper groups can be established and supported to run effectively. However, federated structures (for example associations or co-operatives) take a lot longer to institutionalise. This can be challenging within project durations of three to four years. In part this relates to the need for an in-depth understanding of how to work with entrenched local socio-economic dynamics, and whether, when and how to appropriately but effectively challenge these.

Hive type Are some hive types superior to others? Undertaking the programme review highlighted widely used, but culturally loaded and sometimes unhelpful, terminology associated with hive types. There is a 13

Bees for Development Journal 133 December 2019

school of thought that contrasts so-called ‘modern’ hives (top-bar or frame hives) with so-called ‘traditional’ hives’ (fixed comb – basket, bark or log hives). Putting aside the culturally loaded and normative vocabulary for now, the school of thought asserts the superiority of ‘modern’ hives based upon the suggestion of improved honey yields. Traidcraft Exchange’s experience is that hive type should not be considered in isolation: appropriateness depends on the wider ecosystem of services and support available locally to beekeepers. To utilise new or alternative hive types, beekeepers need to be trained on these types by practitioners who are themselves highly experienced in these specific types. Local service providers need to be available who can construct and help maintain the specific types promoted. Collectively these factors are more critical to hive productivity than hive type per se.

In addition, the assertion of improved yields from the so-called ‘modern’ hives is challenged by several key contemporary practitioners (including key contributors to this Journal!) who assert that when extending the unit of measure from single hives to ‘hive systems’ (within specified geographies) and when looking more closely at productivity over a longer period of time, so-called ‘traditional’ hives are just as productive and sometimes more productive than their ‘modern’ usurpers. While Traidcraft Exchange’s programme monitoring data has not been set-up specifically to shed light on this debate, a related consideration, is hive occupancy rate, a key monitoring indicator of the programme. An unoccupied hive represents unutilised capital, and the ‘cost’ of this to the beekeeper is of course greater when the initial investment is higher, as with the socalled ‘modern’ hives. Therefore, depending on the anticipated occupancy rate, and the economic situation 14

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of the participating beekeepers (ie how much available capital they have), there can be a strong argument for promoting so-called ‘traditional’ hives.

Pollination services Some beekeepers participating in the Programme in central Kenya who keep hives on or near their smallholdings, have provided anecdotal reports of increased crop yields since taking up beekeeping. This seems consistent with literature on pollination services provided by honey bees in agricultural lands. This potential unintended positive impact has not been systematically explored by the programme, but it is likely to be integrated into the next phase as the Programme through a focus on ‘biodiversity value chains’.

Gender and diversity of context The Programme engaged with women’s empowerment through A lovely honey harvest supplements income and diet beekeeping in a diversity of of trade with tea factories of which, at least on paper, geographic and social contexts. Understanding how they are the shareholders. Income diversification via the specific contexts support or impede women’s empowerment was crucial to making progress in beekeeping reduces producers’ dependence on a this area. In Tabora in inland Tanzania for example, single cash crop without affecting this established beekeeping is mainly practised in forest reserves: primary source of income. Increased income and these areas provide the most abundant forage for bees. improved cashflow from honey sales has generated However, these reserves can be far from beekeepers’ a hugely positive response among the participating homesteads and so a trip to harvest honey can take tea growers, who report reduced indebtedness. In the 4-5 days. For many women it is culturally unacceptable longer term, diversification via beekeeping offers the to be away from home: they are expected to perform potential for small-scale producers gaining greater multiple caring and domestic duties alongside power to leverage change in the tea supply chain by business and farming commitments. In addition, reducing their dependency. More details can be found social norms dissuade women from climbing trees at to access hives even if they are able travel to forest Access to finance areas. Therefore, women beekeepers in Tabora tend to employ labourers to hang their hives and to Access to working capital is critical for beekeepers. harvest honey. This of course comes with additional Especially for forest beekeepers, funds are required costs – reducing profit margins. In addition, and as for permits, transport, wages for casual labour, and reported by women themselves, it requires a level more. For many of the poorest beekeepers, their of trust that they will not be cheated by dishonest ability to harvest their honey depends on access to labourers. In coastal Pwani, while beekeeping is working capital. Any initiative that seeks to empower a relatively new income generating activity for beekeepers must consider access to working capital: women, women’s entrepreneurship in general is more it separates subsistence beekeepers from commercial prevalent compared to Tabora, and apiaries tend to beekeepers. Where appropriate, the Traidcraft be located nearer to homesteads, making it easier for Exchange programme has sought to link beekeepers women to become beekeepers. However, without the with formal financial services and/or support extensive forest reserves, honey production volumes beekeepers with savings and loans schemes. are lower. These examples illustrate the nexus of Finally* gender norms and environmental context which need to be considered during programme design and Please do read our Programme Briefing at: implementation.

Diversification as a point of leverage

We hope the Briefing will catalyse discussion and debate. Feel free to get in touch via Bees for Development or email or twitter: programmes@ @TraidcraftDepth

While smallholder tea growers in Kenya benefit from some security of market via the highly regulated sector, they report limited capacity to influence their terms 15

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CONGO As part of the conservation of biodiversity and improvement of income of the rural population of our locality, we established a beekeeping cooperative with 10 members, (six men and four women) in the village of Tchifouilou Maboukou (Tandou Bâ Loumbou) in the sub-prefecture of Hinda (Pointe Noire) with our hives on 50 hectares of land.

Image © Eric Djembo


Since the launch of this Initiative in our community, we have felt a great enthusiasm from the population, who were unaware of the importance of beekeeping, who live on hunting and deforestation. Beekeeping will help with their wish to put an end to the sabotage of flora and fauna whilst ensuring their economic independence. We are looking for support with training in beekeeping.

Eric Djembo, President, Apimarie



Happy to receive my very first copy of Bees for Development Journal (September 2019) in its potato starch packaging. Hah – I just spotted the bee on the cover!

I am Tsenzughul Myom and I developed an interest in beekeeping and honey processing long ago but I did not know how to start until I came across your Bee Bulletin*. I have started right away with top-bar hives that are already colonised two weeks since I placed them – I am excited and encouraged. I am also planning to train farmers in my community and beyond on this money-spinning business: awareness has already been created and many have been to visit see how I have started. Image © Tsenzughul Myom

I enjoyed the Journal and was excited to read all the articles. Some of the challenges we face here in Guyana are very similar to those expressed in the articles from Africa. I have already lent the Journal to my fellow beekeepers and I hope they are as encouraged as I was. I will be glad to receive the previous editions too.

Image © Yimochi Melville

Yimochi Melville, Rupununi

*Bees for Development’s BEE BULLETIN is an email bringing technical information. You can receive the Bee Bulletin free of charge: Sign up at our website

AND THE WINNER IS! Congratulations to Aaron Kalala Karumba of APAA-Congo, the lucky recipient of a BfD Bag for Life after responding to our request to tell us when you received BfDJ 131. (And thank you to everyone else who responded) 16

Bees for Development Journal 133 December 2019


Sweet success Saving bees and improving livelihoods in Romania

As the Zarand brand grows, it is hoped that more farmers will join the initiative and therefore have a greater incentive to continue to manage the land in ways that preserve the beautiful Zarand landscape corridor. Comunity Facilitator for the project, Anca Barbu, said: “One of Zarand’s locals went to Arad and he saw the honey for sale in a store. He knew about the plans for selling the honey but seeing it on that shelf made him believe that beekeeping in the area has a chance to prosper.”

Image © Olivia Bailey/FFI


The Zarand landscape corridor is a beautiful mosaic of meadow and forest habitats Image © Anca Barbu/Asociatia Zarand

As well as having a rich floral diversity, the Zarand landscape corridor in Romania provides an element of wilderness through which brown bears, Eurasian lynx and grey wolves move between the Western and Southern Carpathian Mountains. The Zarand landscape is under increasing threat from new developments and is shifting away from small-scale agriculture. This puts local biodiversity and people’s cultural heritage at risk of being lost. Together with Zarand Association, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working with local communities to protect their environment and promote sustainable agricultural practices and other rural business enterprises. One way is by promoting beekeeping, which encourages communities to value and preserve wildflower meadows and sustainably managed forests because beekeepers rely on these habitats for bees to pollinate and produce honey from wild flowers, and trees including Acacia and lime. Beekeeping is a traditional farming practice in the area with up to 60 beekeepers. However, it is in decline as young people are increasingly moving away from rural villages to earn higher incomes elsewhere. By coming together, beekeepers can strengthen their bargaining power and collectively achieve better prices for their honey than they could as individuals. FFI supports the sale of their honey at a fair price so that farmers can earn an income based on the Fairtrade principle – which seeks to provide local farmers with more favourable prices and improved access to markets for sustainable agricultural products.

FFI has supported the creation of a unique Zarand brand, which farmers can use to differentiate their products. By marketing with this distinctive brand, farmers can showcase their pure and premium honey derived from the Zarand landscape and sell their products at a higher price directly to shops and at fairs. This helps consumers recognise that they are buying a traditionally produced, natural honey of a higher quality than many other products on sale. The honey is produced in line with EU food safety standards, so while it is currently only on sale in Romania, it is planned to expand into other EU countries in the future.

FFI is supporting local communities to market and sell traditional products under the distinct Zarand brand 17

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BOOKSHELF The Dark Side of the Hive – the evolution of the imperfect honey bee Robin Moritz and Robin Crewe 2018 186 pages Hardcover The authors have researched together over many years, and in this new text present details about the life history of honey bees, from the perspective of individual honey bees, rather than the honey bee colony as a whole superorganism. They discuss the ‘careers’ of individual female and male workers and their role in a colony’s organisation. Each honey bee colony is made up with genetics derived from a number of male drones, leading to the colony’s genetic diversity, which affects many aspects of the colony’s organisation and disease resistance. Interesting closing chapters discuss ‘Apiculture and long-suffering bees’, the ‘Dark sides of honey bee science’ and ‘A silver lining for the future of bees’.

Beeswax Alchemy Petra Ahnert 2015 136 pages Softcover Petra Ahnert is a beekeeper and entrepreneur in Wisconsin, USA who through this book guides you to make your own balms, candles, home décor, salves and soap using beeswax. This is an excellent introduction to the form and function of wax, and how to transform it into useful products for health and home, with recipes and instructions to get your craftwork started.

Bee Journal Sean Borodale 2016 reissue 150 pages Softcover £9.99 Available for purchase from our shop in Monmouth or at: This is a beautiful poem-journal that follows the life of the honey bee colony over a year and the beekeeper’s reactions to what is observed. The book was shortlisted for the 2012 T S Eliot Poetry Prize

Bees vs People – a collection of poems about bees and the people who keep them Chris Slade 2019 48 pages Softcover £5 Available for purchase from our shop in Monmouth or at: Chris Slade has been a beekeeper for 40 years and is currently a member of Cattistock Poets. Chris’s poems are about the people he has met as a beekeeper and particularly while attending the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association’s Summer School at Gormanston College every summer.

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Bees for Development Journal 133 December 2019


89th National Honey Show 22-24 October 2020, Sandown Park Racecourse Further details

SICAMM Conference 4-6 September 2020, Athlone Further details



Asian Apicultural Association Conference 7-10 December 2020, Hanoi Further details will appear here

Certificate course Entrepreneurship in apiculture in East Africa Baraka Agricultural College, Molo Further details

If you want notice of your conference, workshop or meeting to be included here and on our website, send details to Bees for Development.


2nd International Meliponine Conference and AAA Symposium 25-28 February 2020, Los Banos Further details



V International Conference: Scientific research into the zoology of invertebrates 26-28 October 2020, Tomsk Further details

An Evening with Monty Don and Bill Turnbull 30 January 2020, 7.30 pm at the Blake Theatre, Monmouth Monmouth Bee Town, Series of Bee Talks First Tuesday of the month, 7 pm at the Shire Hall Free to attend Sustainable Beekeeping Course 25-26 April and 19-20 September 2020 Ragman’s Lane Farm, GL17 9PA For details of all these Events visit

APIMONDIA: 47th International Apicultural Congress 20-25 September 2021, Ufa Further details www.apimondia2021com


EurBee 9 Congress 15-17 September 2020, University of Belgrade Further details


Bees for Development

11th International Meeting of Young Beekeepers 29 June – 3 July 2020, Ivanca Gorica Further details

Beekeepers Safaris


XII International Symposium on Pollination 31 August – 4 September 2020, Cape Town Further details

Trinidad & Tobago 3-13 February 2020 Further details Uganda 2-13 March 2020 Further details France 6-9 May 2020 Further details soon


BSc Beekeeping Science & Technology University of Dar es Salaam Further details


Welsh Beekeepers Association Convention 28 March 2020, Builth Wells Further details

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BBKA Spring Convention 3-5 April 2020, Harper Adams University Further details

TELL US YOUR STORY We accept articles and short reports on new or improved beekeeping techniques, information about bees and beekeeping in your country and your events. We welcome your comments and responses to articles we have published. Articles should be 800-1,600 words in length and accompanied by images. Items can be sent by post or in email text or attachment in Word of pdf format. We accept images as colour prints or digitally saved as jpeg files. Please send images at the size they are taken off the camera. (Images resized for website use are not suitable for printing. If it is not possible to include your submission in the Journal, we may place it in the Resource Centre on our website. All the information material we receive is added to our databank on beekeeping worldwide. 19

Bees for Development Journal 133 December 2019



Posters A series of ten posters available now from Bees for Development. The images used are supplied by our partner organisation TUNADO - The Uganda National Apiculture Development Organisation. POSTER TITLES

• • • • •

Creating an apiary site Advantages and disadvantages of top-bar hives Advantages and disadvantages of local style hives Four ways to get bees Protecting bees from pests and predators

• • • • •

Forage for bees Harvesting honey and beeswax Beeswax Preparing honey for sale Enterprise analysis for beekeeping business

These Posters are free to projects and associations in developing countries and are included in our Resource Boxes for training events and workshops. Posters and Resource Boxes are also available for purchase through our website store. For more information visit our Resource Centre at

Bees for Development, 1 Agincourt Street, Monmouth NP25 3DZ, UK Telephone +44 (0)1600 714848 © Bees for Development 2019 ISSN 1477-6588 Printed on environmentally friendly paper