Jerejef Arame, Jerejef Allah

At dusk in a southern region of Senegal, West Africa, three men don winter coats, rubber boots and pull on canvas sweatshirt with attached veil and put on rubber gloves tying strips of old fabric around the cuffs to secure the openings to make sure none of the tiny, but deadly creatures we plan to rob invade the makeshift suit.

We are going to collect honey in mangrove forest just beside the small village of Sangako at night from African bees. Also known as killer bees. The three men have been doing this for years, their wisdom precedes their age and they understand the risk they take for the liquid gold they hope to find.
Continue reading “Jerejef Arame, Jerejef Allah”

Making of a region specific bee fodder plant list


Isn’t that a mouthful?! And is what I’ve been doing for the last 3 months specifically for Grenada. I’ve been gathering for most of the year, finding little gems (like actual island specific plant books-which are very hard to come by on the island due to all the libraries being closed after hurricane Ivan due to damage and $$). And talking to many beekeepers to get their knowledge on paper. I’m sure I’ll still miss a few plants but this is a good start.

While doing parts of a very tedious, monotonous job I listen to podcasts. One specifically (Min 16) with Derek Sivers, reminds us to “document the process” not only for ourselves but for others to be see how the “how the sausage gets made”

So without a due…here’s what I’ve done to create a bee fodder plant list in Grenada:

My time in Senegal I was able to stumble upon Plants for Arid Lands which happened to have a list of Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources, written by of course well known honey bee researcher Eva Crane.

Also the Senegal Peace Corps Agroforesty Manual also had a list of trees listed as bee fodder, not all of them are “true” but also no one could tell me where the information had come from even though the author was still on staff. And Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel is a awesome book for the West Africa region in general.

Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel, luckily the copy I found was in English not French

So between these two lists I combined them and started adding the local names I knew in Wolof, the local language I had learned and worked in. Senegal has 36 languages (per Wikipedia) but Peace Corps Senegal trains volunteers in one of 9 languages (Wolof, Sereer, Mandinka, Malinke/Jaxanke Fulakunda, Pular, Pulla Fuuta, Pular du Nord,French, Bambara)

Senegal Honey Bee Fodder List

This list is currently 171 species using only 4 references (see below). Luckily I had great agriculture volunteers with wonderful language ability to help fill in some of the names as much as they knew. Sadly though this list has never been used for more than personal use. The idea was to create a simple identification booklet for beekeepers to learn terms and identify plants. Similar to this below

Booklet from Mali to teach French vocabulary to beekeepers
 References:
Crane, E. (1985). Plants for Arid Lands. In Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources. International Bee Research Association.
Sidibe, D., Djitte, C., Constant, A., & Blass, C. (2012). Peace Corps Senegal Agroforestry Manual (Second.). Theis, Senegal: Peace Corps.
Traucht, M. (2009). Working with Bees in The Gambia. The Gambia.
Von Maydell, H.-J. J. (1990). Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel. Weikersheim: Margraf.

After I came home November of 2014 after my Peace Corps service was finished I kept looking for honey bee fodder lists. Not all lists would be pertinent as there are multiple breeds of honey bees and they are location specific. For example, African bees that were in Senegal, can not survive in my native Minnesota due to the cold, but also African bees are 10% smaller than Apis mellifera we have in northern climates, therefore some of the plant fodder might be different too.

Apis distribution map via Apimonda (@apimondiabees)

twitter September 17, 2015

So each list needs to be looked at from a location and Apis breed to see if a world bee fodder list can be made, which from what I can find has not been made, documented, updated, or put online. Which with all the technology we have there are many applications for this information.

Currently I have 49 literature reference sources for nectar, honey dew, pollen and propalis sources that I have started a new list specifically for Apis mellifera (honey bee) with around 2800 plants. Now what to do with the list.

Spring of 2015 I traveled to Grenada to work with beekeepers and kept my eyes open for any references specific to Grenada/Caribbean that I could find on bee fodder as well as what the beekeepers could tell me of plants. Many names are in local common names, not Latin/scienctific names. Also what do I do with all this data which is plant nomenclature, which changes over time. So my list might have duplicates due to name changes from having references sources from 1945 to present day.

Again I was luckily to stumble upon Entomological Society of America‘s 2015 conference that did a wonderful job of putting all of the sessions online. At the beginning of the conference Entomological Collections Network presented for the first day. The stress was putting your data sets online so they can be found, used and added by others. I contacted a presenter for more information, but since it was entomology not plant based it only pushed me to do more research.

Encyclopedia of Life website screenshot

Somehow I had a link from Encyclopedia of Life, I believe was from a conversation from the Bee College from May of 2015 when it was mentioned. Luckily I looked around and figured out that the website not only has common names in multiple languages the entire site is very easy to use with information pulled from various sites, integrating information.

Day in my life updating “the list” follow me on @mayhemmadness5 Instagram
Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is very handy to make ever changing plant lists in and also check the most correct name. Currently I’m almost through the 2800 plants I have in my list with updating the taxonomy. Next I’ll cross reference my list with the 4 books I have been able to find on the island with Grenada flora to see how many actual bee plants are here.

What I would do without books but these specifically have been wonderful!

Once I have my short list of plants, I’ll design a small pamphlet to be used by beekeepers, farmers, and other interested people to identify bee plants but also to encourage preservation, conservation and plant more of them through out the island.

I have been…

very productive! I would have said busy. But I truly hate the idea of ‘busy’ as an excuse to be human, be accountable, and simply care.

View from Harford Village to the Atlantic Ocean (east)

On October 16th I’ve been on island for 6 months. Which is typically where volunteers hit their slump. Honestly this last month I truly did. Yesterday also marked the 32nd anniversary of America invading Grenada. I believe the heavy energy and ciaos leading up to this even it very much felt on the island. Its widely discussed and talked about, noted in church and discussed on tv and radio. It was not a fun time in the history of Grenada. I hope the energy lightens so I’m able to get back to more work.

And speaking of work, I feel there is so much work to do here and I’ve only really gotten feel for things. People are calling me out of the blue asking for advice, assistance or to find out more about bees. (This is always the sign new people are looking for to see if they are really ‘needed’ someplace, once the unknown people start showing up because word of mouth has spread about you) I’ve been consistent in the last month or so about the schedule of my week. Monday is administrative tasks, reading, and preparing for the rest of the week. Tuesday-Thursday is assisting beekeepers (1-2 per day) in their apiary if/when possible. Friday is in the office in Grenville where new people show up and introduce themselves along with some beekeepers I know, neighbors of the office come in and check on me and I try and make some rounds around town and say hi to the people I know. Also Friday is ‘market’ day so it’s also nice to get some groceries and say hi to the wonderful ladies in the market right next door.

Me and early morning need to make friends, but in the coolness of a rainy morning in the lowland of the country it makes getting out of bed at 4:30-5 am while it’s pouring down very hard. Now if it was hot as Senegal where by 9am it’s almost unbearable, this would be a blessing and I’d be getting up that early and happy grab a drink of cool water and get it to it before the heat rises past bearable. So instead of 5, 6:30-7 am has been more my norm. I’m work on it…

 I have made some gains with planning of an Introduction to beekeeping workshop and planning some more training for established beekeepers on the island. This should be ‘easy’ enough to facilitate. But when it takes 2 weeks for me to send a letter to the needed parties to have it printed on letter head, signed by another person and then usually hand delivered or it will be lost in the mail/system of mail. At which time an action can be taken, even though you’ve discussed it so thoroughly you would think it already all happened. Multiply that on every resource needed. Thank Senegal I am prepared to present anywhere, but having a room and projector is helpful. Done and done, with backups for both as I know most likely I will use the backups.

Flyer for the workshop

I’ve added more pictures to my facebook albums and have kept up documenting plants and nectar sources on my instagram along with just life here on the island.

Excited to have some more meetings lined up and contacts being past my way in the business/NGO realm here and will assist me in thinking about planning further out if things go well with training.

I’ll post by this weekend an update on my work as I also need to do my monthly report and looking to see what I’ve accomplished in 6 months and what is realistic in the next 6 months.

West African Trainers of Trainers Conference in Banjul, Gambia

This happened back in February 3-8 2014 and I wrote about it on Facebook, but now once getting home, being able to relax and go through some of the notes I took from this and other events that happened in the last year. I killed not one but TWO laptops so my writing sadly lessened due to that.

I hope to write on a regular basis and  about the events in the last year as well.

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Spending a week in Gambia
West Africa to attend the West African Bee Conference.

Abuko Nature Reserve
Beekeeper Saikou and one of the boubobs on his land that is a home to many hives
Silk Cotton Tree (Ceiba pentadra) are locally known as bee trees as a tree will have many swarms in it
Traveling from my village,
Keur Mallick Fady (see map below), just over the boarder going to Banjul. Staying in Serrekunda
and then traveling a few times  during the week daily to BeeCause in Lamin.

First day was presentations and getting to know everyone from the 6 West African countries represented with Peace Corps volunteers and staff. Looking back at this, it was so great to meet a few volunteers from these countries, as in-service we very rarely come in contact with them. A few months after many of these volunteers were sent home due to Ebola outbreaks.

Once acquainted with the various West African
countries experience & examples seen we traveled daily to Bee Cause, a local non-profit that works very closely with locals to improve beekeeping skills, techniques and improves honey and wax quality throughout Gambia. A stunning place that used to be a music camp set in Lamin where we did our
hands-on training. 

 

After the gate the compound just inside

The unusual round style huts with layered bricks reminded me of comb

The lush area around us with lots of palms, ferns and trees with hives in between

We saw examples of Kenyan Top Bars, Cement and other text
hives; went over apiary management and calender; made catcher/swarm and baited boxes,
worked a few hives at dusk, learned about melting and cleaning wax, making
candles, honey harvesting techniques, as well as honey quality and had a honey
tasting. Very throughout training for many first time beekeepers!

Typical  wooden KTB, Kenyan Top Bar
Looking at a wooden small capture hive 5m+ in a Kapok tree, baited and waiting for bees

Hallowed Palm trunk used as a hive, a bit deep though.

Similar cement to Vautier hives

We also visited the Darwin Field Station in the
Abuko Nature Reserve with who BeeCause had started to work with. 

Small Reserve that has been very well taken care of and wish we would have spent more time here
Walking back into the field station
Variety of scenery!

We were told not to go too close as there were crocs in the water

All suited up to check capture hives and transfer them. Love this photo of the group!

And the highlight for me was visiting beekeepers
Saikou Nyassi, Salifu Jarju, and Bakary Manga in Bwiam and visited there
various apiaries (bee yards). The exposed nests and ground hive were quite
interesting. 

Volunteers Jessica, Darrin, Dodo, Me and  Beekeeper Saikou. The banner says
“More frowning when you are working, and more smiling when you are eating!” in Jola
Ground hive that has been here for a few years!

Local Gambian beekeepers at a local market selling and explaining differences in honey quality and wax products

Local traditional log hives that are used occasionally to bait swarms

There are so many pictures! You can see more of them on my facebook album here.  This trip was the highlight of my service by far! Some of the volunteers I met on this trip were from Liberia, Guinea and Cameroon which were later evacuated due to ebola. It has been nice to keep in touch with them and see what they are doing now and pass along potential jobs that have seen. Can not wait for the chance to go back and see everyone there!!!