Thursday, September 20, 2012

This Will Not Be Kicked

Explaining that the natural home of the honey bee is a hollow tree, I relate that all beekeeping efforts should provide a bee hive similar to a hollow tree cavity. Each of the Ethiopian beekeeping trainers in my Shambu class sits quietly with pen and tablet listening to Tucho translate my beekeeping lessons from English to Oromifa. They take notes and write questions for me. As soon as Tucho reads their questions, I realize that my students are knowledgeable; they are paying close attention to me; and they are interested in exploring new techniques in beekeeping. They ask specific questions about ways to manipulate modern bee hives. The students see the usefulness of moving frames of brood to produce new queens, strengthen weak colonies, make colony divisions, and select for better genetics. They ask about working bees in the daytime. Their traditional practice of nighttime honey harvesting gives the beekeepers few opportunities to observe the bees’ brood nest. Having only used smoke to drive bees from the hive, they want to know how smoke works to calm bees. The students question the causes of migratory swarming and hive absconding, both frequent problems for Ethiopian beekeepers. Several follow-up questions come from my suggestion that increasing bee hive ventilation and requeening can lessen the incidence of chalkbrood, a common fungal infection of honey bees in this semi-tropical land.

Some question commonly held practices and beliefs. When they see pictures of Peace Bee Farm hives painted white with stripes of color, they ask why mine are not painted yellow like modern Ethiopian bee hives. They all laugh in understanding when I ask if they ever saw a hollow tree in the forest painted bright yellow. One asks if my hair is gray from touching it with honey on my hands; I explain that it is merely due to my age. EFDA-trained leather worker, Tolesa, crafted the soccer ball signed by my Ethiopian beekeepers in Amharic and Oromifa. This football will never be kicked.

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