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HONEY-BEE KEEPING: AGRIBUSINESS WITH LOW START-UP COST

Packaged Honey by Tobi
Honey-bee keeping (Apiculture) is a striving and flexible agribusiness that can be started with a very low cost depending on the scale of production.  Honey-bees (Apis Mellifera) are economic insects which produce honey in a conducive environment where there are pollens, nectars, drinking water and bee-hive to house them. They also produce important substance such as wax, and propolis. Honey-bee helps in pollination of agricultural plants.  Honey-bee keeping has helped entrepreneurs in creating enterprises such as honey production/processing, Wax production, Api- therapy, Bee-hive and other equipment production. Honey is an important product from bee-keeping that is highly valued with ready market because of its simple sugars, nutrition, medicinal and healing properties. It also finds many uses in confectionery. The first harvest from a bee-hive could be 4 litres while subsequent harvest could be 10 litres or more. A well packaged 1 litre bottle of Honey can be sold fo N1500. Bee keeping business can be started with as low as N30,000.
‘Farmers in Kenya have started concentrating on stingless bees (meliponines) which have better production. A single stingless bee can give 10 litres of honey every 3 – 4 months. On feeding especially when it is dry and there are no flowers, it is important to place syrup in the ratio of 1:1 because they need to feed’ said Wambago, a Kenyan Female Farmer.
To set up a good apiary and produce good honey, it is essential to consider and understand the following points;
1.         Bee Colony: In a bee colony there are two female caste (Queen and Worker) and male (Drone) with each having different roles. The Queen is the largest member of the colony and can be recognised by her long abdomen which extends far beyond the tip of her wings in the resting position. Her thorax is larger than that of the worker. Viewed from the front, her head is round. There is only one queen in each bee colony. Queen has stinging apparatus. It is the only female that lay eggs which produce the females, queens or worker bees and drones. The Workers do most of the work in the colony such as gathering of nectars/propolis, protecting the colony, producing wax, building combs, taking care of sick or dead ones, scouting for a place to colonise, etc. Viewed from the front the worker has a triangular shape. The tips of her wings in the rest position cover the end of her abdomen. Workers have stinging apparatus. Nectars harvested are stored in the comb, enzymatic action then convert complex sugars to easily absorbed simple sugars (glucose and fructose) which we called honey. The combs are sealed with wax. The Drone is the second largest in a colony and usually few. A drone is much broader than a worker but shorter than a queen. The abdomen is not pointed. The eyes touch each other on top of the head. Drones have no stinging apparatus. They cannot collect any food and are fed by the workers. Their task is to mate the queen.
Kenya Top Bar Hive
2.         Beehive and Colonization: Beehives are needed to house the bees; most commonly used beehives are Kenya top bar hive, Langstroth hive, Tanzanian top bar hive, East and African Long hive. The beehives should be sited close where there are abundant good nectars, not waterlogged area, suitable drinking water for bees and easy accessibility. The beehive should be protected from wind, rain, cattle/game, toads, Termite/Ants, bushfire and thieves. All these are needed to be considered to prevent absconding from the hive. Baiting a hive can be done using bee wax, honey, locust beans, rotten fruits, lavender, cassava powder, etc. Baiting should be done at 2 month intervals until full colonization is achieved. The first harvest should take place 6 – 12 month after colonization. Bees build their combs from the top downwards. They usually do not attach combs to the bottom of the hive and to sloping walls. There is a fixed distance between the combs (the bee space). Any space greater than the bee space will be filled up with comb
3.         Feeding: Feeding may not be necessary but during scarcity it is important to feed a colony to stimulate development. Regular feeding with small quantities of sugar solution (or diluted honey) stimulates the development of brood. The food that is stored in the combs is important for the survival of the bees but does not stimulate them to greater activity. A colony from which you have already removed honey cannot bridge a dearth period without being fed with sugar solution. You make a sugar solution by heating equal parts of sugar (good quality crystal sugar) and water until the sugar is dissolved (do not boil). Never use brown sugar as it causes diarrhoea among the bees.
Farmer Tobi
4.         Bee Handling: Major equipment needed in bee keeping including Smoker, Protective clothing, Hive tools and bee-hives. Bees react strongly to certain smells such as perspiration, alcohol, soap and perfume. In order not to be stung, avoid carrying these strong smells when you inspect the bee colonies and do not keep any animals near the bees. Bees can become entangled in hair and in woolen clothing. It is therefore advisable to cover the head and to wear clothes made of smooth fabric. When bees are aggressive they will always go for dark colours first. Wear clothing of the lightest possible colour. Make sure that you always have some form of smoke at hand when you want to open the hives. Carry out all activities with slow movements. Bees react strongly to rapid movements.
5.         Honey Harvesting: The time to harvest honey depends on the flowering period of the bee forage plants and the extent of the honey flow. Comb with capped honey should only be harvested while uncapped ones should be left undisturbed. Honey can be extracted by Floating, Pressing or Centrifuging. Honey can be stored in a glass jars, plastic bottles or metallic container with well-sealing lids.

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