Quality honey from affordable, local-style hives
Jacob Mogga, Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, Yei, Southern Sudan
Keywords: Africa, bee products, beekeeping, development, honey bee, honey hunting, income generation, savannah, Sudan, training
Southern Sudan has areas of forest and open woodland savannah that are rich with nectar and pollen producing plants. These natural forests with no contamination from chemical pesticides or other industrial pollution offer Southern Sudan the potential to be one of the best honey production areas of East and Central Africa. With rainfall for nine months (at the extreme south-west towards Congo) to six months (at its northern borders), there is enough natural forage to support bee colonies all year round and enable two to three honey harvests per year. Under these good conditions, honey hunters and beekeepers exploit bees to harvest honey for consumption and income generation.
Two decades of civil war have prevented beekeeping development: honey delivered to market is generally of low quality and sold in various containers. Improvement of bee product quality has now started in Western and Central Equatoria States to enable producers to sell quality honey and beeswax, and this will help towards alleviating their dire financial situation. We are training producers on the following:
Minimum use of smoke
Burning grass or twigs are used to smoke during honey harvest. Due to the destructive and ruthless ways that honeycombs are removed, especially from wild nests by honey hunters, most calm bee strains are being killed in favour of defensive ones that have better chances to survive and multiply. Thus despite the bees\' defensiveness, producers are being trained to adopt gentle treatment of their bees, using little smoke or burning grass.
Proper honeycomb grading
When using local-style hives, producers cannot, once removed, return unripe honeycombs into the hives, so honeycombs must be graded immediately after harvest. This means that ripe, sealed honey in white, yellow or brown combs is placed in one container as Grade I honey. 50-75% sealed honey with yellow or brown combs are put in another container as Grade II honey. Any ripe honey in black combs or unripe honeycombs are put in other containers as Grade III honey, suitable to process for home consumption or for sale to local beer brewers. The first two grades are the ones to sell or process for further commercial packaging.
Removal of bees and other debris
During the honeycomb grading, any pieces of charcoal from burnt grasses or twigs used to produce smoke, pieces of leaves or grasses and dead bees, combs containing pollen stores and brood, should all be removed from Grade I and II honeycombs to avoid contamination of the honey.
Use of suitable containers and proper handling
Grades I and II honeycombs should be stored in clean, dry, air-tight containers to avoid absorption of moisture and unpleasant odours, or invasion by ants. Uncoated metallic drums or wet containers should not be used for storing these honeycombs because they easily rust or increase in moisture content. Strong smelling soaps must not be used for washing honey containers.
Never boil combs
Honey should be extracted only by draining through perforated containers or galvanized wire mesh. It must at all times be properly covered with a clean sheet or cloth to avoid bee foragers coming to collect the honey.