Notes to broadcasters
The following script on beekeeping is divided into two parts. The first part gives details on how to build a beehive to attract bees to your area. The second part tells you how to collect honey from the beehive.
Beekeeping has multiple benefits. Honey is a nutritious food, good for the whole family. And many beekeepers can harvest enough honey to supplement their income—or even to make a good income if they have many hives.
You might choose to present this script as part of your regular farming program, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the following short drama is based on a conversation with a real scientist, but that the voices are those of actors, not the original people in the script. You could present both parts of the script on the same day, or present part one on one day, and part two on the next.
You could also use this script as inspiration to research and develop a radio program on beekeeping in your own country.
If you choose to use this script as inspiration for creating your own program, you could talk to beekeepers, extension agents and others, and ask the following questions:
- What kind of beehives do beekeepers use in your area?
- What practices have local beekeepers found effective to care for their bees, to harvest honey, and to get good yields of honey?
- Are any of the practices used in the script useful to local beekeepers?
Apart from speaking directly to beekeepers and other key players in the local agriculture sector, you could use these questions as the basis for a phone-in or text-in program.
Estimated running time with intro and outro music for each episode: 10-12 minutes
Part A: How to make a simple beehive
Honey, of course, comes from bees that gather it in the form of nectar from flowers and blossoms.
You probably know someone who keeps bees and harvests the honey that the bees store in honeycombs. You could do this too! Then you’d have more food for yourself and your family and you might even get enough to sell.
“But,” you say, “where would I get the bees? I don’t know enough about bees and how to keep them and get honey from them!” Well, just keep listening and I’ll tell you about it.
After a recent visit to the Tabora Honey Co-operative in Tanzania, I met a honey specialist.
What are the most important things you need to know about raising bees and harvesting honey, (Mr., Ms. Mrs. ___)?
Palm logs make good beehives because the centre can be hollowed out quite easily. Or you might even find a big piece of bamboo that would do. One good stout section of bamboo would make a fine hive if you cut it so that there is a node at each end. Each node would then form a sort of wall to keep the ends of your hollow bamboo beehive closed. Of course, there must be a way for bees to get in and out of the hive, so you’ll need to make three or four holes the size of your finger in one end only.
You may have seen beehives of this kind hanging in trees more or less horizontal or parallel to the ground. People have been keeping bees like this for a long time. Bees like to live in hollow logs hung up in trees this way because they build their honeycombs inside them hanging from the top and sides and leaving a space all along the bottom. That’s so they can easily get in to the combs to deposit the honey.
The next thing to do is to get some beeswax. You might find some in a tree that has a colony of bees in it, or get it from another beekeeper. Rub the beeswax around inside the hive. After you’ve done that, fasten the bottom 1/3 of the log back onto the hive using reeds, twine or wire. Your hive will now be closed up except for the holes in one end for the bees to use. All you have to do now is rub a bit more beeswax on the end of the hive with the holes in it. That’ll attract the first swarm of bees that comes along. They’ll just move in and make it their home.
So you see, keeping bees to make food for you and your family isn’t hard at all. I must emphasize, however, what you already know, that bees do sting. And while one or two bee stings may not bother you too much, if a whole bunch of bees went after you, it could be very bad. Because of this, there are four important things to do if you’re going to keep bees.
- Have your beehives at least 300 metres from where you or your neighbours keep animals that are tied or in a pen.
- Always wait until late in the day before going near your beehives or doing anything around your bees.
- Bees don’t like smoke, so be sure to have a good source of smoke to drive them away. Some people use an old tin can punched full of holes. They put smoky smouldering leaves or grass in the can and a helper holds the hot can with a piece of wire. If you had a helper to do this, you’d be able to blow the smoke into the hive area where you want to work.
- It’s best to wear heavy clothing and dark-coloured netting hung from a broad-brimmed hat to keep the bees away from your head, face and neck.
One thing I should add is that just as you, your poultry, and your animals need water to drink, your bees need water too. So if there’s no stream or pond where they can get it themselves, you’ll have to keep some water in a shallow container nearby so they can drink when they’re thirsty.
One other thing to remember is that bees have to be standing on something solid when they’re drinking. So you must put some twigs or grass in the container partly in the water and partly out of it for them to stand on.
After bees have moved into your hive, there are some other things you’ll need to know, but we’ll talk about that next time. Meanwhile, why don’t you talk about beekeeping with somebody else you know who is already doing it!
Part B: Harvesting honey from the hive
The first is that bees gather nectar, make honey and store it almost everywhere there are flowers. If they don’t store it in your beehive or somebody else’s, they’ll put the honey some place where it won’t likely be found. But if you provide them with a hive to store it in, it will be yours at no cost whatever.
Another important thing is that if there were no bees around, you wouldn’t be able to harvest nearly as many fruits and vegetables. That’s because, in many cases, it’s bees that pollinate the blossoms and flowers. They do this while they’re gathering the nectar that they turn into honey. So bees are very important, and if you make sure they have water and a good beehive to live in not too far from your fruit trees and your garden, they’ll work for you both ways. They’ll do the pollination and they’ll give you honey—a good, sweet, high-energy food.
There’s something else I should point out. Maybe you keep poultry, pigs, cattle or other animals to produce food or to work for you. And perhaps you have to grow and harvest feed for them or provide them with pasture. But you don’t have to grow or provide food for your bees because they don’t compete with any other creatures for food.
The last time we talked, I told you about the log beehive. You’ll remember that it’s made from a hollow log that you hang parallel to the ground from the branches of a big tree. The bottom 1/3 of the log is separate but tied back in place, and you’ve made three or four holes in one end of your hive so bees can get inside. Before closing it up, you rubbed some beeswax on the inside and then on the outside near the holes.
Let’s see what ____ says about the bees that are going to live in your hive after it’s hanging in the tree.
Bees don’t like smoke, and you need a good source of smoke to drive the bees away. If you don’t, they could sting you badly. Some people use an old tin can punched full of holes. They put smoky smouldering leaves or grass in the can, and a helper holds the hot can with a piece of wire close to the hive. Then they blow the smoke into the place where the bees are working at the hive. They also wear heavy clothing and protect their head, face, and neck from the bees with a big hat and netting.
Start examining the combs from the closed end and work towards the front. The queen will do her laying in the first half of the hive, and when you come across your first patch of sealed young bees, stop.
Be careful to only harvest honey from combs with sealed cells. There will be honey in cells that have not yet been sealed by the bees because they have not yet reduced the amount of water in the cells to an acceptable level. These combs of unsealed cells will tend to be the first ones you inspect in the back part of the hive. Honey that has a lot of water will be spoilt by fermentation. Therefore, it should not be removed from the hive.
If you want to use fire like this, you must be very careful not to cause a bush fire. So make sure that there is no dry vegetation close to the fire. And when you finish, it is very important to ensure that the fire is completely out.
It is also a good idea to smoke the area of the bee sting after it has been removed, because stings release a chemical called a pheromone that attracts other bees to come and sting you. The smoke will help to mask this chemical.
When you have finished, make sure you keep the lid on the bucket. You want to keep the honey clean and you don’t want the smell of honey to attract bees.
Note: This script is adapted from Package 4, scripts 4 and 5, originally published in 1981. The original participants were George Atkins, founder of Farm Radio International and Gordon Townsend, from the Department of Biology at the University of Guelph, Canada. It was reviewed and modified by Roy Dyche, project manager with the UK charity, Bees Abroad.