Sunday, March 11, 2012

Talking Bees

The morning before we left Mamfe I had an interesting conversation with James, a man who was having trouble with his bees up in the rainforest. While we were talking he was getting his motorbike ready for the rainy season (when it becomes about the only form of transport with any chance of getting about) and he had spent most of the day busily tinkering. He was concerned about his bees in the rainforest because he is struggling in Ote and the surrounding rainforest villages.

Although he can get bees for his Kenyan Top Bar hives and they seem happy for a time they keep disappearing.  However he noted that although around the forest floor there seem to be no bees up in the canopy there are swarms (and there are huge numbers of flowers at this level which might be the key). I suggested that perhaps we should investigate moving back to traditional hives high up in the tree tops?
It would make it harder to work on the hives as you would have to climb to the top of the trees it would at least mean that the bees wouldn’t keep absconding and the farmers would have honey and wax.
We need to look into getting more sustainable hives that can be hoisted into the tree canopy but does not require cutting up the brood to harvest the honey.
There are some people still using traditional hives, and they are still getting loads of honey though some of them are out of the forest or at the edges (so maybe that makes a difference).

It might be worthwhile looking into studies and doing some tests when we get back to the UK to find the best sort of hives and areas to locate the hives in to find a solution (if anyone has had the same problem please get in touch!)  

There are a few factors that we have been looking into that might be at work here. We wonder whether the hives are in too shady a place on the forest floor, if we can raise the hives so that they suspended just under the canopy then they will have more sun, but without being out in the open. Alternatively, it could be that the food baring plants are not plentiful on the forest floor, and this is causing the bees to abscond- most likely it is a combination of the two factors.

Although we are aware that if we move the bees to a place that is too sunny it can get too hot for them so a balance must be found. Secondly moving them to the tops of the trees could expose the bees to other elements such as the rain in the wet season which could cause problems. Perhaps moving the hives depending on the time of year may be the best solution, but this will need to be investigated. Brian had been hoping to divide some colonies and increase the stock for the village, but possibly the problems are more fundamental than this although we won’t know how wide spread this problem is until we get to Ote and so this will be our immediate focus on arrival.

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