Dividing Honey Bee colonies in Ethiopia
Kebede, A.; Ejigu, K. & Tassew, A.
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Bees for Development Journal
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Dividing honey bee colonies in Ethiopia
Adebabay Kebede, Kerealem Ejigu, and Assaminew Tassew, Andassa Livestock Research Centre, PO Box 27, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Key words: Africa, beekeeping, colony, queen cells
This study evaluated and demonstrated honey bee colony dividing techniques under rural conditions in Bahir Dar Zuria, Dangila and Guangua Districts in Ethiopia. Ten farmers were selected to undertake division of honey bee colonies after receiving intensive training. According to the views of the target beekeepers, this method was technically feasible and would enable them to obtain additional honey bee colonies. The process could be scaled up and used in districts where there are promising bee forage resources.
Keeping bees in baskets may have started about 5,000 years ago in northern regions of Ethiopia along with the early settlements (Gezahegne, 2001). Most beekeeping in Ethiopia is carried out using local style hives and long established methods, with top-bar and frame hives also in use.
Ethiopia is endowed with good weather conditions, plant species and water sources. Such natural resources have created a conducive environment for the existence of millions of honey bee colonies and the annual production of thousands of tonnes of honey and beeswax (EARO, 2000). However, in some parts of the country acquiring honey bee colonies to start beekeeping and to extend existing apiaries is now becoming a major problem. Also the price of colonies is rising.
Beekeeping extension packages provide hives and beekeeping equipment to farmers on a credit basis. Training has been given on the manufacture of beekeeping equipment to improve the routine management practices of the local beekeeping system. However, the strategy did not focus on how to maintain colonies, and obtaining honey bee colonies is the main bottleneck. Therefore, to alleviate the problem, queen rearing techniques that can be easily adopted by farmers should be introduced.
The study was conducted in three selected potential beekeeping districts of the western Amhara region: Bahir Dar Zuria, Dangila and Guangua. This involved the rural associations kebeles: Kimbaba (Woibegn), Bacha, Ziguda, Menta Wuha and Sigade.
Steps used for dividing honey bee colonies:
- Select strong colonies in top-bar hives.
- The colonies were fed a supplementary feed (2 : 1 sugar water solution) before and during the experimental periods when they were kept under uniform conditions for forage nectar and pollen sources.
- To divide a colony, a top-bar nucleus hive was used. This contained 10 top-bars that could accommodate brood and food resources for the worker bees.
- Nucleus hives were cleaned and smeared with molten wax and swept with aromatic plants.
- Hive stands were constructed and rearrangement of the combs was undertaken a day in advance of dividing the colony: checking for the presence of eggs, young larvae, sealed brood and drones. During division the queen was retained in the mother hive.
- On the day of division half of the balanced resources (eggs, brood, pollen, honey) were transferred from the parent colony to the nucleus hive.
- The nucleus colony was sited at least 100 m from the mother colony to minimise the risk of the colony re-uniting.
- External and internal inspections of both mother and nucleus colonies were made to check that the bees had survived.
- On day 3 or 4 after division, the colonies were inspected to check whether the bees had constructed queen cells - a colony which lacks a queen will construct queen cells.
- On day 9 or 10 after division, the constructed queen cells will have been sealed. Leaving the best queen cell, the others are destroyed by the beekeeper to control reproductive swarming.
- On day 15 or 16, the emergence of the queen was checked and the colony returned to the apiary site.
- Once the colony in the nucleus hive became populous it was transferred to a top-bar hive.