It is necessary to feed bees during the rainy and dry seasons, as well as in the early stages of a young colony. Usually, there are 2 rainy seasons in the forest and transitional forest regions: heavy rains in June and July, and moderate rain in September to November. It is this period that beekeepers describe as a time of famine in their apiaries coz there is no sun, and the atmosphere is always misty, bleak and cloudy. Bees never go out. The nectar in the fields gets much diluted so bees cannot recognize it. Pollen is washed away, and flowers generally stop blooming. Bee food becomes scarce, as honey and pollen stores in the hive are also depleted.
A strong colony may require 1.4 kg of honey or syrup a day, and it is therefore important for the commercial honey producer to sacrifice part of his reserves for the bees, or else to feed them on sugar cane or syrup. The beekeeper must remember that the bees intended the honey they produced for their own consumption during the rainy season, and if he has taken it away, then he must provide something else to keep the colony alive and strong. One must leave some honey for the bees during the honey harvest: at least seven to ten combs containing honey and brood.
Natural Feeding Process
Many species of trees are good for bee pasture. Many such trees not only provide nectar and pollen for bees but have other uses for man. Where there are large plantations of some of these trees, the beekeeper can take advantage of them by setting up his apiary near them. Sunflower is one such flower which provides edible oil from the seed and rich nectar and pollen, also attracts swarms of bees that the beekeeper can hive in the same apiary.
Water For Honey Bees
An apiary sited near a regular fresh-water supply can build up quickly during the honey-flow season which coincides with the beginning of the dry season. Water is very important for honeybees. They use large quantities to dilute brood food and to cool the hive by evaporation. The need for water to prepare brood food is so necessary in the harmattan season that bees have been known to harass villagers in the dry zones. Water dripping gradually from a standing pipe is ideal for feeding the insect. Any water meant for bees should contain straws or other floating material that the bees can use as landing boards so that they will not drown.
Good records kept by the beekeeper will help
him to follow the general progress of his operation. Two records are
particularly important: the colony and operational records.
1. Colony Record
The beekeeper must study the geographical or climatic conditions of his locality in association with his colony's progress since a recorded guide is rarely available. He should study the rainfall and temperature pattern in relation to flowering and the movement of the bees. This will keep him alert as to the swarming season, the best time to split colonies to make them increase or to collect wild bees for hiving, the harvest period, etc.
The beekeeper should keep individual colony records, and always carry a pencil and a notebook. He should record when the hive was colonized, whether the bees moved involuntarily or if a wild colony was captured. He should weigh the individual hive when it is colonized, and every month (or two weeks) check the weight again to find whether progress has been made. Lifting the hive to feel the weight is enough. If the weight has gone down, then action must be taken to bring it to the normal condition. He should record when the bees carry pollen into the hive, observing them at different times and occasionally estimating the number of bees bringing in pollen.
Crayons can be used to mark individual
records on the top cover of the hive, while general records are kept in a
2. Operational Record
It is very important to keep a notebook recording information on visits to the apiary site, purchases, labor, transport costs, servicing equipment and all other expenses, as well as income. The material that will be required on the next visit should be listed and then prepared. At the end of the year, the success or failure of the operation should be assessed, and how best to reduce costs and maximize profits should be determined.