SIMPLE WAY TO LIVE WITH BEES PEACEFULLY

Peter Tangus at his apiary in Bomet County. PHOTO | ANDREW MIBEI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 


The road leading to Peter Tangus’s home in Kimawit village, Bomet County, is lined with trees. It looks like a forest path.
A 12-feet high fence made of offcut timber separates his house from a small forest of trees, avocados and bananas.
From his compound, the unmistakable buzz of bees that Tangus rears just a few metres from his house can be heard.
“I have 40 hives here and all of them are inhabited,” Tangus says as he leads the way into the apiary.
The hives are suspended on posts that stand about five-feet high using strong wires. Tangus has mainly the Langstroth beehives though there are a few Kenya Top Bar Hives as well. He also has one or two traditional hives in the apiary.
“I am turning my bee project into a demonstration farm; the reason I have different types of hives because various farmers come here.”
Tangus knows the exact dates that he set the hives and even when bees moved into them.
“Hanging hives helps in controlling pests and predators from attacking the bees. I have applied oil on the posts and grease to repel ants that can drive away bees,” says the 52-year-old. He started the business with Sh3,000 to buy timber, nails and paint.
Tangus made his first hive about 20 years ago and placed them on the boundary of his one-acre farm.
However, what had started as a promising project became a source of anguish for him as his bees attacked his neighbours and their animals.
They asked the chief to compel him to stop. Having tasted the cash from the bees (he was getting up to Sh10,000 a season then), the former Ministry of Public Works driver refused to comply.
“I sought advice from Baraka Agricultural College in Molo sometime in 2005 who trained him for two-weeks.
“I learnt so many things, including making modern hives, harvesting, processing, sorting, extracting by-products from honey and most importantly, co-existing with bees,” he says.
He fenced-off his farm using offcuts, planted more trees and transferred the hives there effectively ending the conflict with neighbours. He then made 10 more Langstroth hives to add to his 15 traditional ones.
“During harvesting, the brooder is not disturbed, thus, the bees continue living in the hive as usual,” says Tangus.
From the apiary, the farmer gets more than Sh250,000 after every four months from the sale of honey that he packs in 50g-bottles sold at Sh50 each, and 1kg tins that he sells at Sh800 to residents. He has named the products Kipyetge Pure Honey.
More cash comes from a number of by-products that include wax, candles, skin ointment and shoe polish. A kilo of wax goes for the same amount as honey.
To make the candles, he heats the wax, inserts a wick into a 10-inch plastic pipe and hold it in the centre of the pipe. He then pours the liquid wax into the pipe and allows it to cool then removes the candles that he sells to churches and homes.
The skin ointment is a mix of pure wax and sunflower oil plus some herbal extracts. It is used in treating wounds and fungal skin diseases.
Tangus runs a workshop near his home. He recently made over 2,000 Langstroth hives which he sold to farmers’ groups at Sh5,000 each.
“Currently, I am working on 600 hives for a church,” says Tangus, who employs at least five artisans at the workshop and helps farmers set up the hives after buying from him.
Felix Opinya, a researcher at Egerton University, says high fences around the apiary are a smart security measure.
“The fence prevents bees from attacking people and livestock because bees will only attack when provoked and the fence will act as a barrier,” Opinya says.
Joseph Cheruiyot Bett, a Livestock Production officer in Sotik sub-county, says the fortune in bee keeping lies in value addition of products.
“Value addition of beeswax alone can earn the farmer five times the value of honey but this requires special skills and equipment.”
SOURCE: NATION MEDIA