Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beekeeping in Tobago

And now, one of my favourite parts of our trip to Tobago...


...a visit to a beekeeper! Those who are allergic (Mitchell!) and phobic may want to stop after the following goat photos.

Gladstone Solomon is president of the Tobago Apicultural Society, and kindly introduced to a very generous and kind beekeeper named Murchison, who offered to show us his beehives and talk bees.

We also met Murchison's goats...




Including the billy goat, who gave me the eye! As you know, farm animals are often smitten with me, frequently in a carnal way...


Murchison makes his own wax foundation sheets by collecting his own beeswax, melting it and pouring  it into rectangular forms, then running the solid beeswax slabs through this:



He uses canvas as fuel for his smoker. Beekeepers use all sorts of things to get their smokers going. I favour wood shavings because I always have bags of them around for duck and chicken bedding.




Murchison was so kind to spend several hours with us.



He lent veils to me and Gordon.




He asked me how I feed my bees. He was trying out a plastic bottle as a syrup feeder, but the bees empty it very quickly. This is a "nuc", or small nucleus hive.



Murchison has been a beekeeper for 20-odd years.


And guess who?


I love being outside with the bees. Now that I've inspected hives in short sleeves, capri pants and sandals, I may never go back to my bee jacket in summer.



Ants are a problem in Tobago and can steal a hive full of honey. Ant moats are the answer!


Just beginning to sweat. We went to a bookstore after this, and while walking around, I kept smelling someone really stinky. After wrinkling my nose for ten minutes, I realized that the odiferous one was ME.



It was so cool seeing how beekeeping is done in Tobago. Very similar to what we do here, but no wrapping of the hives for winter.


Murchison has just started mentoring a young man named Darren. Darren is a natural beekeeper. Very calm around the bees, very interested, and a sponge for information. 



I think Murchison had 20 - 25 hives. He'd like to have 100. There aren't enough beekeepers in Tobago, and good honey is hard to find.


I enjoyed watching Murchison with Darren. He's a patient and gentle teacher.



Darren was doing quite well on his own!


Lots of nectar in this frame.


And can you see what's underneath the screened bottom board in this hive?


A huge toad, bigger than my fist! I'm guessing it's a cane toad.


And here's a fat healthy queen:


She's the golden one in the centre, surrounded by a circle of bees. Her body is a little bent so you can't quite see her head.


A rather nice photo with a rather unfortunate placement of my bee helmet. Ahem! But I had a great morning learning all about beekeeping in Tobago. Murchison has a beautiful beeyard. 

I won't have my hands in a hive again until spring, sigh...

PS: Bees for Development offers beekeeping safaris in various places, including Tobago, and is an excellent organization!

30 comments:

  1. What a wonderful thing to do on vacation! Something that would never happen (or occur to do) to me!

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    1. I thought of it before we left home, so we managed to arrange something via email! What did we do before the internet? :)

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  2. Wow. I'm getting really jealous of your trip to Tobago.
    When you wrap the hives for winter, are the bees still inside?

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    1. They are! I will post pictures sometime soon. I have padded plastic sleeves that slip over the whole hive like a ... hive condom. :) And a little padded "pillow" that goes under the top cover. I leave entrance holes at the top and bottom of the hive for ventilation and so the bees can get in and out.

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  3. I can bet you shared all sorts of secrets. What a treat to meet another bee keeper. Did you bring back some Tabago honey??

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    1. I wish! Murchison had none left, and I couldn't find any elsewhere. Only 16 beekeepers on the island... the honey goes fast.

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  4. What a great day!
    Jane x

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  5. You give a great example of how to do a very good post. Lots of pictures and very basic information. You have to play to the audience and I for one don't know much about bees but you make it very interesting.

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    1. THank you Red! I'm glad you are enjoying learning about bees. :)

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  6. Loved the toad, like the bees, and really love the goats!
    That last picture must have been very memorable for the guys ;)

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    1. I should have had TWO bee helmets... :0

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  7. Wow-these photos are amazing. What a memorable day for you guys. Love the goat photos, too. I hope you got to at least taste the honey.

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  8. Beekeepers of the world, unite!

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  9. That is the most interesting way to spend a vacation! I love what I learn about the bees from you.

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    1. That makes me happy, Sandra! I have lots of bee stuff to share. :)

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  10. I have to admit, you had some funny moments in this post. Had to laugh. Caribbean islands are full of people who seem to know how to be calm. My husband, the beekeeper, may be interested in the ant moat. He says he finds ants in the hives sometimes. Little thieves. Love that first photo of you. I thought of a pretty bride with her veil.

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    1. Jean, I don't see a lot of stressed-out types down there. :))) The ant moat seemed like a simple solution. Murchison has real problems with ants if he doesn't use the moat system. But no small hive beetles there. THey are just starting to enter Ontario. I do not look forward to having to deal with them.

      THank you for the nice comment on my photo too. Bees make me almost as happy as my wedding day did! :)

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  11. Congratulations on your 1501st post! I would have posted earlier, but I didn't want to be entered into your contest. :P

    P.S. Goats have the creepiest eyes EVAR!

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    1. Thanks HWB! ANd I agree with you about goat eyes!

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  12. I'm enjoying all the details of your trip. A few comments:

    (1) Were the bees attacking the toad under their hive?

    (2) Goats are adorable, but I don't know what to think of their horizontal pupils.

    (3) How could you be smelly? You're Knatolee, the most awesome farm/bee blogger ever, and your sheer awesomeness should make you immuned to odor.

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    1. (1) Nope, not at all! THey didn't consider him a threat. I had a chipmunk hanging out under one of my hives this fall, and the bees didn't care about him either.

      (2) I want goats, but those pupils are just bizarre.

      (3) HAHAHAHAHAHA! I read that out loud to Gordon and he said that I always smell like roses, and that maybe your comment will convince me that he's right on that point. HAHAHAH! Nope, I stank!! But thank you for the fabulous head-swelling comment. :)))

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  13. Another lovely day in Tobago !

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    1. Oh I so wish I were still there!!

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  14. Ha ha, I love that last photo!
    Eugh that toad is massive!
    What a simple but effective idea the ant moats are.

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    1. The toad was huge!!! And yes, the ant moats are great.

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Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!