There are over 20,000 known bee species in the world, from bumble, mining to honey bees that normally live in hives managed by beekeepers while others are solitary.
Honey is sweet and has antibiotic properties along with trace amounts of antioxidants and vitamins, according to Healthline.com. Honeybees are not only useful for making honey, but also essential to the planet’s ecosystem.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, bee keeping can be carried out successfully in 80 per cent of the country, by both individual and common interest groups. It is especially suitable in Arid and Semi-arid lands where other modes of agriculture are not very practical.
Bee-keeping contributes to incomes as well as food security through provision of honey, beeswax, propolis, bees’ venom and royal jelly in medicine.
Kenya’s potential for apiculture development is estimated to be over 100,000 metric tonnes of honey and 10,000 metric tonnes of beeswax per annum, according to the Ministry. However, at the moment only about a fifth of this potential is being exploited.
Despite the downward trend in global production of honey, the Kenyan case has been different as more and more people are taking up apiculture. However, a huge percentage of beekeepers use traditional methods that presumably lead to honey of low quality. Besides, lower earnings were ascribed to inadequate marketing infrastructure.
Peter Kitonga from Mwingi, Kitui County sells a kilo of packaged honey at Sh800 per kilogram compared to Sh100 a kilogram of raw honey.
There are many different species of bees in the world most of them solitary (living alone). A few species of bees are kept for pollination and honey production. In Kenya the most important species is called the honeybee or Apis mellifera.
He shares insights on how a bee farmer can benefit from value addition.
Honey glazed nuts
Honey roasted nuts are mixed nuts coated with honey and baked until crisp. Crunchy and sweet they are the perfect snack to munch at any time of the day.
They are very easy to make, and within 30 minutes you can come up with something tastey using simple ingredients.
To start off, you need nuts of your choice (peanuts work just fine), honey, butter, brown sugar, salt and cayenne paper.
Pre heat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
Melt butter and honey in a medium-size saucepan over low heat until butter is melted and is combined with honey. Keep stirring while melting.
Add the nuts and cayenne pepper (optional) to the pan and coat the nuts with the butter and honey mixture evenly.
Transfer the nuts to the baking tray and spread them in a single layer. Keep the tray in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the nuts turn golden brown. Ensure they roast evenly from all the sides.
Remove the tray from oven and sprinkle brown sugar and sea salt over the nuts and toss using two spatulas. Allow to cool and store in a tight container.
A packet of 100 grams costs Sh100.
To make honey-butter, you only need two ingredients - honey and butter.
Take three-quarter cup butter and a quarter cup honey. Mix butter and honey together in a bowl until smooth. Cover and store in the refrigerator. It can be used as a spread for bread, cookies, among other things.
The 500 gram pack may go for Sh550.
Beeswax furniture polish
According to Kitonga, this is the best polish for any wood. The simplest recipe for polish is to mix beeswax with a suitable solvent such as white spirit or turpentine. Proportions should be 200 grams of beeswax with 0.5 litre of solvent.
“The proportions can be varied to give the consistency required. If less solvent is used, the mixture will be more of a paste than a liquid. Heat carefully the solvent in a pan, and the beeswax in a separate pan, until the beeswax melts.
With both liquids at the same temperature, pour the solvent into the wax and stir very well. Pour into prepared glass jar or tin containers.
If it is available, carnauba wax (from leaves of the fan palm Copernicia prunifera) makes an excellent ingredient for polish and removes the slight stickiness of beeswax. Carnauba wax has a high melting point (83-85 degrees centigrade), gives hardness and a high gloss finish.
“If this was available, substitute 50 grams of the beeswax in the above recipe with carnauba wax,” says Kitonga.
Such a mix can be made at an agreed fee only through orders.
Propolis is a resin like material produced by bees to fight infections, heal wounds, and more. You can use it to prepare a medicinal and soothing cream by melting gently together one-part beeswax, four parts liquid paraffin, one part grains of propolis and one-part honey. Stir the mixture continuously until it is melted and combined, and continue stirring as it cools and thickens.
Honey in alcoholic drinks
Honey can also be used to make alcoholic drinks, such as honey beer.
To do this, you need a calabash or gourd for faster fermentation, sprouted maize or millet, crushed brood comb, one-part comb honey or liquid honey and four parts water.
Pound lightly the sprouted maize and pour the contents in the calabash. Brewers brew can also be used though fermentation is slow and takes longer. Some use roasted maize grit. Add some crushed brood comb then add one-part water.
Leave overnight in a warm place to activate the fermentation process. Then add four parts warm water, one part sealed comb honey (crushed).
“Put the calabash with its contents in a warm place. After two hours the fermentation should start. You can tell if the fermentation is taking place by observing bubbles coming out of the calabash. The broth should appear boiling,” says Kitonga.
“The first and second batches of honey beer are slower in fermentation since the starter or inoculant (sprouted maize/brood comb) is still building up. Reusing the starter and the calabash will allow much faster fermentation.”
The first honey beer brew takes about 12 hours to be ready. The second beer brew takes about 10 hours. Continuous brewing of the honey beer using the same calabash reduces the time when the honey beer is ready to six to eight hours. The starter can only be replaced after three months of continuous use of the calabash. Alternatively, you can add more starter when the fermentation process slows down.
The mixtures should be in correct proportions as described above. Using calabash assures you 90 per cent good results. Too much brood can cause acidity and off flour in the beer. Too much sprouted maize can make the honey beer sour and rendered useless.
Using ordinary buckets prolongs the fermentation process to days or even weeks and there is no guarantee that you will get good results.
Too much honey in the mixture may slow down the fermentation until the brew becomes sour or remain too sweet for days. Too much water causes the beer to be sour and set your teeth on edge. The water for the mixture should be lukewarm.