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Home Agribusiness Keeping Bees For Money? Here Is The Maths

Keeping Bees For Money? Here Is The Maths

by Harvest Money Editor
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Apiarycan be practised from anywhere in any space.  In Uganda, apiary is practised across the country including the east, west, north and central regions.  For a start, all you need are 10 beehives.

Depending on where you get them, this can cost you at least sh1m for KTB or sh2m for the Langstroth.  Local hives cost much less.  If you do not have enough space, you can set up stands with each taking 3 or 4 hives. 

For the 10 hives, it means that you need only 3 stands. To construct these wooden stands, you need spend less than sh100,000. With these in place, the other requirements include a bee-keepers suit which costs sh150,000. This is won by the bee keeper during supervision/harvesting.

You also need a bee smoker at sh50,000, a hive knife, a bee brush, a honey harvesting pail etc.  Overall, with sh2.5m one can start a modern 10-20 hive apiary enterprise.

The money

From the 10-20 hives after one year, each can produce at least 10-20kg of pure honey, which translates into 100-200kgs per year. At sh15,000 per kilogramme at farm gate price, this translates into sh1.5-3m from the hives. In fact, you get back the total investment after just one year. And yet, input in form of labor is very low.

Bees have got very low predators and are not attacked by diseases so you do not need to buy medicines for them.  A bee hive remains colonised for as long as its structure is still right. Bees multiply and create new ones often.

How do I select a site for my apiary site?

Water availability; bees need water to thrive in their business of producing honey. Make sure that there is a water source within a radius of 500 metres. Although bees are known to travel for over 5km looking for water… the nearer the better. If there is no water source, you can put up your own water sources, in small sauce pans or pails near the apiary site.

Good flowering plants; Bees process honey from nectar. The sources of natural nectar are mainly flowers. This is therefore why it is important to have flowering plants near the apiary. These can be coffee, mangoes, maize, bananas, calliandra, eucalyptus and simsim plants.

Have shade over the hives; bees do not like direct sunshine. Therefore, this is why you must select a site that has trees to create a shade. Direct sunshine makes the hives too hot for the bees to live in.

What type of hives should I pick for my apiary enterprise?  

To have bees on the farm, you need bee hives. On the market a top range bee-hive in most cases the Kenya Top Bar Hive goes for between sh100,000 to sh120,000, the Modern Hive or  Langstroth hive goes for around sh150,000 to sh200,000 not colonized or over sh250,000 when colonized. There are also larger modern hives that are more expensive.  However you can make your own hive using materials that are readily available on your farm.  These may include old tree trunks for example, many of which you do not even consider to be valuable. You can also use banana fibres or use papyrus to create basket hives.

In apiary, a hive made using tree logs is called a Log hive. All you need to do is cut the log to a length of say four feet and scoop out the inside to create a hollow inside. Both sides of the log are sealed to leave small openings through which the bees access them.

When it comes to harvest time, the log is simply split open and the honey combs removed. If you want to use the same logs again, all that you need to do is to combine two hollow logs and at the time of harvest you separate the two hollow logs, remove the honey combs and stitch them together again in preparation for the next harvest.   There are also modernized local hives where a queen extruder is included. These cost sh70,000 including the stand.

You can also use banana fibres to make cheap hives. This is when flexible sticks are woven together in a conical shape. The outside is then smeared with wet soil mixed with animal dung. Both ends of the cone are then sealed with leads made out of banana fibre and grass.   

Other bee hives that can be made using readily available materials include the grass hive and the gourd hive. Although these improvised hives do not harvest as much as the top bars, they can sufficiently meet your family`s honey needs and even save some for sale. Why not try it out today?

How do I maintain the apiary site to keep off pests?  

Keep the trees for the shade well- trimmed to reduce incidences of pests. Do not let grass over grow the hives because this attracts

Carry monthly checks on the hives to lookout for infiltration by insects. If a hive is infected by other elements for example bee bettles or termites, you need to decolonize it and clean it.

If there is not enough water or flowering plants, establish water mixed with sugar in small containers not far from the apiary unit.

Dealing with bee pests

There are a wide range of pests that attack bees, thereby reducing honey production. Some of these are insects like termites whiles others are reptiles or even mammals like the mongoose  insects include hive beetles, termites, weaver ants, bee hornets and wasps. To stop these attacks, a farmer must carry out various interventions.

-To stop bee hornets, look for their nests near the hives and destroy them manually.

-To stop termites smear burnt engine oil on the hive stands in order to stop them from climbing up.

-To stop rats from going into the hives, make sure that the top cover of the hive is well set because that is where they pass to access the hives. You can also use a heavy object, placed on top of the cover to keep it in position.

-To control wax moth, use improvised bottle traps with vinegar and water. Plastic mineral water bottles can do. The moth will be attracted into the bottle and it will not come out.

Harvesting quality honey   

By the 8th month of setting up the hives and colonization there honey to harvest in the hives. However, it is advisable that a farmer takes at least 12months before the first harvest. This helps the honey to completely mature. There 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.

-For proper harvesting, you need a bee-keepers suit, which prevents bees from stinging you. This includes a suit and gloves. A set costs between sh80,000-sh150,000.

– You need a smoker to scare off the bees, a bee knife to help pull out the combs. It is advisable to harvest in the evening because bees are less aggressive at that time. Smoke the hives 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 this means that you are killing young bees and besides, the honey is not good.

-After harvesting, put the combs in a clean bucket (s).

-You can either use a honey press to get honey from the combs. Honey presses are sold in agri-inputs shops starting from sh400,000 onwards, depending on capacity.  

– Or, let the honey drip slowly from the combs into the bucket, though this may take some days, it is the best way to get the purest honey. After this, the honey should be ready for consumption.

-Add all the beeswax and watch carefully as wax melts down. Remove it from the fire immediately after the last lump of wax has melted.

– Pour melted beeswax into the mould and place in a cool, dry place to cool.

– Remove the cakes of beeswax next morning.

-The dark material collected at the bottom can be removed with a knife and can be sold to a shoemaker. The clean raw beeswax is ready for the market.

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