my great uncle and I were talking when the subject of bee keeping came up. He told me that there was a company that was selling hives and offering training on beekeeping. My interest was stirred when I found out that you can harvest honey 2- 3 times a year or even more depending on the type of hive and climate where you live.
The idea was to have as many hives as the surrounding areas can support. It is said that bees can go forage as far as 10 km radius from the site of the hive. That is where the environment you live in determines where and how many hives you can keep. If you live in a densely populated area, you may not be able to keep bees.
There is however somewhere in the city that I did see urban bee keeping. This was a property neighboring a hospital. Towards one corner of the compound, there were tall trees planted and surrounding the apiary. I've heard that this is a good strategy as the tall trees make the bees fly high when going out and coming into the hives. This reduces disturbance fro the bees to neighbors.
I visited a few beekeeping companies and found out what they offered and then compared. I lastly visited the national beekeeping station. Here I talked to the beekeeping experts and also got some writeup on the same. I also decided to start my beekeeping journey by purchasing two langstroth hives.
I decided on a site for the apiary along the fence of the farm, and setup the entrance of the hives facing the fence. I used to check the hives daily for activity. After about a week and no luck, I remembered some ways to “woo” the bees into inhabiting my hives. There are certain scents and smells that attract bees. The one that I could find was lemon grass essential oil. I put a few drops on a piece of cotton wool and put it the the hives.
The hives were inhabited within a week after that. After the bees had settled in, I gave them about a month before I added a super. A langstroth hive has boxes that stack on top of each other. The bottom box called a brood box, is where the bees setup combs with their young and some with honey. The bottom box is usually taller that the others. This is to give the bees adequate space for rearing of their young and growing their colony.
The other boxes stacked on top of the brood box are called supers. These are separated by a kind of mesh screen. This allows the worker bees to go up into the super and make combs of honey, but prevents the queen bee, who is larger physically, from going up and laying eggs in the super. This means that the super when full, only contains honey and makes it easier to harvest.
I kept inspecting the hive every 2 weeks, so as to see how much honey they had collected. Once they have filled and capped(covered) about ¾ of the combs, they are considered ready for harvest. Why this is important is because if you harvest honey at any stage before capping, even if the combs are full, there is a risk of the honey going off and fermenting because it will have a high moisture content.
Once I decided on the harvest day, I prepared my smoker, wore my bee suit and went to the hives. I went In the early evening so as not to cause a lot of commotion. I had once gone to my great uncles farm with my uncle. It was a half a day's journey to drive there. Once we and got there around midday, we decided to go and have a look at ,and possibly harvest the honey. Everything was set for my uncle and I except the second bee suit didn't have gloves. I was advised to wear some black paper bags to cover my hands. This I later learnt was a big mistake. Bees apparently hate the color black. Once we had opened the first hive the bees seemed to attack me more than my uncle, especially targeting my hands and the black paper bags offered no protection at all.
I had to abandon my uncle and flee for the sake of my poor hands. In my endeavour to escape the wrath of the bees, as I walked out of my great uncles farm, some herders who were looking after their cattle and goats were quick to tell me not to run in their direction. Anyway after walking about a kilometer or so, the bees seemed to abandon the chase. When I got back to my great uncle's farm, we had a good laugh about what had transpired and the lessons learnt. This was when I decided it was better and less disruptive to harvest honey in the evening, when darkness has approached.
The hive once opened with a hive tool to pry the cover and bars open, I cut the combs of honey into a bucket and covered, one at a time. The next step was to extract and sieve the honey which I did the next day. I must say that the honey I harvested from my hives was some of the tastiest and most fragrant I have had.
Would I do it again?
I have never stopped keeping bees. This is more so after I tasted what authentic honey tastes like. The problem with the honey especially store bought around here, is that most of it has no flavor or aroma and, in my opinion, has a watery consistency.
I would thus not stop keeping bees as I love eating authentic tasty honey. It may also be a good way to earn some money by selling the surplus honey.