Hive Management

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Hive management, performed by beekeepers, is defined as active manipulation of a honey bee colony, to augment honey bee production and to ensure the survival of the colony. Common hive (see: hive types) management practices include: disease prophylaxis and treatment of infested colonies, swarm prevention/control, supplementary feeding, removing queen cells for swarm prevention, etc. [1] Due to fragmentary published data, it has to be mentioned, that none of the provided information is representative for the whole country, but for regions only.

Ethiopia: The beekeeping practice differs between regions. While a survey on beekeeping techniques in the Jijiga Zone revealed, that 13%, 14% and 23% of respondents inspect their hives internally every week, every fifteenth day, or once in a month, respectively. [2] A survey by Gebremedhin (2015) in the Amhara region and Kewet district revealed, that 33.3% of participants internally inspect their hives regularly. [3] It has to be mentioned, that the results also depend on the type of beekeeping. Hive inspection in traditional in comparison to that of modern hives is unusual or not existing at all in many parts of Ethiopia. [4] [5] Sebsib and Yibrah (2018) reviewed, that it is more common to externally inspect the hives and to clean the apiary to avoid ant attacks. They further found reasons for not internally inspect the bee hives: fear of bee stings, possible colony absconding, lack of time and lack of know how on the benefits of managing hives. [6] There is no further description on the detailed process of "internal" and "external inspection" (manipulating the hive, or just observation of the colonies).

Indonesia: There is no official information available on hive inspection, but a local scientist (Universitas Padjadjaran, Indonesia) claims, that the number of hive inspections vary between once in a week and once in a month, depending on the forage availability, the urge of harvest, and on the beekeeping level of the beekeeper (main income, or additional income). Further, beekeepers who start the inspection, clean the area surrounding the hive, followed by opening the hive and assessing the status of the colony (honey bee health status, queen presence, ...). If necessary, experienced and high skilled beekeepers even expand their hives.


Especially, during periods of forage unavailability, supplementary feeding is essential to avoid absconding and to ensure the survival of the colony. The suitable supplement must be chosen depending on the type of food shortage (pollen, nectar or water). [7]

Ethiopia: An assessment on beekeeping practices in the Jigjiga Region (2015) revealed that interviewed beekeepers are aware of the importance of water availability for their honey bees. They provide water in form of waterholes, ponds, or rivers/streams near the apiaries. [2] Not all beekeepers offer supplementary feeding. While Assemu et al. (2013) revealed that over 60% of surveyed beekeepers in the western Amhara region provide supplementary bee forage, [8] Serda et al. (2015) conducted a study in the Haramaya District, Eastern Ethiopia, and found that only 3.1% of participants supplementary fed their colonies during a lack of bee forage. [9] To provide carbohydrates, Ethiopian beekeepers feed sugar-, or honey solution, or flour of roasted grain (barley and maize). Due to various climate conditions, there are regional differences on the time of additional feeding. Beekeepers of the Tigray region offer supplementary food mostly in the months February to May. In the western Amhara region, surveyed beekeepers revealed, that food shortage occurs over the year, while there is a peak in April, March and February, respectively. [8] According to Fichtl and Adi (1994), there are some regions, where it is common to offer “freshly slaughtered meat scraps” as a supplementary protein source. However, this method seems to be questionable regarding the possible human pathogens that may be enriched in the bee products. [10] More common pollen substitutes are chickpeas and peas. [10] [11] In a study by Zaghlou et al. (2017) three different supplementary diets were compared (soy bean, chickpeas and yellow corn) resulting in an increase of honey yield, laid eggs/day and area of brood, while a supplementary diet on chickpeas led to the lowest increase. [12]

Indonesia: Feeding of honey bee colonies is not common in every part of the country. Flowering occurs throughout the year, and therefore it is often believed, that honey bees have enough forage (plants in flower may produce pollen but not nectar and vice versa). [7] There is no published data available on supplementary feeding in Indonesia, but a local scientist (Universitas Padjadjaran, Indonesia) claims, that additional nourishment is practiced among beekeepers during the dry season. The most common supplementary carbohydrate source is sugar solution due to its easy availability and affordability. Beekeepers place the supplement inside the hive (small branch is placed inside the solution to provide protection). Widowati et al. (2013) compared local pollen substitutes with different composition. They found, that a mixture of soy flour, skimmed milk, yeast, honey and sugar syrup was preferred by A. cerana colonies and its consumption led to the highest productivity. [13] The study showed, that locally available ingredients can be used to produce a high quality protein source for honey bees.

Swarm prevention:

Swarming may occur as either reproductive swarming, where the colony divides itself or as absconding, where the honey bee colony leaves its nest site if the environmental stress becomes high. While reproductive swarming is triggered by the size of the colony, [14] absconding is related to various factors like drought, overgrazing, deforestation, honey bee diseases and pests, shortage of water, poor hive management, a lack of protection against bad weather, or a shortage of melliferous plants (pollen, nectar), etc. [15] [16]

Ethiopia: To prevent reproductive swarming, the beekeepers cut parts of the brood combs, remove queen cells, enlargen the volume of the hives, or provide instantly available new nesting sites in form of empty hives. [2] [17] Together with the mentioned methods, a study by Tessega (2009) revealed the important role of indigenous knowledge for beekeeping (Burie district and Amhara region). In the study area, 10.3% of respondents prevent swarming by smoking the beehives with bones of horses or mules, 5.1% used mule urine, fumigating with "white etan" (1.7%), or used "ambacho teketila" and "yejart eshoh" (2.6%). [18] Sebsib and Yibrah (2018) reviewed, that the majority of beekeepers do not prevent swarming. One reason may be the wide distribution of traditional hives which are often installed in tall trees. Thus an inspection is very difficult. [6]

Figure 1: Distribution of the 5 subspecies of A. mellifera in Ethiopia and their main reproductive swarming periods. Picture was taken from Amssalu (2016). [19]

Indonesia: There is no information available on management practices to prevent swarming, but in the regions of Pager Ageung, Tasikmalaya, Bawean Island and Gresik, beekeepers do not avoid swarming, instead, they let their colonies abscond during the drought season and recapture feral colonies during the flowering season. [20] According to a local scientist (Universitas Padjadjaran, Indonesia), beekeepers eliminate drone and queen cells, place "bee traps" nearby their hives, or produce offshoot colonies to prevent swarming events.

Bee health management:

Ethiopia: According to a local scientist (Holeta Bee Research Center, Ethiopia), beekeepers, recognizing health issues within their bee colonies, have to report to the district livestock offices (chapter: "Dealing with honey bee health issues"). If a beekeeper is not able to recognize the disease, the district livestock offices will help with the identification and offer advice on treatment methods.

Indonesia: According to a local scientist (Universitas Padjadjaran, Indonesia), the beekeepers of disease affected apiaries do not pass on the information to a governmental office, nor to a beekeeping association, but informally exchange their observations with other beekeepers who already gathered experience with the particular honey bee health issue (see: "Dealing with honey bee health issues").

Acquisition of a new swarm:

In Ethiopia and in Indonesia, numerous feral honey bee colonies exist. Therefore, many beekeepers rely on catching a swarm instead of buying one. To increase the chance of successfully catch a new colony, it is recommended to smear beeswax or propolis in the hive as it is believed that feral bee colonies find the new hive faster (pers. communication with UNPAD) [21] . Even though, in Ethiopia many people catch their colonies from the wild, a recent study describes local bee markets in the Tigray region. Sellers and purchasers transport their colonies on foot by carrying them on their shoulders. During transport, the colonies are monitored by evaluating their sound pattern. In case the sound deviates from a "normal" pattern, the carriers take a rest. Some also use meshed cloth as cover. Broken combs, queenless or weak colonies were reported to be major issues observed at the markets. [22]


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