Beekeeping in Jamaica
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  1. #1
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    Default Beekeeping in Jamaica

    For the whole month of July I’m here in Jamaica working on a Farmer to Farmer top bar beekeeping project funded by USAID and administer by Partners of the America. Right now we’re in the process of setting up a model apiary at Yerba Buena Farm in northern St. Mary’s Parish on the north coast. We will also be training interested people as they come forth.

    The idea is to incorporate different styles of top bar hives and the related equipment in this model apiary so people interested in this can see what can be done and adjust things according to their economic condition or interests. Most all beekeeping in Jamaica seems to be in Langstroth hives. But some of the current beekeepers have heard of the top bar system and are interested in learning more of it and maybe incorporating it into their operations.

    One thing that seems to interest them is the ability to get more wax which is a problem in Jamaica. It can’t be imported so the beekeepers here have to find ways to get enough so they can get the foundation they need—especially if they are expanding. According to the people hosting my visit that means robbing wild colonies. Several of these beekeepers should be coming by next week to work with us and learn more of this system.

    I don’t expect every beekeeper in Jamaica to change their system—Langstroth hives are the norm here and usually are more appropriate for commercial beekeepers. However there definitely seems to be a need to expose Jamaicans to this system, especially if they want to do beekeeping on a small scale or have economic challenges in buying or making frame hives (can be expensive for many people here—the same situation that I see in Honduras).

    I will continue to post photos and comments about this project and about what I’m seeing with beekeeping here in Jamaica. At the moment, however, I only have internet access maybe every other day. I will try to answer any questions you might have or investigate anything you might be interested in. Just be a bit patient with me getting back to you. But if everything goes as planned, I will have full-time internet access sometime next week.

    I also want to give a big thanks to Dennis Murrell of the Bee Nartural web site who put me in contact with Yerba Buena Farm. The people here initially contacted him and he passed my name along to them. Thanks a lot Dennis.

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica001.jpg
    These are the signs that the folks at Yerba Buena Farm made to spread the word about this beekeeping project. People have been seeing them and there have been several inquiries that will be interesting to follow up on. One was from a newspaper reported who I will eventually be talking with about top bar beekeeping.

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica002.jpg
    Here Kwao Adams, the owner of Yerba Buena Farm, is nailing up one of the signs in one of the neighboring communities. The farm also has two university students from the States who are doing an internship there for the summer. One is studying agricultural development and the other economics.

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica003.jpg
    We stopped by this beekeeper just briefly so I could be introduced to him. He’s a commercial beekeeper with approximately 180 hives—and if I understood him correctly there are 160 in this yard that is next to his house. I’ll have a chance to visit with him more in the next several days so I should be able to give every one more information about him and his operation.

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica004.jpg
    Honey in a Jamaican supermarket. The present exchange rate is about 87 Jamaican dollars to one American dollar. One of their most famous honeys is from the log wood tree. Up in the Blue Mountains the coffee is flowering right now and we had a chance to try honey from it—actually quite a bit since the family here uses honey a lot. It has a really good flavor.

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica007.jpg
    The small beach that forms part of Yerba Buena Farm.
    I’ll stop with this for the moment but try to continue to post photos and comments of the project and what I’m seeing with Jamaican beekeeping.

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    Tom

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica


    Here is a photo I took in 2009 while in Jamaica. Its part of what made me want to get back to bees. Anyone want to make comments on the photo, I welcome it.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomas View Post
    One thing that seems to interest them is the ability to get more wax which is a problem in Jamaica. It can’t be imported so the beekeepers here have to find ways to get enough so they can get the foundation they need—especially if they are expanding.
    Hmm, I'm not sure what is going on here. There is another current Beesource thread posted by a member also in Jamaica, who want to rapidly expand his hive count. He has calculated that buying the necessary foundation would cost $13,000.

    https://www.beesource.com/forums/show...ndation-cost-!

    Tomas, are you really saying that beeswax and presumably foundation cannot legally be imported into Jamaica?
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Here are some more photos from Jamaica and some of the things we've done and that I've seen in the last couple days.

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica005.jpg

    Kwao Adams took the initiative before I arrived and built a top bar hive from plans he had found on the internet with the help of the interns. He had removed a small colony from a termite nest which we transferred into this hive. He said wild colonies are rather common in these nest. Parakeets first move into them to make a hollow and start a nest. Later a swarm takes advantage of the cavity to start a colony.

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica006.jpg

    This termite nest has bees in it which we will eventually try to remove and transfer into a top bar hive. He’s found quite a number of wild colonies which we can use to get an apiary started. He also took the initiative and built a number of swarm traps—but no luck so far. This doesn’t seem to be the swarming season.

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica008.jpg
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    Kwao had set out a box on an old coconut stump and managed to catch a swarm. The box was set up with only two frames, however, so the bees had built everything crosswise and had comb attached to the cover. We went in there and removed the comb, attaching it to top bars using string. The transfer went surprising well. The bees stayed relatively calm throughout the transfer. I was working the whole time without gloves and had only one sting. By the next day the bees were settle in the new box and fixing up their home.

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica012.jpg
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    These photos are from an apiary set up behind the hardware store where we went to buy materials for building some top bar hives. They belonged to the owner who said he began keeping bees when he was 14 years old. Although busy with the hardware store he finds time to work the bees also. There were approximately 14 hives set up here. Most had bees but a few appeared to be empty.

    This beekeeper builds much of his own equipment, including frames. I’m getting the impression that this is common for many Jamaican beekeepers.

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    Tom

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post
    Hmm, I'm not sure what is going on here. There is another current Beesource thread posted by a member also in Jamaica, who want to rapidly expand his hive count. He has calculated that buying the necessary foundation would cost $13,000.

    https://www.beesource.com/forums/show...ndation-cost-!

    Tomas, are you really saying that beeswax and presumably foundation cannot legally be imported into Jamaica?

    Graham, sorry it’s taken a bit to respond. I double check with the people hosting my visit here and they say that yes indeed Jamaica will not import wax. They are very concerned about introducing bee diseases and trying to avoid ccd. That means that importing queens is also prohibited.

    Next week I’m scheduled to give a presentation to a beekeeping association located on the other side of the island, in the extreme north west part. They are very interested in top bar hives for that very reason. Supposedly they can’t meet their wax needs with their Langstroth hives. And at the same time it seems that they want an economical alternative. I’ll be mentioning what I learn.

    The following are some photos of a colony removal that we did.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...g/102_3715.jpg
    We’ve begun to remove wild colonies to get some top bar hives filled and an apiary started. The first full removal they did with me was on Sunday afternoon (They had attempted some on their own beforehand). My host for this project had found a hollow bee tree that looked like a good candidate for removal. The main entrance was about two feet off the ground. There was a second entrance about 12 feet up in the tree where bees had been seen exiting. So this was potentially a very big hive.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica18.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica19.jpg
    The potential size of the colony worried us a bit. We had some nine-bar trap hives but were questioning if they might have sufficient room to hold it. We decided to make a two foot top bar hive—small enough to still be portable but big enough to hold a good sized colony. They came out nice.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica20.jpg
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    The walk to this bee tree was spectacular with the view of the ocean we had on the way. This particular section of coastline had very high cliffs with the waves crashing on shore down below.
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    After knocking the tree down we started cutting off wedge-shaped pieces to open up the cavity and expose the colony. We delt with the bees and comb from one section before opening up more of the tree trunk. What we basically did was look for the queen, cut and remove that comb, look some more for the queen, shake/brush those bees into the box, tie the comb into a frame and put it into the hive box. We then repeated this with the next comb.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica26.jpg
    The bees remained surprisingly calm throughout the entire removal process. For just about the entire time I kept my veil down around my neck. My only sting was from accidently crushing a bee with my hand. Working these bees are a very nice change from what I normally do with my ornery africanized bees in Honduras.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica27.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica28.jpg
    The last of the comb came out attached to the wedge we cut from the trunk. We simply set it right on top of our little top bar hive while looking for the queen and removing these combs.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica24.jpg
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    In the rustic hive that we had transferred into a top bar hive previously we simply tied the comb to the bar with string—making a type of sling and using a small piece of palm frond to keep the string from cutting into the comb at the bottom. It worked but wasn’t the easiest. You need to tie the string snug so the comb stays secure and doesn’t fall out. There are some other ways to tweek this method that I want to show them on future cutouts.

    For this cutout, however, we decided to make up some frames for tying in the comb and facilitate the process. We had power tools available which made this fairly easy—all we had to do was calculate angles (30 degree bevels with this hive) and the length of the pieces.
    Although frames may be difficult for some people/farmers to make, especially without the proper tools, it makes dealing with the comb very easy. We used fishing line to hold the combs in the frames.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica30.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica31.jpg
    The group of us who did this cut out—and a successful one at that. By the time we were done the tree trunk was beeless and they had all basically entered the box. The box was set on the stump of the tree with the entrance just about exactly where the tree entrance had been, helping the bees a lot to orient themselves into their new home. Two days later the bees were checked on and there was activity like normal at the entrance of the box.

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    Tom

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    I don't understand the wax situation, if they want to make wax, then make wax, what does it matter as to what type of hive it is? Just let the bees make a mess in any type of box and harvest the wax or just feed the strong colonies like no tomorrow and make them draw out frames for other hives. Either way you're making the bees do more work whether it's a TBH or a Lang. In the lang just space the wax production frames out and let them draw huge thick comb if the purpose is to make wax for foundation. Otherwise, I'm sure strong hives could pull frames pretty quick, just keep the queen off of them.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    JRG13--what you’re saying makes sense. I agree with you. If someone already has frame hives started, they can just go foundationless in the super and cut everything out. They get more wax. Space out the frames and get fat combs.

    Unfortunatly there are also those interested in beekeeping here who can’t afford the frame equipement or who don’t have the tools to do a good job of making it. I think that’s where the top bar hives come in. I’m trying to give them as many options as possible according to the situation of each one. I’m all top bar hives in Honduras but at the same time I’ve worked several seasons with a 2000-hive commercial beekeeper in Wisconsin. I see both sides to this. I appreciate the comment.

    Tomorrow I’m traveling to meet with a beekeeping cooperative on the northwest side of the island. I could be meeting with as many as 40 beekeepers in a meeting they’re setting up. I will be interesting to talk to them and hear about what kind of challenges they’re facing. The man who is putting me up during this visit apparently has 700 hives. Other members of the group are brand new beekeepers.

    This is all about giving them options. Everybody is in a different situation. The people who are hosting my visit really want top bar hives but understand the advantages of frames hives also.

    So any ways, here’s another cut out we did.

    Colony removal from a hollow stump

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica32.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica33.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica34.jpg

    The plan we had for today was to do another colony cut out—this time from a stump. We spent the morning making more frames for the cut out tbhs. The three boxes that we made on Monday all have frames now and are ready to be used.

    This colony was located in a large stump among the banana trees of a farmer called Cap who was more than willing to let us have it. Judging by the size of the stump we were expecting another large colony. Their entrance was a hole located down by the roots.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica35.jpg

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    Cutting the stump—Jamaican Rasta style.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica37.jpg

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    The exposed colony. The first combs didn’t look to promising—they were kind of old and brittle. But it turned out to have a good bit of brood in all stages. The frames for the cutout made transferring the comb to the tbh an easy job.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica39.jpg

    As it turned out, the colony wasn’t as big as we thought. They had the nest in the cavity down by the roots. Although there was a bit of a hollow going up into the stump, the bees hadn’t built any comb up there. We did manage to find the queen in this colony crawling around on one of the combs. We promptly put here into the tbh box amongst some of the comb we had transferred into there.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica40.jpg

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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica39.jpg

    We cut the stump off straight and set the tbh on top of it. The landing board was at the back of the stump, right above the remaining bees. With a little bit of smoke for encouragement, the bees began climbing up and went right into the box.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica49.jpg

    Jamaica has been having a bad dry spell for the last couple months. This colony had very little stores so we went back later to feed it and then the others that we had removed in the last couple days. We used a type of readily available brown sugar to feed them. The feeder wasn’t anything fancy—a plastic jug we cut in half and some screen and sticks so the bees wouldn’t drown.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica41.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica42.jpg

    We also went to feed the coconut stump hive—a rustic hive that we had transferred into a tbh several days before. There we saw one of the pests that bothers bees in Jamaica—lizards. They sit by the entrance eating bees. There were two lizards by this hive.

    The bees seemed to have settled nicely into their new box. They jumped right on the sugar syrup we gave them. On the next visit we will probably take a peek at the combs and see how they attached them to the top bars.

    When we returned to the mountain to feed the bees, we also went up to my host’s other farm located a bit further away. He says he has 18 acres there. Some of it is cultivated but other parts of it are forest. Someone said they had seen a colony of bees in one of the trees on the property. We looked for it but unfortunately couldn’t find it. We will need to find that person to point it out to us.
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica44.jpg

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    We took advantage of being there to get some of the fruit. There was a large jackfruit tree with several of them ripe. We also collected some coconuts, mangos and plantains. Because of the dry spell the sweet fleshy part inside the pods of the coco tree weren’t as good as they could be—not bad though. Fruit is all over the place—you starve only if you’re too lazy to go pick something from a tree. There a probably fifteen different fruits in season right on the farm that’s hosting my visit.

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    Tom

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Thanks for taking the time to share this here, Tomas. I've always enjoyed your posts.

    Adam

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Tomas- With what I've heard about Africanized bees I expected to see a picture of you in a beesuit made of hammered sheet metal, yet I see that you use simple things probably locally or self made. You give me faith that one can participate in this endeavor without spending nearly as much money as I first thought.

    I concur with Adam- this is a really interesting thread and I hope for more.

    Thanks

    Bill

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Cool Deal Tomas, I can see now if you're limited by equipment you gotta do what you gotta do. I can see where the TBH makes sense in this situation since the bees can probably draw them out pretty quick and you get a steady flow of wax.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Tomas, have you looked at all at recommending the tanzanian, or straight-sided top bar hive?

    I have 5 Kenyan tbh's myself, and have found that they're more difficult to build with the angled sides - and are therefore a bit more tricky to accurately standardize in your operation. If you get a little bit off with that angle, combs don't transfer easily from one box to another.

    I have thought that if I got into expanding in tbh's, I would make 19" wide, straight-sided boxes, as they would be simpler to build, and easy to interface with langs when you need a nuc or whatever.

    Adam

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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Whiskers, fortunately there are no Africanized bees in Jamaica. It’s been a real pleasure to deal with bees here where I don’t have to where full protective gear like I must in Honduras. I went to the apiary of a commercial beekeeper the other day. He had approximately 40 hives in this location. You did want to keep a veil on here but we worked without gloves and without a full suit. He was saying that he does not want Africanized bees on the island.

    Adam, as far as the Kenyan and Tanzanian tbhs, I’m giving them both options and explain the pros and cons of both. They can then decide what they want to use.

    Hanover Bee Farmers Co-operative Society, Ltd.

    Early this week I had the chance to visit with some of the founders of the Hanover Bee Farmers Co-operative Society Ltd. The cooperative is still in its infancy having only been formed within the last year. It is located in the area of Lucea, a coastal city in the north-west portion of Jamaica. They had invited me to give a talk on top bar hives to a group of new beekeepers they are forming in a small community in the hills above Lucea.

    One of the main objectives of this cooperative is to help the area beekeepers with the marketing of their honey. Jamaican beekeepers are meeting the domestic demand for honey at the moment, according to Linval Blagrove, the organization’s vice president and the largest producer in the area, with 700 hives. The problem will be in the near future as new beekeepers begin and present beekeepers expand. Jamaica will need to set up an infrastructure for exporting honey. For this to happen he said the beekeepers must be united and work together. Individually the Jamaican beekeepers won’t be able to do so.

    The cooperative’s goal is to bottle and export their honey, probably to Europe. Their idea is to establish a bottling plant and produce honey that will meet the standards of the European Union. Initial work is already in progress to finance the bottling plant.

    Linval has worked over the years to establish a base through which he can sell his own production without problems that is sometimes up to 80 barrels a year. Looking toward the future, a cooperative such as this will be necessary with the growth the Jamaican beekeeping industry is experiencing. He also mentioned that not having to worry as much about marketing will let him focus more on production and the bees themselves.

    Among other objectives is the training of the member beekeepers. They are actively promoting beekeeping in the area. This was evident with their invitation for me to come and give a talk about top bar hives with new beekeepers they are forming in an area community, Smithfield. They are not only recruiting current beekeepers but also forming new ones with the help of government apiary officials. Nearly 60 people attended the meeting/training session.

    To take this a step further, the cooperative is also seeking funding through banks for these new members to finance this endeavor. According to Linval, this is not always easy. Some banks are skeptical about giving loans for beekeeping because they are not familiar with the activity. Banks also often charge interest rates of 20 percent.

    Lindval hopes that working through a bank such as his own or of the other successful members they can get the low interest rates they need for new members. The bank should be able to see how much money they move with their respective operations and how profitable it is for them. He hopes this hard evidence will facilitate financing. Ideally he wants single digit interest rates for these loans.

    The Hannover Bee Farmers Co-operative presently has 30 shareholders. They are hoping one day to have as many as 200. Their focus is on the beekeeper that does this commercially and not as a hobby or for household purposes. They would like new members to begin with a minimum of five hives and within two years grow to at least 50 hives.

    New members are required to buy a share of the cooperative, costing $7,500 Jamaican dollars or about $88 U.S. dollars. There is also a registration fee of $500 Jamaican dollars. The members can buy more shares if they want and the shares can be resold to the cooperative is they desire to leave the organization.

    The cooperative will pay its members a base price for their honey and then also divide any yearly profits according to the shares each member owns.

    Longer term plans include providing equipment for members to buy.

    The Hannover area beekeepers presently sell their honey for $700 Jamaican for a 750 ml bottle. That price can fluctuate between $600 and $1000. The exchange rate with U.S. dollars is about 85:1.
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    Myself (right) with Lorene Holness-Muir, the president of the Hanover Bee Farmers and Astley Muir, her husband and a beekeeper.
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    Participants at the beekeeping workshop in Smithfield, Hannover, Jamaica. About 60 people attended the meeting that introduced them to beekeeping. Some of them are beginning as a group and have already chosen their apiary site.
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    Wain Andeson, the government apiary official for the parishes of Hannover, Westmoreland and St. James in the eastern part of Jamaica. He gave the participants a basic overview of bees, beekeeping, equipment and Langstroth hives.
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    Linval Blagrove (right), the vice president of the Hannover Beekeeping Cooperative, and myself stopped for a moment to visit one of the apiaries of Astley Muir, husband of the cooperative’s president. Muir has about 30 hives in this apiary but owns about 200 in total.
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    Tom

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    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Profile of a Jamaican commercial beekeeper

    I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend a morning with a commercial beekeeper in one of his yards. The day following my top bar presentation in the Lucea area of Northwest Jamaica, Linvald Blagrove took me to one of his apiaries in the hills near Montego Bay. It was a good opportunity to see how a commercial beekeeper worked his hives on this island and to exchange ideas and information with him and his workers.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica54.jpg

    The photo shows Blagrove giving introductions during the meeting with potential new beekeepers in the Smithfield areas of Lucea. He is a very dynamic and motivational person.

    Blagrove, who is now 43 years old, began beekeeping when he was 16 with the help of another local beekeeper. He presently has 700 hives and is the largest beekeeper in the Hannover area. Most other commercial beekeepers seem to have around 200 hives. Blagrove’s plans are to expand to 1000 hives. He is also the vice president of the recently formed Hannover Bee Farmers Cooperative. In a good year he says he will produce about 80 barrels of honey.

    My impression after spending several days with him is that he is the type of beekeeper who always seems to be observing carefully what the bees are doing and always trying new ideas to see what will help improve his operation. For example, he recently bought a small cell foundation mill when he noticed that the cells in the natural comb he would find in his hives was smaller than the comb being drawn with normal foundation. Although he has just started incorporating small cell foundation into his operation, he is optimistic about the results.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica55.jpg

    Blagrovel went out to this apiary with a crew of five—all young men. Two of the helpers have enough experience where he trusts them to make divisions on their own. The other three were still novices who he has brought in to help him and to train—including his 17-year-old son. One of the main helpers will need to be replaced eventually since his plans are to go to medical school. Blagrove had gotten him started with his own hives and has him help with his own hives so he can be earning some money before going to the university.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica56.jpg

    One of the interesting ideas that I got right from the beginning was his use of cardboard as smoker fuel. I would use it to get my smoker burning but never as the fuel itself considering the glue that was in it. Blagrove said he would just use the cardboard that was from boxes that had contained food and without strong smells, such as from soap. He would roll it into a tube and it would last him several hours. He had tried many other things like dried banana leaves and wood shavings from his carpentry shop but he said the cardboard worked best to keep the bees calm.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica57.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica58.jpg

    Although it was still the dearth period, Linval was making divisions so he could have them ready for the beginning of the honey flow in December. He would make the split but put the old queen in the new colony and move that to another part of the yard. He said it would get a better start that way and more bees would stay with the nuc. The mother hive would get the new queen.

    He mentioned, however, that if he was moving the nucs to another yard, he would then give them the new queen, and not the mother hive. This is what he would do during the honey flow to relieve population pressure and prevent swarming. Varying the nuc building methods would give him better results according to the time of the year he was doing this.

    This was sort of a central yard in his operation so it was convenient to use it for making nucs, according to Blagrove. They could be gotten easily from this apiary and then taken to others that are located further away for replacing bad hives or increasing the yard. His idea was to make about 100 nucs.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica59.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica60.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica61.jpg

    Blagrove raises his own queens, sometimes grafting them and sometimes using the Nicot queen rearing system. He mentioned that he is selective about the queens or hives he chooses for grafting purposes. He is putting emphasis on hygienic behavior in order to help prevent or control foul brood and deal with mites. He wants his bees to promptly remove any dead or sick brood. To choose hives for this purpose he goes as far as cutting squares of brood from frames, freezing them to kill the brood and then replacing the squares and monitoring how the bees clean out the dead larvae and pupa.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica62.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica63.jpg

    Blagrove said he has noticed, however, that sometimes the hygienic behavior results in a hive that is a lower honey producer. He said it seems like the bees sometimes prefer cleaning house to going out and working. He tries to find the best balance possible with the traits he is looking for.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica67.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica68.jpg

    He also mentioned that he doesn’t feed too much at this time of the year, even though there really isn’t any nectar coming in. He wants the hives to maintain themselves but not really grow. Blagrove said he doesn’t want the queen to get overworked and fizzle out at the beginning of the season. He prefers the queen to enter the honey flow nice and strong.

    In addition to being a beekeeper, Blagrove is also a carpenter and makes all his own equipment. The preferred wood is what Jamaicans call cedar but which I’ve been told is what we would call mahogany in the United States. It’s expensive but he said it will last 20 years and is termite resistant.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica69.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica70.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica71.jpg

    His wax rendering system is rather simple. Wax is melted in a big pan with water over a fire and then simply strained through some window screen. He mentioned that he himself has no problem with having enough foundation available for his operation. There is not enough wax foundation, however, for all the new beekeepers that are beginning and current smaller beekeepers that are expanding. He says he feels pressure from having to supply it for others.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica72.jpg

    As far as his bees, there were a good number flying in the air as they went through hives. They weren’t overly defensive, however. Although they would occasionally get a sting, Blagrove and his workers didn’t use gloves. Veils were necessary however.

    He also mentioned that they would normally do extracting right in the yard with a group of four. One person would be pulling the honey and removing the bees, one would be going back a forth with the full frames or empty frames and two would be decapping and extracting. If the bees would rob at certain times of the year, they would extract inside a type of tent. He has plans to build a warehouse on his property and an extraction facility is part of it.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica73.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica74.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica75.jpg
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    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica80.jpg
    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica81.jpg

    ----------
    Tom

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Honduras
    Posts
    300

    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Strawberry Fields Together cutout

    About a week ago we decided to tackle our fifth colony cut out, this time in a duck ant nest at Stawberry Field Together, a small, laid-back resort/hotel next to Yerba Buena Farm. It was located high up in a tree so the original idea was to tie a rope around the top part of the tree and try to lower the branch with the termite nest slowly as it was cut down below. We wanted to partially cut it below the nest and let it slowly fall over.

    Kwao climbed up into the tree and tried to get the rope tied above it. It didn’t work so well—a lot of bees were hanging around outside the nest. He did get the rope around the upper part of the tree however. So they gave us permission to topple the whole tree. Since we had the rope tied around the upper portion of the tree so we decided to still try and let the tree drop slowly as it was cut.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica82.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica83.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica84.jpg

    Desmond got the chainsaw going and started cutting—before everyone was ready. He cut the tree too much and we couldn’t hold it to lower it down gently. It fell pretty hard and bees started flying. Everybody ran, 12-year-old Emannuel screeching because he had a bee or two or three in his dreads. A couple of the others got a sting or two. Everyone was wondering what happened to me but I was the only one who stayed and put on a veil (I felt I almost had to stay since I’m suppose to be the professional here).
    Luckily they weren’t riled up to the extreme. They settled down pretty quickly. Although the tree fell fairly hard, the termite nest didn’t bust open.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica85.jpg

    Everyone eventually wandered back with their equipment now on (lesson learned—again. This was the second time Desmond jumped the gun with his chain sawing.) We found a spot to set the box, another to set the cover as the comb-tying station and got everything else set up. Desmond threw on my full suit—but with flip-flops. This was an original way to wear it.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica86.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica87.jpg

    Kwao took a small hatchet and started hacking into the termite nest. The first combs came out pretty nice. Each was checked for the queen.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica88.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica89.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica90.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica91.jpg

    We finally got to the last comb but there still wasn’t any queen. There was a bunch of bees on the underside so we put the box beneath the trunk to brush those in. Then we put the box on top, trying to figure out how to get the bees in the box and find the queen. They still weren’t eagerly marching into the box. There was a couple nooks and crannies in the tree trunk where the queen was probably hiding.

    There were still a lot of bees hanging around the entrance down below so I started scooping them into the box with my hand (and not gloves—they now were real calm). Kwao finally spotted the queen running around in the termite nest. We handed him the queen cage, he put it on top of her, she climbed up into it and he put the plug in. We tied a piece of sting to the cage and lowered it in between a couple of the frames. The sting was so attached so we could get the cage out to release her later without having to reach all the way into the hive.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica92.jpg

    We set the box right on top of the trunk and started smoking the remaining bees to coax them into the hive. They started marching in. Success.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica93.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica94.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica95.jpg

    We released the queen the following day. Two days later we went back with the kids, including two local girls who are interested in learning about bees. This would be their first exposure to them. The bees had settled in and were nice and calm. Everybody could get right up to the hive to watch them come and go. This was their first up-close experience with bees.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica96.jpg

    The bees have since been moved to the upper farm with a couple other hives. I can say the top-bar apiary is now officially started. It will eventually be used as a tool to promote top-bar beekeeping with interested people.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica97.jpg

    ----------
    Tom

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Kingston, Kingston, Jamaica
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Wow Tomas,
    I missed you. I just saw this post today, I'v been busy lately and didn't check this forum from before July. What a bummer.
    Anyway, glad you had a successful visit and enjoyed yourself

  17. #16
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    HOUSTON, TEXAS. USA
    Posts
    23

    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Great post!
    Jamaica must be awesome...

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Honduras
    Posts
    300

    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Cheech, I'm sorry we missed each other. There is a good chance that I will be going back to do some follow up work with the people in St. Mary and in Hannover. Hopefully it will work out next time. I'll try to let you know. Your island is a wonderful place--both for beekeeping and just to visit and relax.

    ----------
    Tom

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Honduras
    Posts
    300

    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Final thoughts on my Farmer to Farmer top bar hive assignment

    My month of beekeeping in Jamaica is over and I have been back home in Honduras for about a week now. The whole Farmer to Farmer assignment keeps running through my head, however. My thoughts keep going back to the month I spent setting up a top bar hive beekeeping project with the wonderful people at Yerba Buena Farms in St. Mary, Jamaica, and promoting this hive with bee farmer associations on the island. There are still some experiences that I want to share with everyone.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the main interests among Jamaicans for top bar hives is the increased wax production. Wax cannot be imported into Jamaica. The government wants no further bee diseases to enter the country, especially something like colony collapse disorder. Obtaining wax is difficult for the new beekeepers and those who want to expand their operation.

    The bigger reason for tbhs in Jamaica, in my opinion, is probably the economics of starting this system. There are severe economic problems in Jamaica, just like there are in Honduras. Many people, especially young adults, need some sort of project or job to generate income for themselves and their families. Beekeeping has this potential. Two or three bottles of honey are the equivalent of a day’s wage. The amount of time needed for the bees also allows them to have another job at the same time.

    But the problem is having the money to start beekeeping, especially when everyone really only knows the movable frame system. When you add in the costs of the boxes, frames and foundation, the costs are quite elevated and daunting. Add in the need for an extractor and things get worse. Borrowing an extractor is not so easy in Jamaica anymore because so many beekeepers are worried about transferring foulbrood into their operations. People always have the option of a loan but interest rates often run 20 percent or more—it makes you think twice about getting one.

    The economic problems in Jamaica and the difficulties beekeepers and people in general face are the same that I see in Honduras. It is something I live and deal with every day. Simply buying everything is not an option. You must always consider different ways to do something—using alternative materials and making equipment oneself.

    The hives that I was helping to set up are part of a model apiary that will eventually be used to train beekeepers in the top bar hive system. As part of this, I wanted to also incorporate as much appropriate technology equipment as possible so beekeepers can see the options out there to get started in beekeeping. You don’t have to spend lots of money and buy everything—much of the equipment can be made.

    We made three different types of boxes during the month. Before I arrived the folks at Yerba Buena Farms in St. Mary took the initative and made an all wood box based on the Barefoot Beekeeper plans. It came out nice. The problem is the amount of wood it needs—not always cheap. This one was made out of pine, which must be imported. The other local option is often what Jamaicans call cedar, but for us is a type of mohagany. It’s a nice wood that lasts very long but also expensive. There are other local woods that are also very durable (20 years) and cheaper but they tend to warp a lot, making it tricky to work with them.

    One thing I didn’t like too much was the cover. It is nice but is a lot of wood. You basically have the sides for a whole other box there.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica011.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica005.jpg

    Another option we tried was using a material call celotex, a type of hardboard. A sheet of this is realatively inexpensive and cuts the cost considerably compared to imported pine or cedar. It’s easy to work with and makes a light box that is easy to transport. We put a coat of varnish on it to make it last longer. Some beekeepers were using this as part of their hive lids and they would cover it with tin.

    The box looks pretty. It remains to be seen how well they hold up. As long as the box keeps dry, I think it should do well. The smaller two-foot box seen in the photos was for temporarily housing cutouts—big enough to hold the bees and their comb but small enough to transport easily.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica98.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...nJamaica99.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica100.jpg

    We also developed a bamboo hive. Bamboo is available through out Jamaica. It has become very invasive and there are actually projects underway to eliminate the bamboo and replant with hardwood trees.

    The guesthouse I stayed in used woven bamboo to make wall panels. We took that idea and decided to incorporate it into a bee box. My host built all his guest cabins so he was able to teach me the technique. It is a bit of work but the result looks beautiful and should last a good number of years. He said that unvarnished it should last for at least seven years. With some vanish more than ten years.

    To fill the gaps between the bamboo strips, you can use the “fronds”of a plant they call screw pine, the stem part of banana leaves (everywhere in Jamaica) or coconut palm fronds (also everywhere). We took the box to a beekeepers meeting where I gave a presentation about top bar hives. It got a lot of attention; so much that two of the beekeepers want to actually buy one. And its name—the Rasta Hive.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica102.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica101.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica103.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica104.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica105.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica106.jpg

    Another project we made during my month stay in Jamaica was a pollen trap that fits on a top bar hive. For it to work, the tbh must have an end entrance with a bit of landing board on which to set the pollen trap. People in Jamaica understand the nutritional values of pollen so there should be a market for it.

    The problem is finding the right size material for the entrance screen. You almost need to import it since beekeepers can’t find it on the island. The smaller screen over the drawer is available, however. The alternative we used was a piece of tin with the proper sized holes drilled or punched in it. I’ve tried it before and it works. The bees just need to get use to coming in and out of the small hole. All other possible entrances in the hive also need to be stuffed shut so the bees are forced to use the pollen trap entance. The entrance grid can be removed without taking off the whole trap.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica108.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica109.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica110.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica111.jpg

    These next photos are of my mold in Honduras and the foundation that results so everyone can get a better idea of what it is and how it works.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...ationpress.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...foundation.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...foundation.jpg

    Some of the other equipment projects included homemade veils, gloves, queen cages and smokers.

    Another idea for the model apiary is to actually hang some of the tbhs between trees using wire--simple, cheap and effective. There are small lizards in Jamaica that like to sit outside the hive entrance and eat bees. They may not be able to cross the wire, especially if you put a bit of grease on it.

    Offering options also went for how to get bees for your hives. People can buy Langstroth hives to transfer into a tbh but it could cost you as much as two weeks of wages. Package bees aren’t available (although an enterprising beekeeper could probably make some to sell).

    So we hung trap hives and removed wild colonies—free bees. Eventhough it was not the prime swarming season, we did manage to capture one swarm. We suspect however that it may have been the colony that decided it didn’t like being removed from its termite nest and getting transferred into a tbh. At least it demonstrated that they should work. About 80 percent of the colony transfers were successful, however.

    The project has removed about 12 wild colonies so far. There are probably at least that many more that can be removed. People were constantly coming forward to say where they had seen colonies. There seems to be a very healthy population of bees in the bush—an indication of the state of bees in general in Jamaica.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica115.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica116.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica117.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica125.jpg

    Although not “appropriate technology”, we made some tbh frames to aid us in the cutouts. We had a table saw available so it was easy enough to do.

    With the first colony cutouts we simply tied the comb to the top bar using string and piece of palm frond to protect the bottom. It worked but it was hard to keep the comb snug against the top bar. We had to slip little pieces of wood under the string on top of the bar to tighten it up.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica118.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica119.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica120.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica121.jpg

    I mentioned that I had made frames for cutouts and my host wanted to try it. It was much easier to deal with the comb using them.

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica122.jpg

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s...Jamaica124.jpg

    In the end, the more alternatives you can present to people, the more accessible beekeeping will be to those who could really benefit from it. The project has a very promising beginning.

    ----------
    Tom 

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Kingston, Kingston, Jamaica
    Posts
    32

    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Tom, it's been so interesting reading about your experiences, especially since your beekeeping conditions are very similar to ours. Looking forward to meeting up with you

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Beekeeping in Jamaica

    Hi Tomas,

    you spoke about lizards as the main pest in Jamacia.....how do you combat this pest?
    what are the other main pests for jamacian honey bees? and how do you prevent these (or at least try)

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