Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I have pleasure in sending you a photo of a curious and interesting hive
which my son brought me fron British East Africa,as you may care to have
it and account of the natives for the B.B.J.
—(MRS.) E. A. Birch. Devon.

'This is the type of bee-hive in use among the Wanderobbo natives in
British East Africa. The Wanderobbos are a wild tribe of
elephant-hunters, who live entirely by the chase, and who set much store
by honey. The hive which the photograph depicts is made as follows: A
tree of about 12 in. diameter is cut down, barked and split up into two
longitudinal sections, the total length of the tree-trunk shown in the
photograph is 5ft.The wood inside of each longitudinal section is dug
out, so that when the sections are fitted together they form a hollow
cylinder. In the bottom section a hole 6 in. by 4 in. is cut. The
sections are put together and bound by withies, the only holes left after
the hive thus roughly fashioned has been made being a small orifice at
the end for the entry and exit of the bees and the hole first mentioned
in the bottom section, which is closed by a bundle of hemp until such
time as the natives wish to rob the hive, when they get at the honey by
putting their arms through this hole.
" After the sections have been placed together, and before they are bound
by the withies, they are rebarked. When completed the hive is placed in a
tree. The bark projections to give protection to the bees from the sun
are to be noticed at each end.'
BBJ May 26,1910.


Mrs. E. A. Birch, whose "Interesting Extracts" are a pleasant feature of
our monthly Bee-keeper's' Record, sends us the accompanying photograph
illustrating the curious hives used by natives in the East African
Protectorate. A letter written to Mrs. Birch by one of the Government
officials there says:
"In looking through my old negatives, I came across the one of the
honey-drum that I was looking for some time ago. I now enclose a print
for you. This one is hanging in an acacia tree. Note the type of foliage,
naturally adapted for protection against drought and hot winds. The
leaves are small and pointed--almost 'spines. This reduces the surface
from which evaporation can take place. Then the whole of the foliage is
arranged, and the leaves themselves lie, edgeways on to the wind, very

"A cyclist riding round Lake Naivasha —altitude about 6,000ft ., more or
less --was attacked by a swarm. He left his machine and bolted, waving
his hat--an operation which provided the bees with an opportunity for
stinging his head, which they took.
"Cases of caravans being scattered by bees are common in almost all parts
of the country, except far to the north, where desert conditions prevail.
"The Wakikuya have told me that twenty stings at once may prove fatal.
This is, however not the case, I should imagine.
"Before British occupation, an owner of honey-drums finding a stranger
tampering with them in the trees where they hung might kill him.
"In the Tana Valley a very large black bee is met with.
"It is customary for householders(European) to boil native honey thrice.
and skim off the impurities that rise to the surface."

D. E. Hutchins, in his "Report on the Forests of British East Africa,"
gives an interesting description of the bee-hives used there :
"Bees (Apis mellifera var. Adamsoni) represent a considerable source of
forest wealth. At present the honey is eaten, and forms a dearly-loved
article of food; the wax is usually thrown away. Bees are so abundant in
the forest that it seems likely that beeswax, in the future, will become
an important source of forest revenue. There are regions in equatorial
Africa where milk and honey form the chief diet of the natives. All
through the Kikuyu country bee-hives are common.
The natives take three or four feet of a soft-wooded tree, hollow it out,
and then fit a piece of split board at each end. These hives are very
common. Sometimes two or three will be seen in one large tree, and tied
as high as 50 ft. or more from the ground. The bees are not put into
these hives, but they go in of themselves. These hives are of exactly
similar appearance. When a swarm leaves one of these hives and finds
another of exactly similar appearance, it naturally makes its home there.
This system of bee-keeping saves a great deal of trouble, and the yield
of honey from these hives is large. Practically all the bees of the
country live in this state of semi-domestication."
BBJ JAN, 1912.


1 comment:

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