The Bee Shepherd

This gentleman is  Zakarea……

…..and he serves as the community liaison between Zambeze Delta Safaris and the local village.  This position is one of great importance as, in many cases, he is the one who decides which families get what!!

He is 51 years old and says that he was born on January 1st, as were all sixteen of his children…apparently, it is the default date for all births.

He serves in many roles, but the most interesting is the work that he does as the “Bee shepherd”!!

The bee swarms are captured using these boxes that hang in the trees…..

They have something in them that attracts the wandering bees.  Once caught they are moved to the hives.

When I first saw these boxes, I asked Francisco what they were.   He made the motion of something flying and then acted as if he was touching his finger in something and then tasting it.   I got the idea!!

The hives currently in use are an “African Top-Bar” hive. 

Mark told us that it is an extremely basic form of bee keeping but works well in this situation.

They have recently started transitioning to a modern “Langstroth” hive.   Since the summer temperatures can reach 100 to 115, the wooden hives are very hot.    They are starting to build these hives from concrete, as they are much cooler and make for healthier and happier bees!!

Also, the weight of the concrete hives deters hive-rustlers!!!

They use wooden forms to mold the concrete…..

….. and use the metal from confiscated poacher’s snares to reinforce the slabs… about using something bad to create something good!!!

They can build 3 concrete hives each week and there are a bunch ready to be deployed into the field!!

In a good season, they take between 16 and 20 kilos (36 – 44 pounds) of honey from each hive.

The strong point of the honey from this area is that there are no pesticides sprayed anywhere around.   Most of the pollen comes from the indigenous trees that grow prolifically!!

The flavor of the honey changes based on the time of year and on where the hive is situated.

The honey has a high moisture content and is sometimes sent elsewhere to dehydrate a bit.  Otherwise, it easily molds.

There are currently 350 hives, and the beekeepers are paid for their honey.  The initial market is to local hotels and resorts, but they hope to soon move into the Middle Eastern market.   The reason for this niche is because, since they don’t have indigenous bees in their countries, they don’t have to irradiate the honey as it enters the country.  If it was sent to America, it would be irradiated to protect the local bees, but would lose much of its goodness.

Because of the quality of the honey, it will bring top dollar.

They have a problem with ants invading the hives and have solved that by placing a metal plate on the pole and smearing it with engine oil.   Apparently, the ants cant traverse the gap!!

While we were looking at the new concrete hives that were being built, I found an interesting design in these wooden boxes filing several shelves…..

I found out that these were the frames that are used in the hives.   The metal wires are covered with wax and then dropped “file folder” style into the hive.

Zakarea was proud to show us his hive and we happily followed him to the back of his property…..

….As we walked, I managed to grab a quick photo of a gorgeous plant…..

I have been surprised to not see more flowers and, when I questioned Julian about this, he responded that I needed to remember that it was the middle of winter here!!!   DUH!!!

Thus ends the saga of the Bee-Shepherd…..a sweet saga indeed!!!

5 thoughts on “The Bee Shepherd

  1. The idea of making the hives out of concrete is interesting. I have not come across that before.
    We kept our own hives for a while, until we found out that Barry was allergic to bees.

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