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The Art of Bee Keeping
By Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe

Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone),
December 4, 2006

The task of bee keeping can be hazardous at times, just ask Shesby Nawa, a Jwaneng resident in the business of keeping the insects. They always pose a threat as they are unpredictable and can attack and sting at any time. Nawa says at one point he became a victim of his charges, but he survived their onslaught to tell the tale.

On that fateful day, Nawa says his dog angered the swarm of bees when it disturbed them while trying to cool off in some water. He said he became alarmed when he heard his dog whining and could not believe it when he saw a swarm of bees all over the dog. He raced to rescue the pet, before he knew it, a bee had stung him on the tip of his nose. Trouble had started and the other bees continued stinging him everywhere as he ran into the house.

But that experience did not make him shy away from bee keeping, which had been a childhood dream of his and in 2003 he started the project. "Back then as young boys we used to hunt for honey combs in the forest. I was always fascinated with the honey, especially the honey from live bees. It made me feel like a hero because for one to be able to get the honey, you really needed to be brave and strong".

Today his yard in Jwaneng has more than eight boxes measuring one metre high lining the backyard of Nawa's compound. Here and there are water holes, from where each colony can get its share of the water.

Interestingly, these are not domesticated bees. They all come from the wild. He says there is a theory that bees are always looking for an alternative place to move to. Nawa says he just builds a nice looking box, which will appeal to the bees. When the box has been perfectly designed so that the bees can line up the honeycombs without threats from ants, and other pests, then the first bee that finds it would go and tell its colony about it.

Nawa, who is a welder by profession, is an instructor at the Jwaneng Vocational Training Centre. He uses his welding skills to build boxes that appeal to bees. He says he also uses his welding skills to manufacture honey processing equipment that he uses to press the honeycomb to produce liquid honey.

Surprisingly, Nawa's compound can betray the fact that there are swarms of bees present. Until he leads you to the boxes and the water holes, you will not see the bees flying about inside the compound. It is as if they have been tamed.

He attributes this to proper planning. "The openings in those boxes face away from the yard so that whenever the bees exit and enter their boxes, they are not a threat to people in the compound," he explained.

His house is alive with all kinds of honey. The fresh creamy honeycombs are packed in plastic plates and sold from his house. He says when he has time, he drives to the Jwaneng mall to sell the honey there. He also sells liquid honey, packed in transparent glasses.

Nawa says his produce is always in high demand. Other than those who eat it for pleasure, pure honey is also known to cure various ailments such as allergies.

But Nawa says even traditional doctors and some African church leaders approach him often to ask for pure honeycomb for spiritual purposes. He says he once made a kill from a queen bee that he sold to a traditional doctor.

"Traditional doctors like to ask for the queen bee. I don't know what they do with it. Perhaps I should hike the price of the queen bee", says Nawa jokingly. Nawa says contrary to some beliefs that a queen bee cannot be separated from its colony, he has been taught how to do it without making its colony suspicious.

" Some people believe that the queen bee never leaves her nest. But she often leaves her place just to enjoy herself and come back. If she does not come back within 24 hours, the colony starts feeding one of the worker bees to take her place as soon as possible," explains Nawa, who harbours dreams of expanding his bee farm.

Already Nawa has won a grant from the government to start bee farming. He says he has just finished fencing the farm, situated near Kgagodi. If things go according to plan, Nawa says he would like to be a consultant, teaching young people the business of bee keeping.

Copyright © 2006 Mmegi/The Reporter. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (