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Beekeeping

Simple way used by beekeepers of knowing that his beehives are ready for honey harvesting is at the maximum is to observe that his colonies are getting ready to swarm.

In practice, the aggressiveness of the African honeybee makes it difficult for most traditional beekeepers & wild-honey tappers to approach their hives or harvest honey combs in broad daylight, unless the surrounding area is completely uninhabited as well as void of roaming livestock, with most preferring working on their hives once the sun sets

However, with proper preparation and awareness, the recommended is that the beekeeper can work out a method for carrying out his honey harvesting and control operations during the daylight hours, by minimizing all unforeseen dangers and surprises as possible as detailed below

Langstroth hive
10 Langstroth beehive. Super chamber removed from brood box

Honey harvesting in daylight

One simple and effective system for harvesting honey or controlling the brood nest with little or no danger, even during the hottest hours of the day, makes use of the fact that foraging bees always return to the site of their hive, even if the hive is no longer there.

1. The beekeeper brings with him to the site an empty hive and a container with a lid for carrying the harvested honey.

2. He smokes the hive heavily from the outside to force the “security guards” and any other bees of the colony who are waiting outside the hive to return to it. It is important to continue smoking until the bees have lost all their aggressivity.

3. The hive is then carried away from the site, in the direction opposite to the flight runway, and placed on a platform (or on the ground) at least 50 metres from the nearest hive in the apiary. The empty hive is left at the hive site to serve as a temporary home for any returning foragers or for any bees that escape from the moved hive.

4. Working as quickly as possible in order to avoid robber bees, the beekeeper carries out his harvesting or control operations in the normal manner.

5. When the work is completed, the hive is closed and carried back to its original position, and the empty hive is removed. Any bees in it, or members of the colony waiting outside, will then rejoin the hive.

The economy of this system is obvious. Daylight is utilized to ensure proper execution and efficient harvest or brood-nest control without attacking bees chasing nearby inhabitants. Diseases can easily be detected, and hive predators can be found and eliminated. Crushing of combs and bees between frames/bars is avoided or minimized

When the first honey crop can be harvested depends on when the hive was colonized by bees as well as the strength of the colony, environmental foliage available. This means that beehives in locations such as Machakos may perform differently from hives in Naivasha etc.

Time frame may range as from between every 3 months and some taking longer upto 4-6 months (Some colonies are so slow that they need more than six months to produce enough honey to be worth harvesting. In good beekeeping areas, three months may be enough, but the quantity of honey will always depend on the strength of the individual colony.)

The importance of harvesting regularly is that it affords space for the next honey crop. Beekeepers will be well off if they remove the honey frames and inserts empty combs which will be refilled with matured honey afterwards. Only full combs of ripe honey that is fully capped should be harvested (harvesting uncapped honey may result in fermentation due to high water content in the honeycomb)

So what happens when the beekeeper fails to harvest honey in time?

  1. The queen ceases to produce brood. The hive population at this time is now at its peak
  2. Reduction in the the number of foraging bees sending little or no pollen into the hive
  3. There is congestion at the entrance
  4. The honey cells are capped. There is a strong aroma of honey from the beehive when it is approached.
  5. The guards at the entrance become more aggressive than ever and send out patrols to attack any potential intruder loitering in the vicinity

The eventuality of all this these signs that the colony is getting ready to swarm it also signs that its honey reserves are maximum

The process of refining honey

Pull out the frames with honey and put them in a clean area while you work. All the cells should be sealed. After removing the surplus honey, the honeycombs are transported to a clean place from where the refining will be done.

NOTE: The frames may have different colors of honey combs. The light one is pure honey. The darker one has pollen

1.Using a centrifugal honey extractor

The Uncapped frames are then secured into the awaiting slots in the barrel tank of the centrifuge. Whether manual or electrical, the operation is the same. Once the rotation is started, all the honey is forced out the comb & stuck to the bottom and sides of the extractor. From where it flows down to the extractors valve outlet

3 frame centrifuge honey extractor for honey harvesting
3 frame centrifuge honey extractor

Taking the fully capped honeycomb frame, the initial stage is the uncapping. Using a decapping fork or knife, the seal over the honeycomb is broken. This is done on both sides of the frame.

Place your food-grade honey bucket under the extractor outlet honey gate valve.  Using a sieve to catch the remaining wax and impurities as the honey starts pouring out of the extractor.

Honey harvesting using a centrifuge 3 frame honey extractor

2.Using a Press

Crushing and draining the comb is remarkably effective, and results in clean pure raw honey with minimal equipment.  Its also know as the crush and strain method. This method requires more effort for harvesting honey as the top mechanism is more of a hydraulic screw that applies pressure with each turn

Wax-Press for honey harvesting
Popular Honey Press for Kenyan Beekeepers

Honeycombs are broken off from the frames, placed in a bucket and the mashed together. Reducing the volume of originally harvested

More Information regarding honey in Kenya

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