The numbers have reduced drastically in Kenya and across the world. Experts attribute this to climate change, excessive use of agricultural chemicals, destruction of habitats and emerging diseases, among others. The decline does not only threaten food production because the insects are pollinators, but also in the sense that there is reduced honey production. Rachel Kibui spoke to Robin Mbae, the head of apiculture at the Agriculture ministry on the challenge
What can be done to increase bee colonies as climate change takes a toll on agriculture sector?
Colony division can help increase the number of bees. This method involves splitting a colony, by dividing it into two ‘families’.
For this to be a viable method, the colony to be split should be strong enough to have occupied at least 50 per cent of the hive.
To split the colony in a top bar hive, one needs to pick at least four top bars, one which has egg and another one lava. The other two should have honey and pollen respectively.
Ensure that the queen remains in the original hive because if you move her, the bees will fly away. Then move the colony with the ‘original’ queen to another place.
This is because if the ones without a queen are moved, they would fly away in search of her and end up returning to the original hive.
However, when left at the same place, only without a queen, they will make another one almost immediately.
The second method is known as ‘catch a colony’. This involves identifying a bees’ migratory route, and trapping a swarm or a colony.
The trapping is done by use of a catcher box, which is a small hive, available at most apiculture equipment shops.
Note that bees fly high, and therefore, the catcher box should be hanged high enough.
The third method is queen rearing. This is a process of making queens in a hive. Bees are then introduced in there because the queen must be taken care of.
Queen rearing is a viable agribusiness as the queen and some bees can be sold as a package to people who may be interested in apiculture.
Colonies multiply very fast as occupation into a hive takes just about three days.
The last method is getting colonies from those who multiply them. One can get free colonies from the government breeding sites. The government has four colony production sites in Marimanti, Tharaka Nithi County, Kimose in Baringo, Makanda in Migori and Matuga in Kwale.
All what it takes is to contact the most convenient bee colony production farm, and follow the appropriate procedures.
This way, a farmer gets colonies to rear on their farms, both for agribusiness as well as multiplication.
In all the methods of increasing colonies, farmers should always be keen to work closely with apiculture experts.
This way, they will get proper advice and guidance not only on getting the colonies, but also proper maintenance for maximum benefit.