Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bees: Yes I have been working with them here!

If you know anything about me, I’m sure you are wondering “why hasn’t she written about bees there yet??”  It’s true, I have been holding off for a few reasons.

Guard bees at one of the first beekeepers I met in the neighboring village to mine.

One of the first beekeepers I found and was willing to show me his hives. He doesn't sell his honey but keeps it for his family

 First of all the bees here are different. I was able to work them back in February with a master farmer that a few other volunteers work with. I had done my homework and talked to a few beekeepers I knew that had worked in Africa, former volunteers that had done some work with bees while here and an NGO that I was lucky enough to come in contact with in my training village.

Profils, an NGO based in Mboro, my training village and works with many groups and beekeepers in my region.
Bees here (mostly Apis mellifera adansonii or scutellata based on who you ask)  are much more aggressive and abscond (to leave there hive in search of a new one for many reasons) more often (behavioral traits that are occur in most breeds of bee). The keepers I have met work for the most part the same, taking safety precautions with wearing suits, gloves, boots, having smokers handy and never going out alone to work the hives. Which are all good signs.

Mielangerie (honey house) in Sangako and their hives in the mangroves

At another volunteer's site in Dalsame Sereer with a beekeeper who partners with women's groups and other NGO's (from left to right:the view from his encampment, womens group and another volunteer, some shae honey that we had with our tea)

Since then I have been touching base with various groups, attending meetings, finding new beekeepers that want me to come visit and had the opportunity to teach at a Master Farm Field Day explaining basics of how we captured bees for the farm (all in wolof and french). 

Left: at a meeting with beekeepers discussing bee pests and treatments, Center: talking with a group at the Master Farm about capture hives, Right: happily walking out to check some hives in the Mangroves.

Happily I have been able to find many beekeepers that ask for my help, opinion and will simply show me what they know so I can better understand how to work with the bees here. We share information, no one is more right than the other has I have always learned from beekeepers and the bees themselves. There is always more to learn.

AND I was able to harvest some honey from a hive I started at the Master Farm. I would like to harvest more but would like to borrow an extractor to do so to save the wax rather than cutting the comb out as it helps the bees to give you more honey rather than using resources to build more comb.

Some of MY 1st African honey, I remembered to take a picture before I ate, shared and gifted it away
Of course there are a few more groups I know of that I would like to talk to further about partnerships or simply to better understand what their goals are working with bees in this region or Senegal-wide. As being a Peace Corps volunteer I am more visible, travel more often, and sharing information and resources is more 'normal' for me to inquire about than most Senegalese.

Currently I am working on a gathering information on list of plants that are nectar sources in this region, making a calender of the bloom dates and finding the local names for the plants in the 5 major languages spoken in this region so it can be used to plant, locate and increase the amount of nectar sources for the bees here. Like anywhere in the world here, bees here are a big deal. But having people understand basic behavioral traits (and they can be selected through breeding) while increasing and improving the quality of there nectar sources will create a stronger ecosystem for the bees but also strive to give the beekeepers a year around income from honey rather than around the rainy season as it is now.

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