Beekeeping: 3 Essential Guidelines For Beginners
Beekeeping or apiculture is the rearing of bees for honey or other products; produced for personal or commercial purposes.
When it comes to keeping honeybees, there’s a lot of contradicting advice. So how do you cut through the noise to find the guidelines and tricks that will work best for you? Here are 3 things you need to know before you start apiculture.
Before you commit to beekeeping there is need to conduct plenty of research. You need to understand how rearing of bees works; what they eat, how to properly maintain the hives as well as the precautions when handling bees to avoid being stung.
It is significant to also research on the various bee species. Bees in Kenya belong to the species Apis mellifera. Within this species, are a number of races distributed globally and four of them are found in Kenya.
- Apis mellifera scutellata — A small and highly aggressive bee with a great tendency to reproduce and migrate. They are found in the plains and lowlands areas such as Baringo.
- Apis mellifera monticola — A large, dark and gentle race (though less productive) with a tendency to reduce brood rearing; at the first sign of forage decline and may not migrate. This species is found in the highlands such as Meru and Mt Elgon.
- Apis mellifera yemenitica (formally, Apis mellifera nubica) — The smallest with slenderest abdomen and the largest yellow abdominal color band of all African races. It withstands and survives drought by excessive migration. It is found mostly in the northern parts of Kenya.
- Apis mellifera littorea — It is found in the coastal lowlands and has a tendency to rear brood throughout the year without migrating due to the availability of forage along the coast.
Moreover, it is necessary to do a research on how to control diseases and parasites. Every beekeeper should get to know their bees and the diseases and parasites that can adversely affect them.
Purchase new beekeeping equipment
Many new beekeepers use the DIY method and try to build their own structures. While this may save money, it’s not recommended by most experts.
Most Kenyan farmers still use traditional methods where log hives are hazardously perched on trees. It is important to invest in a strong and durable beehive which keeps the bees safe from predators and harsh weather conditions. There are different types of beehives, such as; the traditional log hive, Kenya Top-Bar Hive and Langstroth.
Most farmers practicing beekeeping for commercial purposes prefer the Langstroth hive, for it is easier to maintain, has removable frames for easier hive inspection, has adequate space between the brooding chamber and super box, which is used for collecting honey and has increased honey production.
The farmer also needs to purchase harvesting materials such as bee suits, gumboots, gloves and smokers.
When looking for a location to set up your hives, you need to look for a place that is less disturbed, far from noise or human activities. Avoid fields frequently sprayed with chemical pesticides to reduce bee poisoning and honey contamination. The area should be well-drained to prevent the bees from absconding (migrate) due to high humidity.
Set the hives under trees or away from direct sunlight, flooded places or areas with strong winds. The beehive should also be close to water and nectar sources. If your site is exposed, erect a small shade above the hives.