We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Riverbed Road and Bee Invitation

Fond memories of Woodlands Road in England! That smooth, wide road seems a world away as we turn out of our eroded driveway onto the road outside our house here! The road now resembles a riverbed, littered with the rubbish and debris carried in the floods of rain last week. The pictures below don't do justice to the huge potholes, squelching mud and jagged rocks. And with only two big rains, this is only the beginning of the rainy season! We are very thankful for our vehicle (all fixed!) and 4-wheel drive.

Also with the start of the rainy season, it seems the snakes are coming out. After my brave kill in the bedroom, Tim killed one in the bathroom and just now as I was writing, there were screams from Lucy as one slithered out from behind a box. Joseph attacked that one for us and tells us he had killed another one outside as well! 
Our eroded driveway going onto our road (remembering Woodlands Road!)

Down the road from our house, looking like a littered riverbed!
Preparations have been underway for quite some time now for the grand arrival of some bees! Thaddeus, our night guard, has been working on our top bar design for two hives. Once completed, Tim's dad was a great help with the painting and leg assembly and then Tim did the finishing touches and set a hive in place. Now efforts are focussed on enticing bees to their new home! At the weekend, Louisa and I painted the top bars with melted beeswax (leaving some unpainted as a bit of a test). We made lemongrass oil (from our now-flourishing herbal kitchen garden!) and smeared that, along with more melted beeswax, around the hive. We set a jar of sugar water upside down beside the entrance. We set up a small pool of water with landing pads for the bees. We set beautiful flowers around the hive and really can't think of a nicer welcome we could give to our local bees. One little bee flew right up to us as we were painting and hoping she was a scout, we enthusiastically told her to go and get her friends, but she unfortunately hasn't yet returned.

Touch-up painting on the Top-Bar Beehive 
According to my recent research, a scout will look for a suitable place and then on returning to the other bees, she uses a "waggle dance" to indicate the direction and distance to the new location. The more excited she is, the more excitedly she dances. So we are hoping our little scout went back with one impressive dance and the other scouts soon come to check it out. Apparently several sites can be proposed by the scouts and the decision-making period can last a few days as 80% of the scouts must agree. Once agreed, the whole cluster swarms to the new place. So that is what we are waiting for! I've got a ridiculously eager eye from the living room window looking all the time! I've got the cool beekeeper white net hat at the ready...
Painting beeswax on the top-bars

A little sugar water to tempt the bees

Some beeswax and lemongrass oil to attract our busy friends
More about top-bar hives ...
A top-bar hive is simply a box with sloped sides (angled to match the natural angles of the hexagonal comb) with removable bars on the top, from which the combs will hang down. My research tells me that it is a very "natural" hive type, good for places with little access to materials and machinery! Our first two hives are made of wood, which is what we will aim for in projects, but I am looking forward to experimenting with other materials like woven baskets, half-drums, clay pots and crates. We want to make good and productive hives, but we need to be able to work with very little!

The Prime Minister of Tanzania (himself a keen beekeeper, apparently!) is currently encouraging the nation to get busy with bees. New initiatives encouraging beekeeping are springing up. A bee project is ideal for us as it will link in perfectly with the tree planting and agriculture projects. We hope to see the farmers incorporating bees into their farms, then able to reap the benefits of the cross pollination, while the bees benefit from the improved environment with new areas of trees and various plants. We hope to set up cooperatives for bee projects with gardens as income generating projects for vulnerable women. Bring on the bee products ... a great source of food (honey) and also medicine, as well as things like candles, lubricants and other cosmetic products. This is another great way to help fight against poverty; the benefits are widespread and in addition, there is so much we can learn from the bees!

So that is the plan ... but first we need to learn all we can ourselves! I am going to Tanzania's first national bee conference in Arusha next month (yes, I'll admit to bee-ing just a little excited!) to get some head knowledge and meet others in the apiary world; meanwhile we endeavour to get all the hands-on experience we can here at home! Any advice from you experienced bee-keepers out there is welcome! And prayers for some bees to arrive are also welcome!

P.S. I had to really control myself here to keep the "bee" plays on words at bay! But no doubt my Dad and a few others will fling some un-BEE-table jokes back!

And then I was remembering all our bee-fun we had last July ...


  1. To bee or not to bee - that is the question!

    1. I didn't think you would BEE that quick!

  2. You are bee-ing so sweet about this whole thing, Rachel! :-)
    Linda x

    1. Awww! Thanks, Linda :) I'm bee-mused that you bee-lieve so :)

  3. If bees live in an apiary, where do apes live?????

  4. What about a photo of the snakes? Was it the same type as the one you killed in the bedroom we were sleeping in while with you?

  5. I think so ... but Bigger!!! I wanted to take a photo but was trapped on the wrong side of the snake!!


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