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Published in Bees for Development Journal 78, March 2006
In BfDJ 75 and 76, beekeepers from India and The Gambia described their experiences with the construction and use of cement hives. The debate is not entirely new as some others have documented their experience in earlier editions, for example the Vautier hive in BfDJ 51. However it will be good to look at this debate from another perspective. Based on my experiences in Nigeria, I hold the opinion that cement hives are not to be recommended, for the following reasons:
1. Excessive heat during hot weather, or in hot areas, and dampness or humidity during cold weather, or in cold areas, would affect the bees negatively.
2. Digging the ground could be extremely hard during the dry season, or in stony/gravely soil types.
3. Erosion or soil wash may result from massive disturbance of the soil when a large number of hives have to be constructed.
4. The heavy weight of cement hives makes their transportation very cumbersome and expensive.
5. It is highly improbable that bees will prefer cement to wood: it is known that some species of wood do have an aroma that attracts bees.
6. Cost-wise, wood hives are much cheaper and more versatile in Nigeria than concrete or cement hives.
7. Whatever advantage the cement hive may have in conserving the forest is easily cancelled by its potential to destroy the soil. Which comes first, the soil or the forest?
8. Consideration for human health should over-ride economic consideration in terms of cost construction of hives. In an age where organic food is fast becoming the vogue, it sounds rather strange that anyone could be canvassing the use of a substance like cement in honey production. Looking at the issue from an environmental perspective, I will not touch the honey produced from cement hives with the longest spoon in the world!
It seems to me that beekeeping may not be an 'all comers' affair after all. Certainly not all countries have the 'comparative advantage'. This write-up is a professional exercise to contribute to the body of knowledge. There is no intention whatsoever to imperil the trade, or belittle the contribution of the beekeepers in the countries concerned.
Bola Adepoju, The Bridge Apiaries, Abeokuta, Nigeria