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Martin

Bee-keeping

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I fancy having a go at keeping a hive or two, but how should I go about getting the bees and the equipment?

I would welcome any suggestions, please.

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I fancy having a go at keeping a hive or two, but how should I go about getting the bees and the equipment?

I would welcome any suggestions, please.

Martin, try driving out on Chumpae road from KK town centre past the Uni entrance and the airport on your right, and I think somewhere before the turning to Mancha Kiri there is a bee keeping extension/promotion centre on your right, which should have all the information you need. I've never been in there myself, but colleagues used to take farmers there for training courses and they said it was the proverbial "bees knees". :D

A friend who used to keep bees over in Mahasarakham reported that keeping bees is not that difficult under Isaan conditions, but it's not that economic either. You either have to buy in sugar to feed the bees at certain times of year or put the hives in your truck and take 'em off round the provinces to places where there's lots of food, like lamyai blossom in Mukdahan or kapok in Nong Khai, etc.

Let us know what you find at that centre. :o

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Wow! Thanks a million,'plachon'. I will seek out that centre today.

When I looked on the Internet, I found that honey yields here are much less than in Europe. But there's only me and the missus so we should still get sufficient.

Also I remember that in a year of bad weather for the bees in England, some beekeepers got floorsweepings from a sugar factory and made adequate syrup. I have three factories in my area, so scrounging looks possible!

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Thank you, 'plachon' for excellent advice.

That Beekeeping Centre (which seems also to host the Northeastern Beekeepers Association) did me proud.

The technician and the two ladies in the office worked hard with their limited English and my lack of Thai to answer my questions.

We had got as far as them telling me that there was a honey farm that also sold equipment and bees and I was trying to get directions to it, when the boss came. They explained my presence and he promptly told the technician to go with me as a guide.

The honey farm was about 6km from the centre of KK in the NW sector of the city. Its owner was away in Loei province, but a very competent young lady let us watch her rehousing stock after stock, and took my order, which I will collect on Thursday when I have prepared to right spot at home.

I was surprised how docile the bees were compared to the ones that I had on my Welsh hill farm. Maybe the climate, which was bleak, often cold, and usually wet, made my Welsh ones grumpy, whereas the KK climate induces 'mae pen lai' and 'bo peng yang' even in bees.

The prices seemed very reasonable. 1800 baht for a wooden box hive containing a good stock of bees on six frames. 450 baht for a bellows smoker. 200 baht for a stainless-steel hive tool. 50 baht for a hive stand made from re-bar, which is greased to keep the ants off. 90 baht for a head net, but none in stock, so I will make my own, though my companion and the young lady indicated that they never wear one, nor gloves.

The bees we saw were being fed sugar block.

The boxes need repainting every year, so in due course I will need three more boxes at 380 bahts each to swop the bees into.

So for about a hundred pounds, or US$200, one can get set up with three hives.

I'll post again after Thursday.

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Glad you found it doublequick Martin, that they were helpful and are now ready to go.

Yes, the Isaan bees are noted for their docility and bor ben nyang attitude to life, which makes for easy keeping but as I heard from my friend, they maybe don't range far enough at times to fill up the hive with honey. Also, beware your neighbours spaying with pesticide, as that can decimate your stock.

If any of your neighbours do get interested and you can form them into a small group, then you might like to consider subsidising them (50/50?) to go on a course at the NE Centre in KK and then you'd soon have a little collective of honey producers going. The course fees used to be very cheap. The advantage could be information swapping and a bit more marketing power if you wanted to sell, a year or two down the line. Most will drop out, of course, but it's always good to have some neighbours who know what you're doing and can look after your hives if you're ever away or can split the costs on taking the hives to a more pollen rich area, should the need arise.

Just an idea to promote self-sufficiency and sustainability in the future oil-free economy! :o

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Please keep us updated at the Farming Forum with your experiences Martin.

Im very interested in this but, I've got alot of other projects on the go, so it might be a couple of years before I get time to try it myself.

I've got some drawing for building your own hives, I'll try to post them in the farm Forum bee thread.

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Thank you to all above for their encouragement.

For anybody who drives down to Bangkok, you might like to take a little detour via the Lungsaard Bee Farm near Lopburi.

They sell all sorts of bee products.

There is a map of how to get there on http://www.lungsaardbeefarm.com/

For a box, 7 frames with bees and a queen, plus a spare frame they charge 2500 bahts.

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For 'Mr Squigle', re post #6:

My object in keeping bees is not to maximise output of honey.

As an amateur, my interest is in the bees: what nectar and pollen they are finding, how far they are travelling to find it etc. So a bit of honey for us and to give away down the soi is only a 'fringe benefit'.

For some years, I have observed that beekeeping is a fascinating, absorbing hobby for some retired people (and some who are not yet retired). So now that I have retired, and have more time for hobbies, I am thinking of maybe taking it up in a small way.

I think I saw on the Internet that the professionals get 12-18 kg of honey per year per hive in Europe, but only about half of that in Thailand. Of course, that is subject to a lot of variables: the weather during the year, whether the bees are helped with the feeding of sugar or consume their stored honey in 'famine' times etc.

Beekeeping is only profitable if the beekeeper works very hard at it, has a lot of hives, and gets good luck.

I think that amateur beekeepers see it as a pleasurable hobby that isn't overly expensive to start, or to maintain.

Some see some aspects (such as keeping rare breeds of bees that are not profitable commercially) as their 'service to mankind'.

Bees are important. If all breeds of bee became extinct except for one profitable breed, and then it was wiped out by a new disease, mankind itself would be wiped out within four years by worldwide famine.

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Update:

Tuesday started badly. “She Who Must Be Obeyed” wanted nowt to do with us having bees. So I capitulated and said that we could go on Thusday and ask for my deposit of 500 baht to be returned in the form of that much honey. But their English and my Thai wouldn’t stand the strain, so she would have to explain.

Later, I had an idea, and suggested that we still buy one hive of bees, but give it to ‘Wat Pha’. That is a little one-monk forest temple that we help to support and where we go nearly every week on ‘Buddha Day’ for the morning breakfast ‘service’. That was felt to be a possibility, as the monk had previously seen a lot of bees dying nearby and had ‘preached’ on being careful to buy less-harmful sprays and to spray in the evening when the bees had gone home.

So, on Wednesday, we went to Wat Pha to ask the monk and he was agreeable.

On Thursday, the owner of the beefarm in Khon Kaen was out, but his daughter chatted with Thong till he came back. I kept out of it, but she seemed to allay some of Thong’s misgivings. Then the owner allayed the rest, and sold us all we needed along with two hives (as, he reckoned, a colony on its own is lonely). Thong still took the 500 bahts in honey, of course. Little extras that come out of my pocket, rather than her housekeeping money, are never spurned! While we were there, we got a phone call to say that the eldest lad (who is a newsreader/DJ in Udon) had been taken to hospital with a high fever and tonsillitis. As there wasn’t time to go to see him and to Wat Pha, the bees had to come home and be housed in our garden for a couple of days.

This morning (Friday), I opened the covers over the hive entries at dawn and the first bees ventured out. Being a person who is so fascinated by work that he can sit for hours and watch others doing it, I did just that. Gradually, those first guard bees flew a bit further away (once they were sure they knew the way back). But it wasn’t till mid-afternoon that I saw the first forage seekers going off and coming back. In the meantime, I had a go at feeding sugar. I didn’t know it, but a villager had brought a contribution of about 40 kg of raw sugar to Thong’s big party when the lads were ‘monked’. Only about half had been used and Thong had squirreled away the rest.

(Apparently, when those ‘siplors’ and trailers are hauling raw sugar down to Bangkok, a bit can ‘fall off the back of a wagon’ whilst it is parked up in a village before starting its journey!!)

I had forgotten to ask yesterday about how to feed sugar, but five minutes on the Internet sufficed. ‘Googling’ bees+feeding+sugar led to “John’s Beekeeping Notebook” at http://outdoorplace.org/beekeeping/feeding.htm.

I used his ‘plastic bag feeder’ method with a syrup of two mugs of raw sugar to one mug of water. It turned out like slightly-watered-down molasses and the bees cleared the lot quite fast.

So far, so good. I’ll update again in a week or so.

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Fascinating! You may have started a whole new trend for us farangs up here in the sticks.

Please do keep us posted and you might encourage others to give it a go.

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I also find this subject interesting. I started to read the Post becauise I like honey and thought a few hives might be good. But the notion of encouraging different breeds of bees sounds interesting.

Hope you'll keep us all updated with news from time to time. A photo or two would be nice.

Joe

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I am going to have a look in the hives and put sugar syrup in the feeders this afternoon, so will try to get some photos.

In the meantime there is this one that I have pinched from a book. The book is a kiddies Learning English book: "What is a bee?". The beefarmer in Khon Kaen had a copy and was using it to explain things to me, as the information in it is in both Thai and English. But when I went to the bookshop in Khon Kaen they had sold all their copies and weren't getting any more.

So I took the details and e-mailed them to Danny Speight at http://www.dcothai.com/.

I have never met Danny, but over the years I have bought quite a few books from his website and he has also got me books that weren't in his listings. I just pay at my bank into his account and then he sends the books by EMS. Very handy.

Anyway, he got "What is a bee", even though it is only 55 baht, and is going to stock it from now on.

In the photo, the numbered parts are:

1. An eye, of which the bee has five.

2. An antenna, of which it has two.

3.Its jaws.

4. Its tongue

5. A wing, of which it has two pairs.

6. Its honey stomach, in which it brings nectar from flowers.

7. Its hairy body, that gets the pollen.

8. One of its twopollen sacs,

9. Its stinger.

post-1966-1194758169_thumb.jpg

post-1966-1194758404_thumb.jpg

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I am going to have a look in the hives and put sugar syrup in the feeders this afternoon, so will try to get some photos.

In the meantime there is this one that I have pinched from a book. The book is a kiddies Learning English book: "What is a bee?". The beefarmer in Khon Kaen had a copy and was using it to explain things to me, as the information in it is in both Thai and English. But when I went to the bookshop in Khon Kaen they had sold all their copies and weren't getting any more.

So I took the details and e-mailed them to Danny Speight at http://www.dcothai.com/.

I have never met Danny, but over the years I have bought quite a few books from his website and he has also got me books that weren't in his listings. I just pay at my bank into his account and then he sends the books by EMS. Very handy.

Anyway, he got "What is a bee", even though it is only 55 baht, and is going to stock it from now on.

In the photo, the numbered parts are:

1. An eye, of which the bee has five.

2. An antenna, of which it has two.

3.Its jaws.

4. Its tongue

5. A wing, of which it has two pairs.

6. Its honey stomach, in which it brings nectar from flowers.

7. Its hairy body, that gets the pollen.

8. One of its twopollen sacs,

9. Its stinger.

Very interesting. Thanks. So in fact a bee can collect pollen and nectar. What an efficient little beastie they are.

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Here are the first of this afternoon's photos.

It is necessary to stop ants from getting in and robbing the hive, and at the appropriate times of the year, the Thai beekeepers tie oily rags round the legs of their hive stands.

Not knowing when that is, I decided to have a permanent defence and wrapped a bandage round each leg and put a funnel-cup (made from the top of a water bottle) on each bandage. So I can fill the funnel-cup with waste oil using an oil can, and the bandage is kept wet with oil.

But the bandages leak, so I put a catching cup (made from the other end of the water bottle) to catch the leaked oil and form a second oil barrier to the ants.

The hive stands are rather flimsy three-legged affairs ( but you can't expect much for 70 baht!).

One day, I mean to get around to having some substantial four-legged stands made from re-bar, and I will design those so that each leg can stand in a big tin of waste oil.

In the second photo, the simple clip that is used to hold down the hive cover is undone and hanging down. Also there is one bee just going in and another, who has just arrived back, doing her 'waggle dance' to tell where she has been and what she has found.

post-1966-1194780724_thumb.jpg

post-1966-1194780774_thumb.jpg

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