When Maithya Mutua decided to venture into apiculture (beekeeping) he was excitedly looking forward to making an extra coin. He had just completed his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology; and had just landed a job in his hometown Wote, Makueni County.
Still living with his parents, Maithya set up an apiary of 5 Kenya Top Bar hives -which he bought at Sh2,500 each- on the eucalyptus trees planted by his parents on their land. He figured that the bees would get pollen from the trees and water from a stream that borders their farm.
Speaking to Kilimo Insight, Maithya recounts how 8 months after setting up the hives he went to harvest honey but the results were not as expected. “I was very disappointed after harvesting 5 kgs from all the five hives and wondered what I was doing wrong.”
He however admits that he had no knowledge or expertise in beekeeping. As a young man, he had seen his grandfather practice beekeeping but he never learnt how it was done. Maithya started doing research online on how to maximize his honey production. It was at this point that he came across a company that offers Apiary Management Services. He reached out to the company and this was the beginning of what turned out to be a very successful agribusiness venture.
He notes that it was through this company, that he learnt that, other than honey, there are other bee products such as; wax, bee pollen, propolis, bee venom and royal jelly that farmers could explore. The company uses modern apiary management techniques such as colony splitting, colony strengthening, colony division, requeening, colony multiplication, venom harvesting, propolis harvesting and royal jelly harvesting that ensure maximum production of bee products.
Over the years, Maithya has mastered the skill of beekeeping and harvests his honey three times a year. He lights up with a smile as he explains that a single beehive produces 10 to 12kgs of honey. The now 27-year-old has been practicing beekeeping for the last 3 years. He has an apiary that consists of 50 beehives of Langstro and Kenya Top Bar and has 3 employees who help him run the apiary.
Like Maithya, many farmers after installing their hives do not do any maintenance or management and only come back to harvest. This leads to many hives being uncolonized or having weak colonies.
It is critical to inspect hives on a regular basis. This is an important management practice to determine the presence or absence of many established pests and diseases.
Here are some practices you should consider taking up to increase your production.
- Seek professional advice on the best practices to manage your apiary. If possible, attend courses or seminars on beekeeping
- Monitor colony strength
- Undertake regular maintenance of the beehives
- Practice good hygiene with gloves and other equipment to reduce transmission of pathogens between colonies
- Seek market for other bee products such as bee pollen, wax, propolis, bee venom, royal jelly
To read more on the things farmers should look out for before venturing into apiculture, read our article on the 3 essential guidelines for beginners.