Beekeeping: A less laborious business

Beezy Adventures explores different farms and educates farmers on better beekeeping practices

In Summary

• Beekeeping requires set-up and a little maintenance, then the bees work for you

• One can then reap big from various products in business that can thrive anywhere 

Beezy Adventures' David Wambugu clears an absconded hive in a farm in Kiriti, Thogoto, Kikuyu Town
Beezy Adventures' David Wambugu clears an absconded hive in a farm in Kiriti, Thogoto, Kikuyu Town

It took me almost two hours to reach Naomi Gitau’s (Mama Wanja’s) farm in Kiriti, Thogoto, Kikuyu, where she has set up her thriving apiary.

Her daughter, who is a lawyer, was the one who was invested and showed great interest in beekeeping.

“Wanja (Naomi’s daughter) knows nothing about beekeeping, but she came up with the idea. The apiary is now in my care and I use my money to maintain it,” Mama Wanja said.

She said this practice has earned her some good money and is quite energy-efficient to the human body because after set-up, there is nothing much to be done. The bees are now at work.

Mama Wanja said all she does is to oil to prevent safari ant invasion, giving the bees water and slashing grass around the open apiary.

“As a retiree, it gives me joy to leave the house once in a while to come check on my bees,” she said.

Mama Wanja credits her success in the beekeeping industry to a team of technicians who tagged along on my trip to her farm.

Caesar Kimani, 22, David Wambugu, 24, and Victor Kimani, 25, founded their startup company, Beezy Adventures, in 2020 as they discovered that beekeeping is a sustainable hustle.

David is an IT graduate, Victor is a business management graduate and Caesar is in his last year of school, undertaking computer science.

Victor brought the team together, having linked up with David in 2020, when they decided to start the company, and Caesar later joined in early 2021.

Victor has been in the beekeeping industry since 2018, when he used to work for a bee company.

“I started teaching the rest of the guys beekeeping and maintenance and since then, it became our hustle,” Victor said.

The three offer services in bee consultancy, bee hive installation, honey harvesting, selling bee equipment and selling honey products.

Speaking to the Star’s MELINDA KIRWA, these beekeeping technicians say that in a month, they can earn as much as Sh25,000 to Sh35,000, while providing these services.

“There is a lot that farmers need to know before they decide to embark on this practice, and we always aim to educate them on what they need to know,” Victor said.

A housed apiary set up with Langstroth hives
A housed apiary set up with Langstroth hives


There are three different types of hives available in Kenya.

These are the Traditional, Kenya Top Bar and the Langstroth hives.

Victor said that the Langstroth hive is the most common hive being used worldwide and is an invention by Rev.Langstroth.

“If a hive has a spacing of more than 9mm between frames, bees tend to fill it up with combs, and if it is less than 4mm they fill it up with propolis," he explained.

Propolis is a resin-like material made by bees from the buds of poplar or cone-bearing trees.

Bees use this to seal unnecessary spaces.

According to Victor, Langstroth discovered this and came up with a hive invention, whereby the frame spacing inside the hive is not less than 4mm and not more than 9mm.

“This made sure that when bees make the combs, they make them within the frame and will not cross over to another frame. This makes it easier for an apiarist (beekeeper) to inspect and harvest the hives,” he said.

The Langstroth hive has two chambers. The lower chamber is referred to as the brood box, while the upper one is called the super box.

The brood box is where the queen lays her eggs and where the bees keep their honey.

In between the lower and upper box, there is a plastic mesh referred to as the Queen Excluder.

It prevents the queen, who is usually larger in size as compared to the other bees, from passing through to the upper box.

This ensures there is only honey in the super box and the baby bees remain in the brood box.

While setting up the hive the first time, it is ideal to start by setting up the lower box alone if the hive does not have bees.

The lower box comes with wax foundation sheets, made from honeycombs, that are placed inside the box, on the grooves.

They attract the bees to the hives due to the smell and guide them on how to build the combs.

“We normally advise farmers to first place the super box in the store, and once the hive is colonised (entry of bees into the hive), then they can introduce it,” Victor said.

“Two months after installation, an inspection is done to determine if the bees have completed building combs on all 10 frames or at least eight of them in the brood box.”

In a small colony, most of the time one might find that the bees have only occupied the lower box, rendering the super box useless.

“It is safe to ensure that the colony is strong and ensure that the bees have built combs on all 10 frames, Victor said.

In most farms that they manage, they try as much as possible to maintain the same practices.

“The time-frame for harvesting is usually determined by the geographical area,” he said.

“Bees are very aggressive and hence need a proper inspection, too. They also do not need frequent inspections," he said.

"This lowers productivity as they become very aggressive and now defend their hive instead of producing honey.”


Caesar said to start beekeeping, any apiarist must conduct a feasibility study of the area before setting up.

“Learn more about your area. How it looks like, how many hives it can accommodate, plants within the space, do you need to plant more flowers?” he said.

He said one also needs to decide the number of hives one wants to start with.

Caesar also said spacing is crucial when setting up the hives.

“For an open apiary, the space required between one hive and another is one metre. For a housed apiary, the spaces between hives can be as close as 60cm away or 40cm,” he said.

Next is the purchasing of the hives and setting them up.

“Bait them so that they are easily colonised,” Caesar said.

In order to make colonisation of the hives faster, these technicians use Swamlure, a mixture that contains the filament of the queen bee that is applied to the frames and walls of the hive.

It is applied moderately as excess use is too strong and can make bees think that the hive is already colonised.

“After you notice they are colonised, give them three months to build the colony and become stronger, so that you can shift them to the apiary,” he said.

You can then conduct your first inspection. This will give you an indication of when your next inspection will be, when you can add the super box, when you can first harvest and if there is anything that needs to be done.

“You will know how the apiary will grow. One can also decide to remove the super box if they find that the colony is small and the bees are struggling,” Caesar said.

After harvesting, one can move to extract the honey from the combs and, thereafter, place the frames back into the hive.

Thereafter, conduct routine checks after every two months to see how the bees are progressing.

“It is essential to check if the honey is also capped (ready for harvest). Bees cap the honey after they have ripened it,” Caesar said.

“Honey is usually bee food that is stored by bees. If the honey is not capped, one needs to estimate when next they can harvest."

David said farmers who harvest honey that is not capped most of the time get honey that is too fluid or easily ferments.

It is also advised to give the bees water. Honey content is usually 80 per cent fructose and 20 per cent moisture.

“Honey has hygroscopic properties. It absorbs moisture in the environment,” Victor said.

The team usually set up chicken drinkers around the apiary to supply the bees with water.

This regulates the amount of water that is released, provides the bees with a landing platform to avoid drowning, and reduces the chances of evaporation.

The beehive should also have a secure roof structure to prevent the entry of water into the hive.

Moisture can cause the moss to grow on the combs, which can in turn cause bacterial infection that affects the bees.

One hive ranges from Sh4,800 to a high of Sh13,000, and it comes with wax.

“A whole investment in beekeeping can cost Sh150,000 to Sh250,000, depending on the hive you want,” Victor said.

“This involves having around 10 hives set up in your apiary, an extractor, bee suits, hive tool, a smoker and a bee brush.”

When selling honey, the retail prices for a kilo range from Sh700 to Sh1,800.

“Wholesale rates are Sh400 to Sh600 per kilo of honey,” David said.

Honey extractors normally range from Sh25,000 to Sh100,000, depending on the size.

“A Sh25,000 honey extractor can fit four frames from the brood box or two from the super box. The frame sizes determine how many frames go into the extractor,” Victor said.

“For the Sh100,000 honey extractor, one can fit at least 12 frames from the super box and 24 frames from the brood. There are instances where the super and brood boxes are almost the same size.”

There is, however, a misconception that beekeeping cannot be practised anywhere.

“This farm is in a cold area. Last year, I used to harvest after two months. I would harvest almost 15-20kg of honey, although this year has been a little tough,” David said.

He said bees adapt to the area.

A honey comb frame that has been infested by wax moth
A honey comb frame that has been infested by wax moth


Bees are also attacked by pests and diseases. An example of pests that infest a beehive is wax moths.

They are dominant in apiaries, where bees have absconded hives.

“The normal moth enters the hive and lays its eggs on the honeycombs. The larvae burrow on the combs and then they end up removing their debris on them,” Victor said.

David added: “Sometimes farmers complain of spider infestation in their hives. From experience, we automatically know that it is wax moths because their debris resembles spider webs.” 

The bees might abscond prior to infestation, which usually provides the wax moths space to breed on.

“To prevent this, we usually reduce entrances to the hives,” Victor said.

This creates more commotion for the bees and prevents other pests from coming in.

David said they also set up traps. “Get a plastic bottle, put in banana peels, apple cider vinegar, sugar and warm water, and hang it around the apiary,” he said.

“The use of apple cider vinegar is because bees dislike it as they are attracted to white vinegar,” Caesar said.

“The wax moths now get attracted to the trap instead of the hive.”

Another way is to carry out routine checkups.

Safari ants also pose a threat to bees. They are usually attracted to honey.

“Due to their small genetic features, most of the time, bees cannot mitigate against the ants once they enter the hives,” Victor said.

“To prevent the infestation, we apply oil on gunias (sacks) to stop them from climbing up the hives.”

Honey badgers are also a threat to bees.

“In counties like Kitui and Makueni, they tend to break the hives in order to consume the honey,” Caesar said.

“To mitigate against this, we usually advise farmers to go for housed apiaries.”

Extracted honey that is being sieved
Extracted honey that is being sieved


The most common bee product is honey.

Propolis is another form of a bee product.

“It is used by people who need skin rejuvenation, exposed to radioactivity, help with toothache problems and people who have respiratory problems,” Victor said.

Pollen or bee pollen is a product that is sometimes harvested as it exhibits nutritious content that people use as supplements.

“Those allergic to pollen use bee bread to grow accustomed to it,” Caesar said.

Beeswax is also a popular product that comes from honeycombs. It is used to make wax sheets with the help of a wax foundation machine.

“It can be used to bait the hives, make soaps and other cosmetic products,” Victor said.

Royal jelly is a product that is only given to the Queen bee as food.

“It comes from the young worker bees. They feed the queen, who in turn becomes fertile and lives longer,” Victor said.

“The worker bees live as long as 45 days. The drones (males) live as long as 60 days, and the queen can live for as long as three to five years because she is being fed Royal jelly,” Caesar said.

Victor said it can be used by people who have infertility problems, those who have acne or any kind of skin problems.

Bee venom is the most expensive product. Bees usually release venom from their abdomen when stinging. Victor said that the venom is collected by a venom trap.

“It resembles a tablet with copper rods that are covered with a glass top surface. When it is turned on, the trap releases current,” he said.

“The bees feel it and consider it to be a threat. They attack by stinging the top glass surface and the venom crystallises on the glass. When harvesting, the farmer removes the glass and scraps off the venom.”

The market price for a gram of bee venom is around Sh,4000 to Sh6,000.

The venom benefits people who have arthritis and skin paralysis, and boosts immunity against bee stings.

“According to research, yet to be proven, bee venom is said to mitigate the persistence of the HIV virus while it is at its early stages,” Victor said.

He also said it is beneficial to cancer patients as it contains a component referred to as melittin that kills cancerous cells.

So if you are looking for a hustle that has low input and high returns, try beekeeping. It could even sweeten your retirement.

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