By Joshua Kato
Inside a fence surrounding three rented houses in Kyebando, off the Northern Bypass in Kampala, there are over 10 bee hives in one corner of the fence.
All of them are colonised! Although there are three homes in the fence, none of the members has ever been attacked by the bees.
“I wanted to show people that it is possible to keep bees in an urban area,” Moses Kuteesa says.
Kuteesa is the owner of Bee Farmers Crib.
“It is a matter of handling. Bees know when somebody is attacking them and they react defensively. But if you gently open the hives, they will not attack you,” he says.
Kuteesa used a smoker to subdue them. Smoke prevents bees from flying away farther into the surroundings to attack people.
“Even when you use a smoker, do not put in grasses or elements that produce a stinging/sharp smell, for example, lemon grass. These irritate the bees and they attack you or anybody else nearby,” he advises.
Honey is not only the sweetest product from the venture, but it also gives sweet money.
Kuteesa shows that beekeeping can be practised from anywhere in any space. For a start, you could begin with 10 hives.
Depending on where you get them and the type of hives, this can cost at least sh1m-sh2m if they are fully colonised. If one has space constraints, opt for stands with each taking three to four hives.
He has a combination of Langstroth, KTB and local hives. Kuteesa says for 10 hives, one needs only three stands. Setting up a stand costs at least sh100,000.
The other requirements include a bee-keepers suit, which costs sh100,000. This is worn by the beekeeper during harvesting.
Overall, with sh2.5m, one can start a modern urban apiary enterprise with 10 hives.
According to Kuteesa, from the 10 hives placed in the corner of the compound, each can produce at least 34kg of pure honey per year. This translates to 340kg per year.
At a farm gate price of sh15,000 per kilogramme, this translates into sh5.1m from the 10 hives.
And yet, input in form of labour is low. Bees have 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 right. Bees multiply and create new ones often.
Selection of apiary site
- Water availability: Bees need water to produce honey. Make sure that there is a water source within 500 metres. Although bees are known to travel for over 5km looking for water etc, the nearer the better.
“If there is no water source, you can set up your own water sources, in small saucepans or pails near the apiary site,” Kuteesa says.
- 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, simsim plants, etc. However, for Kuteesa’s urban bees, he places sugar water, maize bran, cassava flour from which the bees collect nectar through converting carbohydrates into sugar.
“With this system, the bees do not have to go far away from the hives to look for nectar. If you observe closely, every bee that returns to the hives has nectar all over her legs and body,” he says.
- 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.
“I cover the hives with an iron sheet to reduce the impact of the sun and rain water,” he says.
- Keep it away from any animals or animal shelters, for example, a kraal. Bees are easily irritated by animals and they may attack them. Animals may also meander into the apiary site, hence causing attacks.
PHOTO CAPTION: Kuteesa says he wanted to show people that it is possible to keep bees in urban areas.