In Summary

  • Proper management of beehives leads to big honey harvest, writes Brian Ssenoga.

The recent change in climatic conditions have brought out an uncertainty in weather patterns but what is more evident are the long spells as compared to the rains amounts expected.
This has affected plants, crops and pollinators.
“Honeybees are a very important component of the ecosystem, providing services and highly valuable products to the human being that it is important to take care of them especially during the dry season,” said Dr Patrice Kasangaki, head apiculture research at National Agriculture Research Organisation (Naro), at the sidelines of the bee keepers annual general meeting in Kampala.
The products provided by honeybees range from food, medicine, cosmetics to art while services include pollination of agricultural and wild plants and indicators of environmental health.
Bees have been hunted for their products and after man realised their importance, he started to keep them in cavities called beehives which mimic their natural habitats.
However, the value of bees as service providers remains ignored despite their being critical to agricultural livelihood sources and ecosystem functioning.
“There should be a nearby source of water, enough trees to serve as wind breaks. This is because high wind speed causes reduction in flight and also distorts the flight direction thus reducing foraging activity.”
Therefore, it is important to keep beehives under tree shade or artificial structures constructed to provide shade.
Thee following can be done to sustaining the bees during dry season;
Control swarming and absconding
Swarming can take place anytime of the season and when it happens when the colony is weak; it may lead to the collapse of the colony.
Absconding on the other hand is a situation where by the entire colony abandons the to look for another hive, regular inspection helps in identifying colonies which are preparing to swarm and also identify conditions which may lead to absconding and appropriate control measures taken.

Do artificial feeding
To sustain bees during dry season when natural sources of nectar and pollen are scarce, bees can be fed on sugar syrup or sugar dough. However this should be tried in very difficult situation
Provide drinking water
This should be fresh and clean water and within a short distance of an apiary.

Unite weak bee colonies
It is advisable that two or three of weak colonies be united to make one strong colony which can forage effectively and resist pest and disease attacks. In this case, only one queen is retained.

Provide shade
When it is very hot and there are no sufficient tree shades, the colonies can be covered with grass or papyrus mats to reduce the effects of heat.

Keep the apiary clean
To avoid losing your colonies to wild fire, make sure that you keep your apiary clean and without dry grass.

Pest and disease control
During dry periods most honeybees colonies are always weak due to insufficient forage and water supply. Weak colonies are easily attacked by pests and diseases.
Pests such as lizards, rats escape from fires to hide in hives during the dry seasons and need to be controlled through installing rat guards and suspending beehives on wires.

Apiary inspection
Regularly inspect your apiary. This is important because it will help you identify any problem within the apiary and appropriate remedies made accordingly. Apiary inspection will help you find out whether there is need for any of the above mentioned.
Finally a beekeeper has to plant crops and trees that yield good pollen and nectar (bee forage). Plants which are good source of nectar Tamarind, Moringa, Neem, Eucalyptus and Bottle brush while sorghum, Sweet Potato, Millet, Coconut, and Roses, are good for pollen.