Beekeeping Astronauts

Beekeeping Astronauts

Beekeeping is done at night in Ethiopia, as the cooler weather requires that the bees maintain the colony’s temperature rather than sting it’s intruders. This at least is theory. Under the illumination of a flashlight, the first step in transferring bees from a traditional hive to a transitional hive is to shake them from their home onto a clean plastic sheet.


From this point on,  every action must be done delicately, special attention must be paid to the presence of the queen for if she is lost throughout the process the colony will not succeed.


Fresh smelling nectar filled the air as panel by panel the honey combs were removed.


Brood combs, or freshly capped larva cells are what we are specifically after for transfer purposes.


Using a wet strip of coffee bark, 2 of the biggest and most consistently laid  brood combs are sown and hung from the top bars, and then placed into the entrance side of the colonies new transitional hive.


With the brood cells in place, the mass of honey bees previously shaken from the old traditional hive are carefully guided into their new home with the use of a plastic tarp. 


Watching the bees behavior helps to indicate the presence and locality of the Queen. As the Queen is the  essence of the colony,  their tendency is to surround her in one giant mass. A constant vibrating sound will also indicate the queens presence while  a fluttering vibration can indicate her loss.


Once the majority of bees are inside their new hive, the hive is carried to its permanent location and with the use of a soft bristled “bee brush”, the outlying bees attached to the outside of the hive are brushed into their new home.

Hive Transfers in Kembata-Tembaro Ethiopia

Hive Transfers in Kembata-Tembaro Ethiopia

 Transferring bees from traditional basket style hives to our newly constructed mud finished top bar hives was a very exciting part of our training sessions held in the Ambakuna and Medula beekeeper communities.


Our exemplary hive transfers took place with each of the respective groups at the homes of a volunteer participant Friday and Saturday evening.   Participants gathered in their newly furbished protective bee gear and we began the session with demonstrations on the use of the hive smokers.


This alone was a worthwhile lesson. As in the past hive smoking was performed with the use of a free smoking ceramic basin, the presence of modern smokers allow beekeepers to control not only the amount of smoke they disperse but therefore they can better control the aggressive African bees they deal with.


Once demonstrated, trainees were gathered into an open space out of view from the existing hives. As soon as the sun went down, the basket hive and colony identified for transferring was carried to the work space, filled with smoke and from Amharic to Tembarenya trainees began an indispendable hands on lesson.