Chapter 5 Hive management - Part I
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Preparing the top-bar hive for installation
Installation of beehives
Capturing a swarm
Some common practices in apiary management
In the previous chapter, the pros and cons of the two types of hive, the top-bar and the frame, were discussed in detail. It is assumed here that the beginner will start with the simple and then proceed to the more complicated. Although this chapter deals mostly with the top-bar hive, it should be studied by the user of the frame hive as well, because some of the points raised here may also apply to him.
When a carpenter is commissioned to produce a hive, he should be instructed to comply strictly with the specifications, to copy exactly what is given, and not to be "creative". For example, the width of the top-bar must be exactly 32 mm for the African bee. The size of the beehive may differ, but it is important to adhere to a regional standard of equipment. This will enable beekeepers to assist each other and will also promote sales on a larger scale. It is important to make the inner side of the beehive very smooth, for bees prefer to live in smooth cavities, and always waste their time cleaning rough areas of the hive with their mandibles. Where they cannot remove the rough particles, they propolize to make sure the hive is smooth; but carrying propolis wastes the time of the insect.
Before accepting delivery of the beehive, the beekeeper should make sure it has been built correctly. The hive must have no holes or cavities anywhere except at the main entrance, since holes at the top will allow water to enter the hive, and other cavities will be used by robber bees and other hive intruders. Such openings can also create great problems when the colony is being transferred to a new location.
Bees need warmth but cannot work when it is too hot in the hive. To protect the hive from excessive heat, a hole or two, 2 cm wide, can be made in any side of the hive, but it must be sealed with mosquito mesh and a small "door" to cover it when it is not needed. Beekeepers operating above 8° N. and below 8° S. latitude will not need to provide such ventilation. Other ways to protect the hive from excessive heat are to paint it white and to stand it in the shade. Even in temperate climates, hives should not be installed in the sun.
An apiary (or bee yard or bee farm) is a place where beehives are kept. In the United States, Canada and Australia, an apiary can contain a hundred or more bee colonies. Where there are plenty of nectariferous trees for bees to enjoy, 100 colonies crowded in a small area can obtain their food supply without any trouble. In Africa, an apiary should contain only about 10 hives per km2.
Where to locate an apiary sometimes creates problems. It is generally agreed that the beekeeper can make a good living without necessarily becoming a landowner. In Ghana, for example, the Forestry Department is willing to allocate government forest reserves to any group or individual who needs them for keeping bees. Here is a letter which a Californian beekeeper sends to fruit growers:
"Hello, my name is......... I'm a local beekeeper. I'm looking for a spot to put about 50 beehives. I'd need a fairly flat open area, at least 15 x 15 metres, that I can drive a pickup to. In addition to free pollination of your trees, I'll give you 10 kg of fresh honey every summer. Should you decide that you no longer need them, I would of course move them away ... I have been raising queen bees for 8 years. This is my livelihood, so you can be sure that my manner is professional."
In this way Mr. has acquired several apiary sites containing over 800 colonies of bees.
Owing to the aggressive nature of the African bee, it is not advisable to place hives right on the farm but near it; 100-200 metres away from crops is good. It is important to keep hives away from fertile spots of the farmland: they should be placed on rocks or on the poorest portions of the farm, for which the farmer has little or no other use. Experience has shown that farmers who disobey this important rule sometimes cannot clear the weeds around their trees or crops because of the constant presence of bees. Bees can travel about 3 km to visit a plant. Bees sited about 150 metres away from a productive area of the farm will allow labourers to clear weeds, turn the soil and work the crops.
The ideal apiary site should be:
- away from playgrounds and noisy commercial or industrial areas;
- near a fresh water supply: the banks of a river, lake or fish-pond, or even a dripping faucet;
- near food sources, e.g. citrus, avocado, coconut, palm, cola, shea butter, neem or eucalyptus plantation, waste area or marsh land;
- fairly dry, away from swampy or flooding valley or any bottom land with stagnant water (humid areas promote fungal diseases and prevent proper honey curing);
- accessible to good roads;
- on the leeward side of a hill, with rainfall not exceeding 1 250 mm a year; and
- away from smoke and fire, danger of vandalism and unfriendly neighbours.
Preparing the top-bar hive for installation
Let us now assume that the beehives and the site have been acquired. The hives must be installed, but before that is done, they must be prepared so that bees will occupy them.
1. Clean the beehive. Be sure it contains no dirt, cobwebs, spiders or insect which might arrest any scout bee visiting the installed beehive in the near future.
2. Bait the beehive with any one of the following materials: a little raw beeswax, dry cassava flour, a sweet syrup such as palm wine or molasses, granulated sugar, sweet-scented lavender, limes, cow-dung, intestinal waste, lemon grass or even, in very dry areas, a dish of water.
How to bait
Wax: The best bait is beeswax, which can quickly attract a swarm of bees. Beeswax is the most reliable bait, because it retains its properties for a long time. All other baits cannot last long in the hive and must be replenished or replaced when the old supply is exhausted or destroyed.
A small cake of beeswax rubbed against the inner walls of the hive can encourage bees to visit the hive. It is also important to rub wax against the tip of the v-shaped or ridged portion and the wooden starter top-bars. Beeswax rubbed against those areas of the top-bar will guide the bees to build their combs along it. Otherwise, the bees may build comb across the top-bars, creating a serious problem which is difficult to correct and makes brood-nest control impossible.
Syrup: Sweet juices and syrup can be used to bait bees. They can be put in a jam jar or any container. Twigs or sticks must be provided as landing boards so that the insects can safely take the syrup without being drowned. Special care must be taken to restrain other insects from visiting the syrup.
Granulated sugar may be sprinkled on the floor of the hive.
Lavender: Spray or sprinkle a few drops in the hive. The smell will attract honeybees to visit the beehive.
Lime: One or two limes can be placed inside or outside the hive. Lime juice left in the hive may help.
Lemon grass can be rubbed on the inner sides of the hive.
Cow-dung: In the northern savannah where beekeeping is a traditional occupation, dried cow-dung is usually burned to glaze the inside of the clay-pot hive. This is said to attract bees. Bees always visit fresh cow-dung to obtain water during dry periods of the day. Intestinal waste serves the same purpose.
Water cannot be used as a bait in cities and towns where water for human consumption is abundant. But in the dry savannah villages where water is scarce, it can work.
After baiting the hive and treating the top-bars, the top-bars must be neatly arranged, leaving no gaps in between them. Check whether the top-bars fit the hive body. Do not leave any gaps anywhere, because they will cause problems when the colony is being moved. Let the bees use only the entrance if possible.
How to treat grooved top-bars
The groove in grooved top-bars should be filled with wax. First, melt down the wax completely in a flat tray. Allow it to cool and cut it into strips about 6 mm wide. Insert the strip along the groove. Heat the tip of a knife and run it quickly along the wax. This will melt some wax and allow the wax strip to stick firmly into the groove.
Installation of beehives
A hive can be suspended, for example between two trees or from sturdy branches of big trees. It can also be installed on a platform or a rock. This is a decision that must be made by the individual beekeeper. Advantages and disadvantages of the two methods are set out below.
Advantages of hanging beehives
1. It is cheaper to hang a beehive than to install it on a platform.
2. The lizard, an important hive predator, does not seem to pose a serious danger.
3. Cattle and other grazing animals cannot tip the hive over.
4. Running water cannot carry the beehive away.
5. It is easier to prevent ants from reaching the hive than when it is installed on a stand.
6. A thief seldom steals a Kenyan top-bar hive in a tree, especially when it contains honey, because it is not easy to remove the suspension wires if they are properly attached.
1. A suspended hive can swing. The bees become alert and are prepared to pounce on the beekeeper if they find him.
2. Honey-harvesting and brood-nest control are difficult to execute during the day.
3. It is not easy to change the location of the hive. When removing it from the tree, the least false movement may result in tipping it over and jarring the whole contents. Sometimes the only way to remove it from the tree is to cut the suspension wires.
Advantages of installing a hive on a stand
1. It is easier to place the hive on the stand and remove it.
2. It is easy to move both hive and stand to another spot.
3. The beehive does not swing about even if the beekeeper is working.
4. Honey collection and brood-nest control can easily be carried out even during the warmest time of the day.
1. Grazing animals can knock the hive over.
2. The legs of the stand can easily be used by lizards to reach the hive unless they are protected by lizard guards (see Fig. 8).
3. It is more expensive and tedious to make a reliable stand than to buy a metallic wire for hanging a hive.
4. Easy movement facilitates easy stealing. The thief has no time to waste.
Fig. 8. Small apiary in Kumasi, Ghana, using Kenyan top-bar hives suspended from framework. Note cones on stand legs, acting as lizard guards.
How to install a hive
Bees in the forest and the savannah woodlands do not require shade, but those in the Sahel vegetation zones with extremely high temperatures may need shade. Unfortunately, this is the area where it is difficult to provide shade easily.
To hang a hive in a tree, select a suitable branch and test its strength. Remember that the hive can weigh as much as 60 kg.
Fig. 9. Installing hives. (Courtesy Intermediate Technology Publications, Inc.)
Inspect the tree to be sure it is ant-free. If it contains ants, avoid it (see p. 105).
Use the suspension wire to hang the hive as shown at (,) in Fig. 9. The hive should tilt slightly, with the entrance down, so that any water entering the hive can trickle out. It should be parallel with and one metre above the ground. Study Fig. 9; only hive (A) is correctly installed. It is hanging from two strong and sturdy branches, and each of the four suspension wires is attached separately. Hive (B) is nicely hung parallel to the ground, but the wires on each side are joined and hang from only two points on the same branch. The other subsidiary branches were ignored. In a strong wind, hive (A) will never tip over, but hive (B) will dangle and tip over, and all the contents may be lost. Further, the top cover of the hive should always be unobstructed to facilitate its removal and replacement. The stand for hive (C) has no lizard guards.
The beehive is baited and installed. The beekeeper waits until a swarm of bees comes to settle in the hive. The coming of the swarm is not automatic, but most beehives installed and baited will be colonized. The time required varies widely: the earliest time known is within 20 minutes after installation. Hives sited very close to residential areas may take a long time to attract bees; hives sited near large quantities of flowering plants will generally be colonized rapidly.
Where does the bee swarm come from?
The honeybee colony is endowed with an instinct which brings about an increase in the number of colonies from time to time. One colony may produce two or more new colonies a year. When a colony in a nest or hive is too populous, the old queen, accompanied by some drones and thousands of young and old workers, flies to a distant place to begin life anew. None of these new settlers will ever return to the old nest. As the bees leave the entrance of the old hive, they fly gyratingly into the sky with a loud hum until they cluster on a tree branch. This cluster is referred to as a swarm of bees.
The swarm hangs there temporarily. Scouts go and find a hollow tree or any suitable place for the new colony. This place may be a hive installed by a beekeeper. The exploratory team of scouts, if lucky, will return with a favourable report to the swarm still waiting on the branch. The swarm will follow the scout into the new-found home.
The first swarm to leave a hive during the season is called the prime swarm. A prime swarm is always accompanied by the old queen and some older workers. Before leaving the old hive, they take in honey and other essential commodities from the old hive, so that when they settle in the new nest, they can begin to build combs within a short time to enable the queen to lay.
After the prime swarm, any other swarm leaving the parent hive is termed a secondary swarm. It is composed of young workers, young drones and a young queen, completely docile and showing little or no sign of aggressivity. (They may begin to show some aggressive tendencies after six or seven weeks.) The young bees may need the beekeeper's assistance for some time. Food can be provided in the form of sugar syrup as a supplement to help them. They will survive if no help is provided, but the assistance provided by the beekeeper may enable them to work faster than if they had received no help.
Capturing a swarm
It has already been pointed out that not all beehives in an apiary are self-colonized. In Europe, Australia, America and some parts of northern and southern Africa (i.e. in temperate climates), the beginning or established beekeeper who wants to set up or expand an apiary obtains colonies of bees by purchasing package bees or buying nucleus or established hives. Since beekeeping in tropical Africa has not yet developed to the point where queens or nucleus swarms are produced and marketed commercially, the African beekeeper must be bold and fearless in learning how to capture and move swarms from roofs and cavities when his beehives are not colonized voluntarily by bees. He should not wait unconcerned, hoping that swarms may come by themselves. He must advertise himself in his locality as someone who needs swarms, and he must be prepared to buy them from people who bring them to him. He should consider himself lucky when he finds a swarm and must be prepared to capture it for his empty beehive. He should never be afraid to catch a swarm. Pioneer beekeepers in Ghana catch them, sometimes wearing no protective clothes.
Here are some hints:
1. Study the swarm. Consider what will be required for collecting it. For example, a ladder may be needed if the bees are located high up in a tree, but not if they can be reached while standing on the ground and are supported on a small branch that can easily be cut by a knife or a carpenter's saw. Also consider whether a hive, a box or a bag will be required. Never keep bees in polyethylene bags. Another important item that may be needed is a match-box to carry the queen bee separately. It should be perforated to allow air to enter. A queen cage is an ideal apparatus if one can be obtained. No smoker is required to collect a swarm. Smoke will only scatter the bees.
2. When bees cluster on a small branch of a tree, it can be cut down and brought home without any problem.
3. If the bees are so high in tree branches that they cannot be reached easily, a ladder can be used to reach them. They can then be shaken into a jute sack or any good container, but before this is done, the queen bee should be captured and placed in the matchbox, which can then be attached to the container and left for some time. The workers will begin to cluster around her, and the container can then be carried to the hive site.
4. If the queen cannot be found easily, shake the bees into the container. After shaking them for some time, watch their movements, especially those flying about. If they fly to the container, this means that the queen bee is within. Wait a while to let most of the workers cluster around her before taking them to the hive.
5. It is advisable to insert a brood comb from an old established colony into the new hive. The queen can then be released and attached to the brood comb. Now shake the captured swarm into the hive. The old brood comb will make the bees feel "at home" and accept the hive readily. Allow time for all the bees to settle before dressing the hive with the remaining top-bars, and then place the top cover on the beehive.
6. Feed the swarm on sugar syrup or a mixture of 2/3 honey and 1/3 water. Stir well and pour into a jam jar or a similar container. Turn it upside down so that the lid of the jam jar stands on the floor. Insert a small piece of wood (the size of a match-stick) between the bottle and the lid and place it inside the hive for the bees. Then seal off the entrance of the hive. Do not allow the bees to go out for at least 24 hours; otherwise, bees hived in this manner will adopt the hive when the day is cool but can decide to leave if the sun shines brightly.
7. Place a thick bundle of dry grass or dry leaves on the cover if it is metallic, in order to protect the beehive from overheating.
8. Place the hive on a platform. Do not hang this hive, because the least mistake may result in the whole hive tipping over and the contents being jarred. Remember to protect the bees from ants.
9. After 24 hours, the bees can be released by opening the entrance. This should be done in the evening between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m, a time when the queen bee and the drones will never leave the hive. The bees have accepted the hive if they are found carrying pollen into the hive. Do not disturb them.
An alternative method
Another interesting and simple way to hive a swarm that can be reached from the ground is as follows:
Stay away until evening (between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.). Bring a piece of white paper and a brush or quill with you.
1. Place the beehive directly below the swarm and arrange the top-bars neatly, leaving out only one or two.
2. Holding the paper in the left hand and the quill or brush in the right, brush off some bees from the cluster onto the white paper, drop them into the hive, and replace the last top-bars and the top cover.
3. Acting quickly so that the bees in the hive will not rejoin the cluster in the tree, and with the help of the white paper and brush, collect more bees from the cluster, but this time place them at the hive entrance. The first bees in the hive will be "buzzing" their wings, and this will stimulate the incoming bees to join them. Repeat this process until all the bees have entered the hive.
Do not fear this process; the bees are not dangerous at this time of day, nor is their sting painful. The author of this book employs school children between the ages of five and eight to do this work. The children become very enthusiastic and visit the bees frequently.
Removing wild bees from their nest
A third method of obtaining bees for the beehive is to remove wild bees from their nest. In attempting to do this, the beekeeper must be sure to wear protective clothes, i.e. bee suit, veil, leather gloves and boots.
Other things necessary to carry to the site are a good smoker, an empty beehive or a swarm catcher, a container to carry honey, tools such as a crow-bar, hammer, saw, mallet, chisel, machete or axe, and thread or twine (this can be plantain skin or raffia palm).
This work must be carried out late in the evening, after 6:00 p.m.
1. Fill the smoker with fuel and puff smoke through the bees' gateway into the nest for five minutes. The bees will rush into the nest and gorge themselves full of honey, if there is enough in the hive. They will then feel too heavy and drowsy to move.
2. Then break open the nest by using the appropriate tool. Puff some smoke at the bees whenever they show any sign of aggressiveness.
3. Locate the honeycombs and the brood combs.
4. If possible, remove only the honeycombs first and put them in a container.
5. Wait about ten minutes. The bees will cluster around the brood combs. There is no need to smoke them again.
6. Remove brood combs and bees together. Do not drive the bees away, but try to collect as many as possible with the hands. They are needed to rear young bees and another queen if the old one is killed in the operation. Place brood combs and bees in the beehive or the swarm catcher.
7. Carry the bees to a new site at least three kilometres away; otherwise, the older bees or the foragers will return to the old nest.
8. Select the following carefully:
i) two or three brood combs fully or partly capped, possibly with some queen cells;
ii) one or two brood combs containing young larvae of different ages and possibly with eggs;
iii) two combs of unripe or one of ripe and one of unripe honey;
iv) one or two combs with pollen; and v) two empty combs.
Do not take more combs than necessary. The new colony must be able to cluster around all the combs and defend them against attack. Brood comb left unguarded will be chilled and go bad, creating serious problems for the new colony.
9. Attach the combs to the top-bars and tie them securely with twine. Any oversized comb must be trimmed in order to fit the beehive. Be sure to leave 7-mm bee spaces.
10. Now arrange the combs in the beehive in the order listed in 8 above. The purpose of the arrangement is that all brood combs require constant high temperatures, and larvae and pupae need warmth. Honey and pollen combs put side by side will keep the brood combs warm.
11. Shake all the bees into the hive and insert the remaining top-bars. Then cover the hive with its lid and install it on a platform 3 km away. Syrup may be supplied if necessary.
12. Visit the bees the next day. Pay them a second visit on the following day and another a week later. If the bees have started carrying pollen into the hive, this means that they are settled and should not be disturbed. Pollen-carrying suggests that the hive contains young brood which must be fed and also a productive queen.
Some common practices in apiary management
When the beekeeper has successfully obtained some bees in his hives, he can look forward to a bumper harvest, but he must remember that success in keeping bees depends on the exercise of his knowledge of colony organization in relation to various factors. It is also controlled or affected by seasonal and climatic changes, not forgetting the existence of vegetation or bee forage in the area. A farmer who plants his crop on fertile land with excellent climatic conditions is bound to fail if he leaves everything to chance, neglecting other important managerial practices such as pest control, bush clearing, pruning, thinning, etc. Beekeeping calls for practices which are vital to the survival and well-being of every bee colony.
How to examine a bee colony
While the experienced beekeeper can usually have a fair idea of how his colonies are progressing by observing them from outside, the only means he has of knowing for sure whether everything is going smoothly is to open the hives and inspect each comb. This will let him know if honey is being prepared and capped regularly, whether the colony is getting ready to swarm, whether the hive has been attacked by pests, etc.
The general rules for hive inspection and for harvesting honey are the same, and therefore they can be discussed together here.
1. Wear protective clothes, and cover the body thoroughly. It is better to have another person check to be sure the bees have no way to reach the skin.
2. Beekeepers should always work in pairs: one operating the smoker and the other working the top-bars and combs.
3. Get a good smoker with a large bellows. The fuel container must be large enough to carry enough fuel to last for the entire operation. Carpenter's wood shavings are excellent for fuel. Never forget to take along a good knife or hive tool and brush or quill.
4. Puff some smoke gently around the hive. Then puff continuously through the main entrance for at least three minutes. Wait about one or two minutes for the bees to rush in and gorge themselves with honey.
5. Using the hive tool or knife, pry open the lid of the hive if it has been propolized (top-bar hives have no problem with propolizing). With the top-bar hive, it is important to knock at the top-bars to determine which are without combs; the empty side makes the most noise. (The frame hive does not need to be "knocked".) Using the hive tool or knife, pry up the top-bars from the empty side. Then puff some smoke gently so that the smoke will drive the bees to the other side of the hive. Host bees will gather as far as possible from the first comb.
6. Then remove the first comb and inspect it. If it is a brood comb, look to see that the cells are filled regularly and well sealed, and especially whether the comb contains queen and drone cells as well as worker cells; this is a sign that the colony is preparing to swarm. If it is a honey comb, look to see whether the cells are fully capped (containing ripe honey) or uncapped or partly capped (containing unripe honey). Then replace the comb, even if it is full of ripe honey; it can be removed and taken away later, during honey-harvesting operations, which call for special equipment (see p. 84).
7. Replace the comb, give a puff of smoke, go on to the next comb, and repeat the operation until all the combs have been inspected.
8. If more than ten brood combs are found, remove the excess, because if too much brood is allowed to emerge, the hive will become overcrowded and the colony may abscond. These brood combs can be placed in another hive to strengthen its colony if necessary.
Controlling swarming to advantage
The discussion of swarming on pp. 27-28 may have given the reader unhappy moments -- the fact that the bees in the hive will one day separate and that some of them will leave. The beekeeper will be worried about the honey and other valuables that the bees will carry away from the hive. Swarming divides the population of the colony, and this of course causes a considerable reduction of the working force. As a result, the amount of honey and other valuable products that the colony might produce is considerably reduced. Consequently, the beekeeper would prefer to retain all the bees and make valuable use of them. This can be done by controlling swarming, but in a manner that will not interfere with the bees' natural instinctive desire. Such interference can lead to absconding, another deplorable behaviour characteristic of the tropical bee.
Let us now look a little more closely at the circumstances that lead the bees to swarm. During the peak of the brood-rearing stage, the best queens are capable of laying up to 2 000 eggs a day. In the forest areas, this occurs between August
October and April-Hay (these periods may differ in some parts of the region, but they usually occur after the main rainy season, when flowers are in bloom). The brood combs become so populous that the queen can no longer withstand the congestion in the brood nest. The whole colony is thrown out of balance, and workers begin to build queen cells to rear queens for the purpose of swarming. The queen cells are numerous and are built in twos and threes at intervals of two days. These are always built at the sides of the comb of a top-bar hive or at the base of the comb of a frame hive.
To prevent swarming, the hive must be managed so that congestion will be avoided or, at least, minimized. The idea is to create a commodious area to cope with the ever-increasing brood during the build-up stages. Any managerial activity that will increase the desired cells required for the comfort of the queen and the workers will prevent or delay swarming. Some methods of doing this are as follows:
i) Remove honeycombs near the brood nest and replace them with empty combs.
ii) Add empty combs from other hives at the sides of the brood combs of the overcrowded hive. This means that the beekeeper must build a stock of empty combs, which must be carefully protected from the wax-moth larva.
iii) Do not leave honeycombs in small hives for too long. Always remove them to create more space for the bees to work.
iv) Provide shade by covering the hive with a bundle of dry grass or palm branches when it is too warm for the bees. Overheating can be detected when bees gather at the entrance of the hive, fanning themselves.
The sign that warns the beekeeper that the bees are preparing to swarm is the discovery of swarming queen cells. When these are found, the beekeeper must intervene to turn this activity to his advantage by dividing the colony himself.
Dividing an established colony
The beekeeper should be sure there is abundant bee food available before deciding to divide. He should look around the surrounding area to see whether there are bee forage flowers in bloom, for the success of the operation will depend on the availability of food for the new colony. (food may be provided by supplying combs containing honey and pollen or by placing syrup in the hive.) Only exceptionally good colonies with nine or more combs should be divided. No attempt should be made to divide a colony with only eight combs or less.
1. Remove from the old colony one comb with old, capped brood worker pupae, one comb with young larvae, eggs, capped brood and a queen cell if possible, one unripe or partly ripe honeycomb plus pollen, or one comb with pollen.
2. Arrange the combs in the new empty hive, surrounding brood combs by honey and pollen combs.
3. Scoop bees into the new hive, making sure that there are enough bees to cover the brood combs and generate enough heat to enable the brood to hatch. The new nucleus must be carried at least three kilometres away so that the bees will stay to rear the brood and a queen. If the new nucleus is left on the site with the old hive, the old bees will return to their queen and few young bees will remain to work in the new hive. The new colony's survival depends on the number of bees present to work in the hive.
4. Syrup or honey may be provided. The new colony must be protected from ants and other natural enemies.
5. Visit the new colony regularly for the first month to make sure that the bees are doing well, but do not interfere with or harass them by frequently opening, smoking and inspecting the hive.
6. After a month, check that the new hive contains a queen. This can be determined by the existence of eggs, larvae and sometimes capped brood in the comb cells. There is no need to find the queen: the presence of eggs and brood indicates that she is in the hive.
Bees are feared not only in Africa but all over the world. They sting painfully, but the tropical bee, in addition, can kill both man and his animals. Bees in the forest areas and those in the temperate region in the south are less aggressive than those in the savannah vegetation and in the Sahara: the least disturbance may provoke the desert bee to abscond. Even though stings can kill, bees should not be considered as extremely dangerous. The beekeeper who is afraid of his bees is like a lorry driver who will not drive for fear of an accident, or a farmer who will not go to his farm for fear of a snake bite. It is interesting to note that bee stings can treat diseases like arthritis and that bee venom is used as a desensitizer for people who are allergic to stings. Thus a few stings that administer small doses of venom may be helpful. But too much can be dangerous, and people allergic to bee stings should not keep bees.
If a sting is inserted into the skin, it must be scraped away with the fingernail or a knife. Do not pull it out, or more poison will be injected into the flesh. If the result is itching and swelling, do not rub the spot, as this action will cause greater pain and swelling.
Treat bee stings by applying cold cloths. In extreme cases, victims should be sent to the hospital. Ephedrine may be administered when a doctor's help cannot be obtained.
What causes bees to sting?
- visiting a hive during the warm part of the day;
- disturbing them without smoke;
- breathing into the hive, especially if the beekeeper has been drinking any alcoholic beverage, including beer;
- wearing a cosmetic item which contains beeswax;
- talking, drumming or making any other noise when bees are busy nearby;
- standing in their flight path;
- wearing dark clothes near the hive during the daytime;
- making jerky movements near the hive;
- crushing a bee near a hive or squashing a bee body and smearing the juice on one's body;
- swatting with the hand to drive a bee away.
On the attack
It is safe to work as long as no bees attack. However, the first bee sting attracts others to strike. If the victim stands quietly without moving his body, all other attackers will sting on the same spot as the first strike. Every bee that stings puts more alarm pheromone on the spot, thus causing more and more bees to strike, and the resulting pain makes the victim swat round and round, causing other attackers to sting other parts of the body.
How to avoid stings
Remember that a queenless colony is very aggressive during its early days.
Remember that every bee that stings dies afterwards. Thus the apiarist who causes his bees to strike in fact kills them. A reduction of the field force means a reduction of output of work which results in less honey production.
If unprotected, one should run away after the first sting. The attacker may chase the beekeeper, but he should not be afraid of a second sting by the same bee. This bee can be killed so that she cannot return to the colony and pass on information.
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