Busy bees

I am now an amateur beekeeper. And so is my brother, Bailo!

Why we started raising African bees is a long story, and I want to tell it right. I need more time to collect my thoughts, but for now, I want to show you a little glimpse of what we have been up to.

BEEcause is a local NGO that helps Peace Corps volunteers work with Gambians interested in beekeeping, and Bailo and I have attended a couple of the trainings over the past month or so.

  • DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE 200 SPECIES OF BEES?
  • APIS MELLIFERA IS THE ONE FOUND IN THE GAMBIA.

Since bees need to collect nectar from blossoming flowers to survive, BEEcause is one beautiful place. One of the biggest benefits to beekeeping is the pollination they provide for the environment.
environmentIn our first training, Bailo’s friend Buba came along. We built catcher boxes with moveable top bars. We baited the top bars with wax to attract bees. When we got back to Sibanor, we hung our two boxes high in the trees. The bees will start to build honey combs along the top bars. After giving the bees time to colonize, you can transfer them and their combs into a bigger hive.

  • A HEALTHY COLONY HAS ABOUT 90,000 BEES.

  • IF THE COLONY GETS TOO BIG, THE QUEEN WILL LAY A DAUGHTER QUEEN WHO WILL LEAVE THE HIVE AND TAKE 5,000 BEES WITH HER TO START A NEW FAMILY.

catcher boxesWe learned how to make an alternative hive using local materials. One method is to weave palm frawns to make a basket hive. You can build a frame on top to support the top bars. Another idea is to use tree branches as the sides of the box to cut down on the cost of processed wood. Mixing cow dung with water creates a paste to seal the holes.

  • THE FEMALE BEES DO ALL THE WORK, CUTTING THEIR LIFE SPAN TO JUST 3 TO 4 WEEKS.

  • A QUEEN BEE, WHO IS RESPONSIBLE ONLY FOR LAYING EGGS, LIVES ABOUT 5 YEARS.

alternative hivesBailo and I invited our sister Nyima to our second training, where we learned how to make bath products from the honey and wax the bees produce. We practiced making soap and body cream.

soapAt nightfall, we suited all up …

suits
… and went beekeeping. Being surrounded by thousands of buzzing bees is incredibly surreal. (Click here to read an in-depth story about it.) We peeked in some hives to check for pests and diseases, and we even harvested some Grade A honey.

  • THE BEST HONEY COMES FROM SOFT, BRIGHT WHITE COMBS WHERE THE HONEY HAS BEEN CAPPED.

  • THE SEASON FOR HARVESTING IN THE GAMBIA IS IN JANUARY, MARCH AND MAY.

bees

–JDF