Preparation and planning is important for a successful outcome in beekeeping, so I started preparing as soon as I accepted my Winrock International Farmer-to-Farmer assignment for Food Security. I gathered literature about beekeeping in the tropics. My son, Tod, and I sat down and shared ideas from what we had observed from our experiences. We both travelled to Ethiopia earlier this year on separate volunteer beekeeper training assignments in Ethiopia’s southwestern highlands. Tod described his experiences working with Ethiopia’s national standard modern bee hive, the Zander hive. He explained how the attached solid bottom board prohibits some hive manipulations, like brood box reversing, that are regularly employed in temperate zones. Tod also explained that the single rather small entrance to the hive can lead to difficulties in hive ventilation and cooling.
I contacted Pam Gregory in Credigion, Wales, UK, and she graciously sent me her Manual of African Beekeeping for Beekeeping Trainers. Pam, who has extensive experience training beekeepers in Sub-Sahara Africa, also shared her ideas with me about which items are most suitable for the farmer beekeepers of Africa. She offered me plans for a standard-sized Kenyan top bar hive that can be made from locally found materials and for a bee veil which can be made from a grain sack and a piece of mosquito netting. I put together a veil to test the ease of producing the most important piece of beekeeping safety equipment. The veil proved to be quite satisfactory. The grain sack’s stiff fabric of woven plastic held the veil comfortably away from the face to prevent stings. Rita tested the hand-made beekeeper’s veil shown in today’s photo. Tod and I also discussed differences in descriptions of some authors’ opinions about the behavior of bees in the tropics. My previous host in Ethiopia, beekeeper Wubishet Adugna, explained that many assumptions regarding bee behavior don’t apply across all of Ethiopia’s diverse geographical regions. Some, he says, are simply wrong. I have much to learn.