Harvesting honey kills the bees
Harvesting honey kills the bees



Simon and hive edited
My teacher Simon and his modern beehive

tad beehive 3Beehives can be great moneymakers. Many Maasai have beehives and reap significant profits from their efforts. A “debe” of honey (about four and a half gallons) can be sold for about $75, a considerable sum here in East Africa.


One finds a suitable dried out tree trunk and cuts a section of about a yard or meter. The next step is to hollow out both sections. The final move is to tie the two halves together with

Traditional Maasai hives
Traditional Maasai hives

bark rope and hang the thing up in a tree. Then one waits for the money to roll in; little or no maintenance is required. The major objection to this traditional beehive is that harvesting the sticky stuff destroys the colony of bees, killing much of the workforce.

The modern beehive avoids the slaughter and allows the colony to go on living in the hive, less the fruits of their hard work. On cattle auction day, every two weeks here at Olbalbal, the happy beekeeper sells his honey at a great price and perhaps, buys a good size goat and a sack of cornmeal.

The zinger in this equation is that the beehive must be hung in a place where there are bees. I was surprised to discover that the low country where we live on the edge of the savanna is not one of them. Some time ago, I bought a modern beehive in the hope of providing some income for the mission here at Olbalbal. Setting it up some distance behind the house, I dripped honey on its’ insides and waited for the luxurious new apartment to attract a house hunting colony. It never happened. Six months down the road, I began to think that the American housing glut had caught up with us here at Olbalbal.

Sitting on our front porch with Maporo, a Maasai elder, I casually spoke of my dilemma. This, you will say, is something I should have done half a year ago. Yes, I should have because he told me, with a smile, that bees don’t like this place. Situated as we are on the edge of the plains, there is little for the bees to eat, and no food no honey. Now I’ve decided to give the hive to our recently married catechist Simon and his bride of a couple of weeks. Simon and Nemayani live at Lorlmunyi in the mountains, a place much loved by Ngorongoro bees.

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