Beekeeping: Scooping gold from the hives
It’s A Flexible And Rewarding Venture
Honey is famous for its nutritional and medicinal properties. Consequently, many people use it for different dietary purposes. For health reasons, some people now prefer using honey as a sweetener for their foods and drinks, rather than sugar, which is considered not so healthy. The food industries are also not left out, as those of them that are health-conscious have substituted sugar with honey.
The increased demand for honey, both for domestic and industrial uses, has resulted in an increase in bee-farming and processing. Apiculture or bee-keeping is currently being undertaken at the small and medium scale levels. Some people have ventured into this line of business to satisfy demand, as well as earn a living. Bee-keeping or bee-farming is not an all-comer’s affair, as it takes a lot to succeed in the business. Known for its sting, which is not only painful, but could also be lethal, bee farmers are obliged to create a natural habitat outside the normal base for bees to live and produce honey throughout the year.
Tolu Gbolahan, a bee farmer and honey seller, said the days when farmers had to go into the forest to harvest honey are gone. “Today, we have devised means through which we could make bees produce honey,” he explained. “Going into the forest for this product is dangerous, because one has to contend with wild animals that also depend on it for food.”
He said honey is expensive because not many people have the tenacity and stamina to withstand the various horrible experiences involved in the process of sourcing it. These include being stung by bees, sometimes not getting enough honey to meet market demand, which could be frustrating after putting in so much effort and even the bees dying sporadically.
Gbolahan said he makes between N100, 000 and N150, 000 per month selling honey to middlemen, who resell the product to end users. He explained that the business is good, flexible and not seasonal, if one knows the technics. According to him, beekeeping is a high yielding venture that not only enables the keeper earn money from honey alone, but also from other derivable supplements, such as beeswax, which is used for other things.
Explaining how a beginner can succeed in the business, Gbolahan said it is necessary that a new entrant should undergo some months or years of training to be able to identify the different species of bees, know how the insects live in their organised community and other technicalities of the business.
“There are different species of bees, but the social bees, which include the bumble bees and stingless bees are good. They look after their young for a long time and by so doing, produce more honey for the farmer. Bees live in colony, which comprises the queen, drones and workers. The queen is the largest bee in the colony and the only sexually developed female in the hive; others just work for her.
“Usually, a two-day old larva is selected by the workers to be reared as the queen. She emerges from her cell 11 days later to mate in flight with approximately 18 drone (male) bees. During this mating, she receives several million sperm cells, which would last her entire life span of nearly two years. The queen starts laying eggs about 10 days after mating and could lay 3,000 eggs daily. One needs to know all this to be able to handle the business properly.”
Explaining how bees behave, Samuel Nkuma said bees abhor being agitated and could attack any intruder to their hive or around it.
“The insects hate intrusion into their quietude. They like quiet and cool environment and are capable of recognising shapes and locations, which is the reason why it is better to let them operate in a garden, where they would be free to fly around. It is in the bid to create a serene environment for the insects to produce better that prompt some beekeepers to operate their farms outside residential areas,” he explained.
What are the requirements for a prospective entrepreneur? Aside training, Nkuma said interested individuals could start with a rented land, though it is better, if one owns the land. After securing the land, hives are then created with beeswax, which automatically lure the bees, as they begin to arrive on their own. As bees possess a very keen sense of smell, they can easily perceive where living or dead bees are located.
“One can start with as little as N100, 000 to build 30 to 35 hives in a small area of about 25ft x50ft. Each hive consists three categories of bee: one queen that lays eggs, 30,000 to 80,000 workers, females that do not lay eggs and hundreds of drones to mate the queen. Getting a queen bee is not such a big deal, as the insects can select one on their own. All you need do is provide conducive environment for them to survive. Then you plant trees and flowers around the farm and shield them from insecticide and pesticides.
“Drones are male bees that have no stingers. They do not collect food or pollen from flowers. Their sole role is to mate the queen and if the colony is short of food, they are thrown out of the hive. The workers are the smallest bees in the colony; they are sexually undeveloped females. A colony can have about 30, 000 to 80, 000 of them. The life expectancy of the workers is approximately 28 to 35 days.
“Workers feed the queen and larvae, guard the hive entrance and help to keep the hive cool by fanning their wings. Worker bees also collect nectar to make honey,” he explained.
According to him, bees prefer flying to different places, other than their vicinity to source their nectar. This, they do singly, rather than in a group. And though there are two types of honey produced by two categories of bees, he said the difference lies only in the taste and aroma, but not in the quality.
“The first type of honey is produced by poly-floral bees, while the second is produced by mono-floral. Poly-floral bees suck the nectar of different plants, while mono-floral bees concentrate only on one plant. Because these bees get their nectar from different sources and in different ways, their aroma and taste are never the same, and sometime even their colours,” he said.
Francis Gur, a Kogi State-based beekeeper, said an average hive could produce 20 to 25 litres of honey, depending on the season of the year. According to him, bees produce more during dry season than in the rainy season or very cold periods, when they cluster in their hives.
Saying he makes between N80, 000 and N150, 000 a month, Gur explained that he brings undiluted honey from his base to Lagos every month. According to him, the prices of honey differ, based on the quality and sizes of the containers.
“Some people dilute their products with sugar and it would still have that honey colour and taste, but I sell undiluted one from 50cl to five litres and 25 litres. The price starts from N1, 500 upwards depending on the size,” he said.
How does one distinguish between original honey and the diluted one?
“Original honey does not foam. It won’t melt or hiss, if you touch it with a lit match. If original honey is poured into a cup of water, it will not dissolve or separate into layers. If you pour original honey on a paper, it won’t leave a damp patch. Natural honey has natural impunities of pollen, beebread, micro-particles of wax and propolis.
“Also, if you dip your finger into the honey, let one or two drops fall on the ground, if it is pure honey it will go down like a thread without breaking. Pour water into a cup and then pour some quantity of honey, if the honey is pure, it will go down to the bottom of the cup without mixing up with the water except you stir it. If pure honey is poured on the sand, it will not sink immediately,” he said.
What It Takes To Excel In Beekeeping Business
• Label your products, as this advertises and gives assurance.
• Acquire the right training before venturing into it.
• Observe safety measures, as bee stings are lethal, if not well handled.
• Fence your farm with natural barricades to ward off intruders.
• Keep your distribution network open to boost your business.
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