Requirement for starting a Bee farming
Apiculture is basically the rearing of bees for products like honey, wax and propolis. Some African communities keep bees with the sole purpose of providing security to their homesteads and farms.
Bee keeping was initially perceived as a traditional enterprise commonest among the hunter/gatherer communities of Kenya. The animals were considered wild where they scavenged for their own feed away from their shelter (open space on tree branches, in underground holes/caves atc).
Bee colonies on tree branches
With current innovations in agricultural sector, bee keeping is becoming a large scale venture and it has proved to have a much significant role in addressing the issue of food security and income sustainability. For instance, research has proved that bees play a very crucial role in pollination of the crops and this is important for agricultural crop yields.
The invention efforts have been geared towards changing the perception that bees are wild insects and cannot be farmed just like any other conventional animal.
Starting bee keeping
Just as many other enterprises, it is important to do valuation for the suitability/viability of the enterprise before investing your cash, time and effort.
Among the important factors to consider are together with:
This is the question of the ecological conditions of the place. Bees will prefer some places from the others. The factors of great concern are temperatures, humidity and rainfall which will determine the availability of important resources like water and feed. The simplest method to populate the hives is by the use of the catcher boxes which are put in the path of the swarming bees to attract them. Some honey combs can be put into this boxes to lure the bees into the catcher box.
One has to determine if he/she has the required amount to start bee keeping. This is in terms of the cash for the purchase of the equipment like bee hives, catcher boxes, artificial feeds, labour, power honey comb spinners, smokers and all related cost.
We always recommend that the farmer should consider starting small and make use of locally available material. This will minimize on the cost and ensure good returns to a growing farmer.
Siting the apiary is very important to a bee keeper to minimize the conflict between these animals and the famer/public/other animals. Below is an outline of the important considerations when siting an apiary:
The apiary should be away from noisy places like near a working machine. Noise excites bees and motivates them to sting.
Site the apiary at the place far from homestead and the animal yards/grazing areas. Site the bee hives closer to watering and foraging points. This will minimize the distance travelled to look for feed and water and the same is converted to productivity
Avoid situating hives closer to the busy roads/paths. Bees are easily disturbed my strong wind and air current. Avoid siting the hives directly facing the wind direction.
Site the hives at a point that makes supervision easy for the farmer/manager.
Make provisions to minimize the chances of predation to the bees. Most bee farmers are using the wire mesh to enclose the area so as to keep away birds and animals that prey on bees. You can as well use scare crows to keep in check the predators.
Market for the final products
Every farmer wants to get the profit at the end of his/her labour. This is only attainable if the market for the final products is very much known and well organized. Considerations has to be made on how easy it will be to transport the inputs to the farm and the produce to the market.
The farmer has to understand what are the legal policies affecting the market for the products. How is the product affected by the forces of demand and supply in the final market? This determines the amount of the profit one can realize from it all.
Social and Cultural consideration
It is important to understand the cultural believes of the people you target as the final market. For instance say a farmer wants to keep bees for honey among the people who believe honey is a product from insects and they are not interested to feed on such, it won’t work for this farmer to achieve the goals.
Bee is a social insect and will prefer living in a family like structure we are calling a colony. Each single bee colony can be made up of up to 3000-9000 bees or even more depending on the availability of the water and feed material around. The largest proportion of this is the worker bees (about 90% of the colony).