Kembata Tembaro Beekeepers have not changed the manner in which they multiply their hives for over 500 years. Men climb the branches of tall eucalyptus and accacia trees and hang their long cylinder baskets in their branches. Leading up to the height of the strong nectar flow season when the bees population outgrow their home, 1/3 of the bees take their queen and leave the hive in search for a new one. Knowing this, beekeepers place their empty hives in close proximity to their existing ones. Amazingly, as we were told in our community meeting, here in Kembata Tembaro, there is a 100% success rate in filling those hives. This is called swarm catching.
Working with this success rate is not only the best way for beekeepers too expand their apiary but also a good way for new beekeepers to start up with their first colonies.
So while we are introducing transitional style beehives we are also introducing similarly designed swarm catchers. Sharing the same dimension yet one third of the volume, these hives are designed to make the age old traditions just a bit more efficient.
Rather than having to harshly break newly constructed honeycombs killing many bees in the process, using a bit of local technology, after 2 months of a new colonies presence, beekeepers can simply lift the top bar from the swarm catcher and slide it into the full sized hive.
We’ve demonstrated the construction of these new locally sourced swarm catchers here on the ground and local beekeepers seem excited about their possibilities. As the rains accumulate and bee populations expand, their use and success rate could make swarm catching and hive multiplication more efficient for both the the beekeeper as well as the honey bee.