Monday, September 10, 2012

Training in Shambu

My training of beekeeper trainers in Shambu includes both classroom and practical experience. Ninety-seven percent of Ethiopia’s honey bees are housed in traditional bee hives high in trees. Traditional beekeeping primarily involves placing in trees a number of hives, rubbed with a native plant as a bee attractant. In western Ethiopia, the plant is “kusaya” in Oromifa or “kosereta” in Amharic, a plant with a lemon odor similar to honey bee Nasanov pheromone. After swarms move into the hives, beekeepers wait for the bees to expand their colony and build up stores of honey. Then, at night, a beekeeper climbs a tree and lowers a hive down to a waiting partner. Using large amounts of smoke, the beekeepers drive the bees out of the hive and cut out the honeycombs. The evicted colony of bees is lost. The honeycombs are crushed by hand, and the honey and beeswax are collected together. The traditional beekeepers actually have little interaction with the hive and the bees. The students, each seasoned beekeepers, are extremely interested in the workings of a honey bee colony.

Ethiopia’s rainy season dictates our training schedule. Intermittent rains and power outages bring us indoors. Using a portable generator, we view photos of healthy bee hives and hive problems; many are the same photos seen in this blog. Some have not seen inside a hive with the bee colony intact. Their only experience involves driving bees from the hive at night. For practical experience, the beekeepers prepare a modern Zander hive and transfer the bees from a traditional hive to it. This procedure will allow beekeepers to catch swarms of bees in the treetops and then move them to modern hives where they can be tended allowing for continuous harvests without destroying the bee colony. First, beeswax is melted and cleaned to produce foundation. In today’s photo, skilled hands embed support wires into the freshly made sheet of foundation using a knife heated in an open fire.

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