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

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Wild Swarm Catching

Last week I did something I have wanted to do for a long time! During our three days of beekeeping training with Julian Willford and David Colley in Malya, we did some swarm catching!

We had walked out through the very hot, dry bush to see Credo's beehives and came across this large swarm of bees in a tree. It was very close to one of the un-colonised topbar hives and we debated whether to let the bees naturally move in (there were already scout bees at the hive and they had every reason to go and waggle dance to the swarm to point them in the right direction) or whether to move them in ourselves. With nervous anticipation we decided to take the swarm in!

The swarm
I was actually amazed at how easy it was. The books all said it was easy. I had told myself it was easy, but never really believed it! We rehearsed the whole procedure with each person's role from knocking the swarm to catching it, to moving it and getting all into the hive and hanging the hive back up. All with Queen Bee intact. It was rather exciting, and incredibly to me, went smoothly according to plan!
Knocking the swarm into the bucket
David was hanging upside down yanking the tree which knocked the swarm cleanly into Julian's bucket. The bucket was placed upside down on the ground and all the stray bees marched calmly and orderly inside it. It was incredible. Some bees were directing traffic, fanning their wings. While we waited for them to march into the bucket (which was good evidence we had the Queen inside), we rehearsed the procedure at the hive. 
And the swarm is in the bucket! Bees everywhere!

Bees marching into the bucket
Then we were ready. The bucket was secured on the lid, we carried it to the hive. The bucket was tapped and the swarm knocked cleanly into the hive, the few remaining top bars rapidly replaced, roof placed on and it was lifted to hang back in the tree. Mere seconds! Bingo!

We watched as the bees who didn't make it in, were directed by the fanning bees to find the entrance and get inside! (Credo checked the next morning and the bees were happily residing in there!)

After catching the swarm, as darkness was rather quickly approaching, we went on with Credo to his colonised hives. It was wonderful to be able to harvest some of the honey ... just in time (to Tim's huge relief) to get back to the land cruiser before the sun set!
Ready to harvest from Credo's box hive
Carrying the honey home before nightfall
We took the honey back to our guesthouse. And in the rather tight confines of David's small room, sitting on his bed, trying not to make a sticky mess, we strained the honey through our filter into a bucket. As you do! And the following day, with the perfect visual aid, the group learned how to filter and jar honey. Delicious!

Squash and a squeeze to filter the honey

Next day's teaching

Credo gets his honey!
Also great to be back with the Malya Mamas Group!
They had made more honey soaps and beeswax balms since the last time we met!
There is really just so much more I could say about all the bee (and other!) activity we've had, but I'd better stop soon! It has been great to see the beekeeper groups moving forward as well as other people being trained and plans discussed for future groups. We had a great time with Mama Minja (who runs the Console Nursery School for orphaned and vulnerable children) who has now learned to harvest honey and process wax. On Friday we were able to harvest her first honey! So wonderful for her and her work with these precious children!
Mama Minja
At Mama Minja's hives

Cutting off the honeycomb
It has been a real confidence-building, learning time with Julian and David... as well as a sticky mess in the living room. It's been full of much dirt road bumping about as well as a lot of fun! They have given so much of their time, money and energy and it is hugely appreciated by us and many others!

Dinner out
More about the beekeeping project on our Beekeeping Page

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Our Life as Beekeepers

Bees in tires, bees on containers, bees in trees. Cow dung experiments, bucket adapting and red torch night lights. Ant invasions, honey badger demolitions and water shortages. It is impossible to sum up and adequately describe the ups and downs, the excitement, the despair, along with sweet taste of honey in one blog post. It's been a full-on few weeks!

With our expert beekeepers, Julian Willford (from Bees Abroad UK) and his mate, David Colley, we have been as busy as the bees. They arrived on Sunday, September 14 and we were straight in at our hives on Monday. All looking good there which was a huge relief after my saga of disaster a few months ago... But patience needed now to wait a little longer for our honey.

Louisa the Beekeeper

Julian, David and Joseph drying the cow dung
Making a honey filter

Julian again in his "supervisory" role!
We went to Kayenze last Wednesday to do a two-day training seminar with the Beekeeping Group. It was a great time of training (theory and practical) and although there wasn't much honey ready yet, we were able to harvest a little for teaching purposes ... ok, and tasting purposes! So delicious! Fresh honey dripping from the honey comb! Driving out into villages and up into the rocks until we had to continue on foot, we were quite the beekeeping entourage.

We were gutted to find one of the good hives demolished with all honey scoffed, by a honey badger. That was a first for us. But we worked quickly to rectify the situation out there in the middle of nowhere, getting swinging hives hanging higher. We were also gutted to lose another hive to the ants. But again, worked on rectifying the situation by greasing all the wires the hives hang on. A constant learning game.

After Kayenze, we were in Kisesa ... and this was pure excited delight. Our first honey was finally harvested! Julian, David, Amisadai and I (in the heat of the afternoon sun!) climbed precariously up on the top of a container where the hives were placed. It was such a thrill to find the beautiful capped honey lined up straight on the top bars! We collected a bucketful which we took home to process in our awesomely adapted buckets. The next morning, the honey had filtered through and we filled our first jars! As Tim said, we were beginning to think we were doing a "honey-less bee" project! Words cannot describe how encouraging it was to see this honey pouring out! This is just the beginning!
Honey harvesting on containers

Julian busy filtering the first honey in the living room
The first honey in the jar!
Get a taste of the action (sorry, not the honey!) here with some photos from Kayenze. And I'll update again soon with more stories of Malya bee adventures with wild swarms and stories from the Dancing Rocks, of Rachel the "strong, fierce woman" who can kick...
Preparing to go to the hives
Out to the hives in Kayenze
A good comb of brood, nectar and capped honey

Preparing for the women to go out to the hives in Rangi (near Kayenze)
Quite an audience from the local school children!
The Mama Beekeepers!
Disaster of the ants
Disaster of the honey badger

Our Funeral Procession carrying the coffin (demolished hive) of the lost bees.
A Sombre Affair

The hive brought back

The hive loaded to return for re-baiting

Admiring the honeycomb as we learn to process

Fresh honey on the comb to share!

A bit more honey to taste when we go to process the wax

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Crazy Eights

We had some crazy fun in our first week of this eighth month! (Yes, sorry, I am getting a bit behind as things are rather busy with bees at the moment!) We arrived back from our holiday in Kigoma just in time to meet our friends, Arron and Kathryn Townsend at the airport! It was wonderful to have them here! With them we celebrated "eight-eight" or "Nane-Nane" as it called in Swahili here. Every year, the eighth day of the eighth month is a National Agricultural Holiday in Tanzania.
Fun with friends!

Nane Nane

Lots to see at the Agricultural Fair! Coffee tasters from local coffee growers, milking goats (yes... we're looking for one!), all kinds of plants and crops, techniques and tools. We came away with passion plants, grape vines, marigolds, rosella, coffee, khangas .... !

Then, stocked up with some chapatis and maadaazi, we carried on to the Kisesa Farm. All is looking good there in preparation for planting and the hives are looking good (from the outside)! And then we were on our way again to Kayenze to check things out there. Amos has started up the tree seedling nursery and has over 80 now, with plans to get to 5000 soon. We went to see how his farm was doing and were well impressed with all his mulching!

Tree seedling nursery off to a good start!

Moringa, lucena and other tree seedlings

Lovely mulching here!


In keeping with the "nane" theme, on Wednesday, we went to Saanane Island. "saa nane" is Swahili for the eighth hour (which we would know in English as 2 o'clock, given that the first hour is at 7 o'clock). But this island is actually named after its former owener, Saanane Chawandi, a farmer and fisherman.
On our way!
It is the smallest gamepark in Tanzania, only 2.18sq km and is home to Impala, Rock Hyrax, Velvet Monkeys and Wild Cats.  Roaming reptiles are crocodiles, Monitor Lizards, Agama Lizards,  Leopard Tortoises, and snakes. And the birds are amazing; such a wonderful variety! We were just so glad to see some zebras again ... and had a picnic with them.

Wildlife spotting
Jumping Rock at Saanane Island

Other early nane fun with Arron and Kathryn included sodas at Tunza to watch the sun set over the lake.


 And on Sunday, it was an early morning ferry ride to get to church in Nyamililio village. This is where we are about to start a new agricultural group and it was good for us all to be with the church for our first service together. We had rather a lot of languages going on simultaneously for the sermon! Tim was preaching in Swahili, the pastor was translating into Kisukuma (the local tribal language) and I translated to the left side in English while Amisadai translated to right side!

Nyamililio Church