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The Keeper of the Bees

posted Jan 25, 2010, 8:44 AM by Reinoud Vaandrager
One of the reasons I came to Cameroon was to learn natural beekeeping. Why natural beekeeping you ask? Well, one of the reasons was that I wanted to do something completely different (tm) for a change. Working at Google is great, but it still is an internet company, so after a few years my outlook on life started to shrink to around 24" (the size of my monitor on my desk).

Bees are also a fascinating subject. A single hive can contain up to 80.000 bees. Most of them identical clones. There are thousands of female worker bees (they do all the hard work, in and outside the hive), hundres of male drones (these guys don't do anything, except trying to mate with a queen on their lucky day - except they die after the act, and most of them keep dreaming until they are expelled from the colony to die anyway).

In the past we could rely on many insects to do pollination for us, but since most insects were deemed pests by humans and we developed all kinds of pesticides we have been becoming more and more reliant on bees to do the pollination for us. No pollination means no crops means no food means TSWHTF. Also in western countries we have commercialized and industrialized beekeeping to an extend where the bees are stressed to the maximum (moving them around from monoculture to monoculture, taking all their honey and replacing their stock with low-nutrient sugar syrup, pollinating heavily pesticide spayed crops, creating hives that fit the farmer better then the bees, etc, etc.).

So learning natural beekeeping seems to be a good way to learn more about this interesting topic and change my perspective from digital 24" to anologue full screen :)

That said, I have already learned a great deal about beekeeping here during my initial field trip to the Kwagene sanctuary. Last week I also learned how to construct my own KTB (Kenyan Top Bar) Hive from wood and bamboo. Armed with a saw and a machette you can create your own hive in a morning :)

showing off some freshly cut topbars, in the background the hive.

appying molten beeswax to the topbars to 'bait' the hive for colonization.

Tomorrow I'll learn how to properly install a hive and bait it for colonization. Things you have to take into account are proximity to people & children, nearby water, the types of plants and flowers in the vincinity, location of the sunrise, direction of wind, and so on and so forth. After that, I'll learn about harvesting honey and finally how to process honey and other bee byproducts such as propolis, beeswax and royal jelly. Sweet! :)