Monthly Archives: June 2013

We Got Bees!

Native African honeybees

We finally got honeybees here at CCF! The Directorate of Forestry here in Namibia has a program to help farmers set up beehives. Why don’t we have something this amazing in California??? So we’ve been working with Forestry officers to begin an apiary. They have come out to CCF to give a beekeeping training, helped us acquire some equipment, and now brought us a live colony of bees! A nearby farmer had a wild hive living in a tire in his garage. He didn’t want the bees there anymore, so they needed a new home. Forestry brought us the bees in the tire a couple of nights ago. It was quite a mess with loads of broken honeycomb and unhappy bees everywhere, but the bees seem to have decided that this will be their new home and are settling in peacefully.

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Gardener Petrus and Ecologist Matti suiting up for their first time

CCF is excited about having bees for many different reasons. Honey harvesting and sales will add to CCF’s diverse income and food sustainability. Now that we have a big garden, bees will pollinate the crops and increase food production. We have a model farm here with goats, sheep, livestock guarding dogs, and a creamery. All this is to demonstrate predator-friendly farming techniques to locals and visitors. Honeybees are part of an integrated farming system which diversifies income and adds value to the landscape – great things to share with Namibian farmers.

Proud beekeepers with our new hive - Petrus, Jenna, and Matti

Proud beekeepers with our new hive – Petrus, Jenna, and Matti

We’ve heard a lot about African honeybees being very aggressive so everyone was a bit concerned. What will be the personality of our bees? Lucky for us, these bees have been extremely friendly. Despite their tough and messy transition, they have not tried to sting or chase us off. Another concern is honeybee predators – mainly honey badgers and baboons, both of which can be pretty aggressive at times. This is why we chose an area that is completely fenced in from floor to ceiling and put the hive on a bench several feet off the ground.

Bees are living in the tire. The box on top is serving as a temporary ceiling.

Bees are living in the tire. The box on top is serving as a temporary ceiling.

When the bees came to CCF on a cold dark night, their tire home was somewhat of a disaster. We put the hive box on top hoping they would see it as their newer better cozier home and move on up. This didn’t work. Now, on day 3, it is clear they are staying in the tire so we plan to build an appropriate lid and bottom adapted to fit the tire very soon. Because of their tire home, these bees will remain an unmanaged feral hive and CCF plans to catch swarms of bees from it during the flower blooming time (September-ish) to establish new colonies and grow the apiary.

Now that we are off to a good start, I’m hoping to go on a shopping spree in Windhoek sometime next week and load up on the rest of the gear, equipment, and books we need to have a fully fledged apiary ready to receive more live honeybee colonies. Hooray for bees!

A bee on the tire

A bee on the tire

– Jenna