Honey hunting Tradition Vs Modern beekeeping

Beekeeping Systems

There are different beekeeping systems used and these include:

Honey hunting and bee-killing

The long relationship between humans and honey bees started with honey hunting in the wild. Honey hunting continues in some communities to date. It involves killing the bees in the wild colony so as to obtain combs containing honey and brood (larvae & pupae). This primitive method involves use of open fire to kill the bees, eventually destroying not only the colony but also the environment as bushes are set on fire in the process of harvesting honey.


  • Minimal work and knowledge is required
  • There is no investment of expenditure involved
  • Nests and bees are destroyed
  • Bees may become aggressive
  • Remaining bees may abscond 
  • Access to the nests can be far and dangerous
  • Combs get mixed up during harvesting hence producing poor quality honey
  • Environment is destroyed if trees are cut down or set on fire.
To reduce the hardship and unpredictability of harvesting from wild colonies, people found ways to increase their control over bees through the ownership and management of colonies kept in hives. These beekeeping systems range from the local/traditional methods to the modern system.

b.) Bee having 

This is an intermediate step between honey hunting/bee killing and beekeeping. In bee having bees are housed in hollowed sections of tree trunks, clay pots, gourds, bark hives, or woven twigs an mud baskets. Combs containing honey are fixed and removed periodically. The farmer provides protection to the bee colony in return for periodic harvests of honey, wax and other bee products the idea is to maintain the colony for future harvests instead of destroying it for a one- Time harvest. Both bee-killing and bee-having are carried on with very little understanding of the biology of the bee. It is not uncommon to find bee-having among farmers who have relatively sophisticated equipment which allows for management of their colonies. They remain bee- havers because they lack the training to make optimum use of their equipment. This is sometimes referred to as local/traditional.

  • Bees nests are conserved
  • Minimum cost (cheap locally available materials and labor)
  • Suitable for defensive bees
  • Less risky than honey hunting
  • Hives can be placed near homes
  • Combs are fixed and must be broken during harvesting
  • Honey yields are modest
  • Hive inspection is difficult
c)   Beekeeping

Bee keeping implies the manipulation of a bee colony based on some understanding of the bees. This gives great ease of management and harvesting for  higher yields and better quality of honey. Bee Keeping therefore can be lucrative at any level of technology, but the level used should fit together with the local cultural and economic reality.

There are three categories of bee keeping namely:-
  1.  Local/traditional beekeeping in fixed comb hives.
  2. Transitional (between local/traditional beekeeping and modern beekeeping) in top bar hives.
  3. Modern beekeeping: in frame hives
  • Hives can be managed efficiently
  • Bees are less disturbed and therefore less defensive
  • Hives are easy to visit, harvest, treat, feed, unite and divide
  • Hives can be made to the right volume and combs are movable
  • Honey and beeswax can be of good quality
  • Equipment can be costly
  • External financial support and donated equipment may be required
  • Hive must be mad very precisely in order to work effectively
  • Diseases and pests can be spread easily due to movement of equipment 
  • More knowledge and skills are required
Choosing the most appropriate hive type 

The best hive is one that is appropriate given the materials that are available, and the skills and financial resources of the beekeeper. The simpler and cheaper a hive is to make, the more people will be able to take part in beekeeping. An expensive system does not necessarily result in higher output. To avoid unnecessary debt and dependence on external support, beekeepers should be able to make or buy cheap hives made from local materials. This independence gives them the freedom to get the availability of forage for bees, the strength of the colony, and the size of the container used as a hive. It is not simply the type of hive that determines how much honey the bees will store but also the size.

Features of an appropriate hive 

  • Attractive for bees:- dry, correct size, nice scent, easy to protect from pests and predators.
  • Suitable for beekeepers:- affordable, manageable, locally available, sustainable.
 Fixed comb (local/traditional) hives

Fixed comb hives are containers made from whatever material are locally available, such as grasses, logs, bark, raffia palm, clay, etc. Bees build their nest inside the container, just as they would build in a naturally occurring cavity. The bees attach the combs to the inside upper surface of the hive. the honey combs need to be cut off from this surface to be harvested and cannot then be replaced.
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