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The stronger the colony, sweeter the honey

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An extension officer explains the importance of placing beehives in crop gardens. PHOTO/MICHAEL J SSALI

Beekeeping is the maintenance of hives for the production of honey and this entails care given to the interior and surrounding of the hives.

Maintaining bee hives requires a decent amount of work and intervention.
Beekeepers have designed countless measures to protect hives from rotting, natural hazards such as winds, and pest control among others. Here are some ways to manage your apiary and ensure a tidy and healthy environment for your bees.

Shield
To start with, constructing an apiary or bee house will provide housing for the bees and ensure longevity of the bee structures.

However, bee farmers should also be on the lookout for weather patterns such as rains and excessive heat from the sun that can deter the bee structures. Therefore, while installing shades to shield the colony Pison Atwine, a beekeeper in Buhweju District suggests that these structures should be well maintained and have regular hive checks and inspections.

He says, “We have made it a practice to replace old hive stands in time in order to avoid losses resulting from hives falling down.” However, while considering the nature of hives such as those with iron sheets for roofing, Maurice Bayinze, a beekeeper in Masaka District cautions bee farmers on placement of hives where there are fruiting trees.

He shares: “The fruits will hit the iron sheets and force the bees to swarm and leave, hence weaker colonies and less value on the honey chain.”

This he says can be averted by placing shy away nets over the hives for a covering to protect the apiaries from falling fruits.  “The shades for bee hives create roofing to protect the bee hives from dampness hence ensuring durability of bee hives,”says Atwine.

Protect
Wind and heat remains a constant danger to the growth of an apiary which is why it is important to protect your bees from excessive heat, rains and wind. These conditions can potentially wreak havoc on colonies by damaging the hive and causing bees to leave or die. “Ensure to add ventilation holes to let in air when the hive is overheating and apply black tar paper (wind breaks) to the exterior to keep the heat inside the hives,” says Atwine.

Atwine says the wind breaks such as solid fence, a row of trees, bushes or a wall positioned towards the direction of the hive protect the bee hives from harsh wind. Bayinze also cautions bee farmers on not spacing surrounding trees from the apiaries which can be of inconvenience to the surrounding of the structures in disrupting bee activity. “The winds can cause surrounding tree branches to break and fall on the hives which disrupts bee activity and scares off the bees,” he says.

According to Bayinze, bee farmers should protect their hives from predators such as bears, monkeys, squirrels, and mice which are a threat to apiculture business. Atwine says he has protected his apiary by, fencing it to avoid intruders such as people or animals that would distract the bees and cause unnecessary noise and losses.

Repairs
Bayinze also hints on the possibility of rotting hives which are caused by rainwater or termites.
“We replace the old hives with new hives that are effective after every two years because some hives start to rot in a span of one year,” he says.

While at it, the bee farmer also does repairs on the hives which he explains safeguards his apiary from animal attacks.

“I look out for broken pieces on the hives during hive inspection and ensure to patch up or seal these openings to keep intruders such as reptiles off from entering the hives,” says Bayinze.  

“We do patrols in the area around our apiaries to locate ant colonies and then stop them from breeding around the structure and feeding on the wood from bee hives,” Atwine explains when Seeds of Gold asks how he has managed to wade off parasites such as ants from his apiary.

Other ways to control these organisms is by employing soil treatments, liquid insecticides among other control mechanisms for pests.

According to Bayinze repairs done to an apiary involve care given to the surrounding areas of the apiary as well. This he says fixes up the hive and as a bonus can add appeal to one’s garden. 

“Maintain the undergrowth by cutting the growing grass underneath more often to avoid harbouring creeping animals such as snakes that enjoy feasting on bees.”

While doing repairs on bee hives, experts also advise on hygiene practices that build healthier colonies such as hive cleaning and proper disposal of bee products such as old or abandoned combs.

Planting
An eco-friendly environment is ideal in creating a healthy colony because bees thrive on mostly vegetation. Planting different flowering trees around the apiary for both foliage and to act as shade is an essential approach in beekeeping.

Atwine says trees such as Prunus africana, warbugia ugandensis, East African satinwood, bottle brush, macadamia and avocado tree, among others may be planted within the apiary.

However, this approach requires that bee farmers are intentional in coexisting with other crop farmers who could be using chemical pest control methods of farming.

“It is safer to place hives at the centre of the farm and leave at least 10 metres away from plantations to the apiary,” he says.

Protection
Wind and heat remain a constant danger to the growth of an apiary which is why it is important to protect your bees from excessive heat, rains and wind.

These conditions can potentially wreak havoc on colonies by damaging the hive and causing bees to leave or die.