Egerton University is currently working on a bee propagation project that will enable farmers buy mature queens to start their bee farms instead of waiting for the insects to colonize their hives.
The Queen Bee Rearing Technology (QBRT) being undertaken by the University’s Bee Research and Demonstration Unit (BRDU) at the Njoro Main Campus’ Agro-Science Park aims to increase the number of young queen bees per colony, hence raising the number of eggs laid in a hive from 1,000 to 2,000 per day.
Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research and Extension Professor Bockline Omedo Bebe says the initiative is part of the university’s bold action to protect and conserve bee colonies adding that bees and environment must be viewed through the lenses of food security.
“Although these insects are often associated with honey, pollination accounts for about one in every three bites of food. Bees are responsible for an estimated 80 per cent of pollination,” notes the Deputy Vice Chancellor.
Professor Bebe reiterates that bee colonies in Kenya are facing threats due to use of pesticides, land degradation and habitat loss. Climate change and deforestation have resulted in prolonged drought, which has led to reduction in folia for the honey-producing insects.
He explains that the technology involves selecting 10 hours-old bee larvae, which are moved to virgin queen bank where they are bred in compartments.
“Once they mature, they are taken to separate compartments, then mated and left to lay eggs,” he adds.
“Young queen bees bred at BRDU are being used to replace old queens and reduce the swarming impulse as well as exchange failing queens with vigorous ones to prevent a failed colony. The technology uses a moveable comb or a moveable frame hive so that the hive components can be moved in the way the beekeeper wishes to rear the new queens,” offers the Deputy Vice Chancellor.
Professor Bebe explains that though the life expectancy of a queen bee is 4-5 years, the mother bee is primarily productive in the first two years. BRDU he says is encouraging farmers to keep young queens for a constantly high production.