10 November 2012

Tanzania: Bees Expelled From Dar es Salaam

I would love to be a bee keeper - but I am too afraid of being stung to succeed. I abandoned the idea of maintaining bee hives after I tried, although I like having bees around pollinating, protecting and attracting birds such as Bee-eaters (Kinega).

Bees lived in the guest house roof for many years, rarely receiving complaints that could not be met with secure screens.Then a girls' hostel opened next door. The matron came to complain that the bees were attracted to the scents of the oils that the girls were using. She was afraid a girl could be stung.

I wanted to think she was overreacting. After all in some cities such as New York, Chicago, Paris, London, Berlin, and Tokyo, it is legal to keep bees. I had lived with them for a long time. But in the end you cannot say that African honey bees are never dangerous; they can be provoked into tragedy.

We half heartedly tried to meet the Matron's request to get rid of the bees. People were sent to various places to find out what to do, with inconclusive results. One person said she could take out the bees for Tsh.180,000 + 3 cans of HIT. I look up HIT on the web and was depressed to learn that it could easily kill bees, and birds as well.

The more I thought about it, the less I wanted to kill the whole family of bees not to mention the garden birds. It seemed unfair, after they had been so helpful, entertaining, and basically well behaved for so many years. We couldn't figure out what to do. Not much constructive happened for about six months.

Matron, having given us a fair chance to do the needful, spoke to the Afisa Munispaa, who came to visit one Saturday morning! I showed him where the bees were, and explained the situation with many words. He listened and then said, "It is okay, but it is against the law to keep stinging bees in urban Dar es Salaam." He agreed we could move them without killing them and therefore no poison and that a farmer's shamba past Bagamoyo was far enough.

Confusion of many months was further cleared when I finally found the office of Mama Idda, at Munispaa. She was not young - she was not talkative or pretentious - she was not wearing scent or fancy clothes. She looked as if she were calm enough to handle a swarm of bees. I asked her, "Is it really against the law to have honey bees in the city?" And she answered, "It is against the law to have stinging bees in the city. But stingless bees are allowed."

She knew how to get the job done.

We arranged for the event to take place Saturday evening 3 weeks hence. After two weeks, the Afisa Munispaa phoned for a progress report, he was glad to hear we had secured the hive. He said he would check in after one week.The bee specialists came shortly after 5 PM to review the situation and make a plan. A tree was growing tight against the roof tiles because for years people had been too afraid of being stung to get close enough to cut the branches near the bees' entrance. They organized their tools.

As the light faded they carefully climbed into their bee suits. No spot was left open. They secured the ladder. Got the smoker going with sawdust. And told all of us civilians to leave! Therefore I cannot tell you exactly what they did, except by the results which I saw four hours later.

They ripped out the fascia boards. They found the queen and placed her in the hive with many bees. They enclosed the hive in tape, newspaper, and a khanga, ready for transport. From the roof they ripped out all the honey combs which almost filled a 4 gallon bucket. Two empty spray cans showed that in the end they also used poison.

In the morning dead bees were scattered near their former home. Since the birds could mistake them for something delicious we swept up everything, buried them and prayed that the poison would break down quickly. Fresh earth was sprinkled on top of the affected area. The next day the beehive full of bees was driven beyond Bagamoyo, and placed in a big cashew nut tree.

The combs were squeezed by hand into balls, yielding about seven kilograms of unbelievably delicious honey. Anybody who had been stung received a jar; I think they forgave the bees even as they were happy to see them leave. Afrisa Munispaa has not checked in. Maybe he got the news from Mama Idda already.

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