The practice of keeping and maintaining bees and their hives is known as apiculture. Beekeeping is becoming a popular small business that generates funds for many beekeepers. Experts in the industry say that the raw honey, beeswax, and royal jelly, which are products of apiculture, are much sought after commodities. In September this year, The PUNCH reported that Nigeria spends over $2bn annually on the importation of honey. This is contained in a report put together by officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigerian Export Promotion Council and apiculture experts.
The report further reveal that Nigeria consumes about 400,000 tonnes of honey annually but produces less than 10 per cent of its total consumption, adding that there is the compelling need for beekeepers to imbibe global standards in order to grow the beekeeping sub-sector and integrate the benefits into mainstream agricultural development.
In the report, the government, however, stated that it had commenced moves aimed at reducing the amount spent on the importation of honey into Nigeria.
It said the implementation of the Apiculture Roadmap, under the Agricultural Promotion Policy, aimed at transforming the country to one of the top players in the global apiculture sphere “To this end, government has established the Nigerian Apiculture Platform with the objective of fostering the development of the sector while supporting the beekeepers and processors with the necessary inputs, required policies and legislation to drive the developmental processes for the industry,” the report stated.
Experts say beekeeping can generate considerable revenue for interested beekeepers, particularly when you consider the huge volume of honey that is consumed in Nigeria. They advise individuals who are interested in apiculture to first take some time to learn how to start a honey bee farm because it deserves some unique considerations.
They note that just as when adding any animal to the farm, being prepared before the bees come home, will help the potential beekeeper to be successful. The Team Lead, ApiExpo Africa, Chinyere Akujobi, says bees require water, sun, a sturdy hive, and during some parts of the year, they may require feeding. She says the opportunity in beekeeping is huge, as Nigeria spends billions of naira annually to import the commodity.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, also confirmed Akujobi’s position on the huge opportunity in the beekeeping industry and the massive fund which the country spends annually importing honey. “You import products from whatever source and you then find yourself shipping out your resources to sustain other economies, while back home you have unemployment and poverty. The import bill on honey from China is about $100m a year,” Ogbeh said at a conference in Abuja.
He added that “some of that imported honey is not honey, for when you put them in your fridge and check them in the morning, you’ll see some white substance at the bottom. Which is a clear evidence that you are taking sugar syrup.” This, according to Ogbeh, is another reason why more persons should be involved in beekeeping in Nigeria. He says interested persons should learn from experts on how construct a bee hive and manage a beekeeping business
On ways to construct a bee hive, experts say it is nice to position the hive against a protected fence or tree line if available. They say bees will fly a long distance every day to find enough pollen. According to them, grasses, trees, herbs, flowers, and weeds all produce pollen that is used by bees to feed the hive. They say the potential beekeeper does not need to have a flourishing flower bed in his compound, but having a varied garden will help the bees get enough food.
For the hive, they say the investor will need to stain or paint the wood used for the construction in order to protect it. Experts say since the hive will be out in the weather, the wood needs to be protected somehow. On how to get the bees, experts say interested beekeepers can purchase a nuclear colony or can get a package of bees and a separate queen. They say the investor can also capture a swarm if one happens to take up residence on his property. Experts, however, note that the advantages of buying a nuclear colony when starting beekeeping is that the bees are already starting to produce comb and honey when you bring them home.
Experts say when a nuclear colony is purchased, the investor simply puts on his bee protective clothing and transfer the frames from the cardboard box into your hive. They note that the colony has already accepted the queen, and they have mated with her so the investor has varying ages of brood ready to mature and take over as older bees die out.
On location for the hive, experts say investors should consider locating it in a place where the bees can receive sunlight but also in some shade to protect the colony from overheating. They say the growth near the hive will provide some nearby pollen and provide some protection from the elements. This, they say will make the bees to stay active as long as the sun is shining. They say the door should be located away from any traffic area near the investor’s house or barns. In other words, they note that the investor will not want to be walking through the flight path the bees use to get back to the door of the hive.