By the eighth month of setting up the hives and colonisation, honey is ready for harvest.
However, it is advisable that a farmer takes at least 12 months before the first harvest. This gives time for the honey to mature.
After the first harvest, you need to follow the flowering period of crops and trees in your area. Bees stock a lot of honey during the flowering period, which means that you need to harvest soon after the flowering period.
You can harvest twice or thrice a year.
For proper harvesting, you need a beekeeper’s suit, which prevents bees from stinging you. This includes a suit and gloves. A set costs sh80,000-sh150,000.
You need a smoker to calm the bees and a bee knife to help pull out the combs. It is advisable to harvest in the evening because bees are less aggressive then. Smoke the hive entrance and sides before opening, and harvest only sealed /capped combs.
However, do not remove a comb that is mixed with young bees (broods) or pollen because you would be killing them, and, besides, that honey is not good.
After harvesting, put the combs in a clean bucket(s).
You can use a honey press to extract the honey from the combs. Honey presses are sold in agri-input shops, starting from sh400,000 onwards, depending on capacity.
You can also let the honey drip slowly from the combs into the bucket. Although this may take some days, it is the best way to get the purest honey. After this, the honey should be ready for consumption.
You can also process the beeswax and sell it separately. Heat a clean saucepan and then add the beeswax and watch carefully as it melts.
Remove it from the fire immediately after the last lump of wax has melted.
Pour the melted beeswax into the mould and place it in a cool, dry place to cool.
Remove the cakes of beeswax the next morning.
The dark material collected at the bottom can be removed with a knife and can be sold to a shoemaker/shiner for enriching the shoe polish. The clean raw beeswax is ready for market.
Cost of the enterprise
Depending on where you get them, each Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) hive can cost you at least sh100,000.
Langstroth hives cost sh200,000 each. Local hives costs as low as sh40,000. If you do not have enough space, you can set up stands, with each taking three or four hives.
This means that for 10 hives, you only need three stands. To construct these wooden stands, you need less than sh100,000.
The other requirements include a beekeeper’s suit, which costs sh150,000.
This is worn by the beekeeper during supervision/harvesting. You also need a bee smoker, which you can get at sh50,000, a hive knife at sh10,000, a bee brush at sh10,000 and a honey harvesting pail at sh20,000, among others.
Overall, one can start a modern 10-20 hive apiary enterprise with sh2.5m.