Beekeeping as a contribution to food security

IN 2011, on the opening day of the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in Sweden, I made a commitment. Unless actions are taken now, the dramatic decline in numbers of insect pollinators globally will eventually contribute to increased food insecurity and the possibility of conflicts in the future.
My Messengers of Peace project is exploring low-cost, low-impact ways to keep healthy colonies of honey bees using a Kenyan Top Bar Hive. This year, I have a colony installed in a hive I've built myself. Numbers go up and down with the changing seasons but for now it's home to my 50,000 Messengers of Peace.
I was one of the welcome team in the World Scout Centre at the jamboree. There I talked with Scouts from around the world about Messengers of Peace and some were also interested in the idea of keeping bees as a project. So I'm publishing this today as an encouragement to them and to anyone else that might be thinking about starting a small project to help tackle the dramatic fall in numbers of pollinators, which could lead to human famine.
That is not fantasy. The problems are real and becoming increasingly urgent. In 2010, I had learnt that most pollinating insects died out twenty years earlier in parts of northern China. Since then, fruit trees have had to be pollinated there by hand using pollen harvested a few weeks earlier in the south of the country and transported north. Click on the link if you would like to learn more. Is that the kind of future we want to see anywhere?
Everyone doesn't have to keep bees. Growing native wild flowers in your back-yard or on wasteland around your neighbourhood could help pollinating insects to thrive and make a more pleasant environment for your community.
Although I've done a lot of reading and followed bee keeping courses locally since then, I'm still just a novice. There's a huge amount of information available on the Internet that could help you get started. A search for "Kenyan Top Bar Hives" might be a good place to start exploring the fascinating world of one of Nature's super-organisms.
I learnt much from The Barefoot Beekeper (, an international site run by Phil Chandler and which hosts the Natural Beekeeping Forum. It's also where I downloaded the plans on which my own hive design is based.
Recommendations? Learn from local beekeepers. It doesn't matter what kind of hive they are using. Their knowledge is invaluable and they are usually welcoming of newbies. The only good beekeeping is responsible beekeeping.
Mistakes? I've certainly made a few but bees are resilient and even forgiving.
What else have I learnt from this project, so far? Einstein's "famous quote" about man having only 4 years to live after bees disappear is probably an urban myth:

You should not see this


Avatar Firenze 8

Is the honey tasteful? I wanna try!

Avatar VannScott


Have you heard of building homes for mason bees? My son and I built one this summer - we live near Savannah, Ga in the USA. We are hoping to see the house become occupied in the spring. I also encourage wildflower growth on my property and common property near my home. I'd love to know any information you can share about the mason bee(s).

Avatar Ray Saunders 16615

So, the colony has come through what turned out to be a mild winter and is getting itself ready for the Spring nectar flow. An inspection of the whole hive yesterday required quite a lot of patience on their part a swell as mine. Before lifting out each comb for a quick health inspection, I had to carefully and gently detach some of the comb edges from the inside walls. Not difficult but time consuming. Now that this has been done for the first time and the wax has matured and hardened over the winter so that it is now stornger and should no longer need these supporting attachments, it should be easier to pass through the hive in future. I'm fortunate in having a very calm colony, as naturally befits a Messengers of Peace project! I've allowed myself to harvest just a single honey comb and after crushing and straining this gave me 1.3 kg of honey to share with firiends and family as a taster.

Avatar Izvidru Vila

So nice to see you are a B-keeper.
I have a small colony living in my kitchen wall…they came to me ten years ago.
I thought straight away it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and ever since the buzz of the bees goes on, bringing joy to my Life, the Universe and Everything :)

Avatar Ray Saunders 16615

I agree, there are few things that bring the same sense of calm as sitting next to my hive and watching these fascinating creatures coming and going as they gather pollen, nectar, propolis and water. Along with oxygen, the basic ingredients of their success. Really important then or us to protect and promote their sources of these.

Avatar Izvidru Vila

Sadly, many people don't know much about bees. For example, that beekeepers take them to different places to get different kinds of honey...

Btw. Ray, since I don't know how to train bees to carry messages, please use This B would like to talk to you :)

Avatar Ray Saunders 16615

During the relocation of the Geneva office of the World Scout Bureau, I chanced across the attached publication "Scouting in the Village - Beekeeping" in our archives and would like to share it here. It was published by the Africa Scout Region as one in a series issued as part of its International Youth Year Programme nearly thirty years ago. It only goes to show how, in yet another area of development, Scouting was way ahead of the general population and trends. I wish I had come across this leaflet sooner as it really does condense down into 8-pages the very basic essentials of keeping bees in top-bar hives, as relevant today as it was the day it was published. I hope you get as much pleasure from reading this as I had in re-discovering it's existence!

Avatar Ray Saunders 16615

Six years on, our project continues and for the first time, we've managed to double the number of colonies we're caring for. Our existing colony came through the winter strongly and with near perfect seasonal conditions quickly expanded to the point that it was thriving and preparing for a new queen to replace its current queen that would depart with a swarm to establish a new colony elsewhere. We carried out a successful colony division using the simplest of "divide and walk away" techniques as part of a swarm control effort. This has resulted in the establishment of a new queen and colony in our second Kenyan top-bar hive. Despite our diligence, the first hive swarmed anyway in our absence, so our first hive has also raised its own new queen to replace the departed one. The departing swarm was seen by a neighbour heading off to establish a new home elsewhere after settling in a nearby garden for a few hours, so that means one colony has multiplied itself by three. Good result in a time when bees are struggling to survive in the world we've created for them.

Avatar Ray Saunders 16615
from Switzerland, 7 tahun yang lalu

Periode Proyek

Started On
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Ended On
Friday, July 26, 2013

Jumlah peserta


Lamanya pelayanan



Youth Programme
Better World Framework


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