- Nahl 68-69 from the Holy Qu'ran (The Surah of the Bee)
I'm in Egypt now. I have a number of half-finished posts concerned with building hives in Tanzania, the beauty of stingless bees, and arriving in Cairo, but feel like it is best to break the no-post streak with something from the present.
|The Egyptian Honey Bee|
SEKEM has contracts with beekeepers all over Egypt, but they also maintain a few apiairies of their own where they, with the assistance of a beekeeper from Germany, are attempting to re-introduce the use of the native Egyptian subspecies (Apis mellifera lamarkii - sometimes referred to in literature as Apis mellifera fasciata), the most "natural" variety to keep in Northeast Africa.
|Old and New - two hive types in the same apiary. To accomodate the smaller size of A.m. lamarkii, SEKEM beekeepers are using a very small version of the Kenyan Top Bar hive. The large version is a regular sight in Britain and Tanzania.|
|Box Hives of Carniolan Bees at SEKEM - Egyptian Beekeepers tend to keep smaller colonies in more boxes as opposed to the Western practice of "supering" (adding many boxes vertically) and maintaining larger hive populations.|
So, as it was, my first beekeeping experience in Egypt was moving bees out of traditional hives and into box-type hives - albeit with top bars and no wax foundation.
|Keeping bees for more years than I have been alive, Eslamm is the primary beekeeper working with A.m. lamarkii at SEKEM.|
|View inside the hive - notice the propolis lining the inner walls.|
|Introducing: the Queen Bee|
|Working from front to back we placed honey in the back of the box and brood at the entrance. After a few weeks, each comb will be attached to a top bar.|
|Beautiful comb lined up in the box hive|
|A perfect brick of honey.|
Brother Adam felt that, because of its inferior honey production - when compared to other varieties - and behaviors which could be inconvenient for beekeepers the native honey bee could seize to exist, or else be absorbed, after long exposure to the imported varieties while falling out of favor in commercial apiculture.
Apart from the view that "more honey, easier" means better bees, SEKEM hopes that by recovering the ancient Lamarkii bees they will be able to harness the attributes of a bee variety that spent thousands of years adapting to a dynamic desert environment, perhaps being more resilient to environmental stresses and better able to handle the recent challenges facing modern beekeepers.
|A bank of mud hive skeletons. There was a time in Egypt when a road might have been flanked on both sides for miles by banks of living hives!|
|Another apiary with A.m.lamarkii|
|My pillowcase veil is still holding up.|
|SEKEM beekeeping shed|
|Eslamm and I after a day of beekeeping.|
I cannot say with certainty that the bees recovered by SEKEM are "pure" Lamarkii - maintaining pure characteristics in the open world of mating where a virgin queen will be charged by all manner of drones seems improbable, but is not altogether impossible - though I do think the bees I worked with are notably different from the Carniolans located at the back of the apiary (in terms of size and color especially). I have high hopes, nonetheless, and think the beekeepers are, at least, onto something and am very excited by the prospects of their endeavor. I am very thankful to have been included.
Posts on ancient bees, revolutions, and general experiences in Egypt on the way!