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


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