Ethiopia Beekeeping and Honey Production Part 2

The local honeybee subspecies
The honeybee Apis mellifera occurs naturally in a great range of habitats and climatic zones across Africa, the Middle East and Europe. This has resulted in the evolution of many different honeybee subspecies that each with their own biological and behavioral variations because of unique environmental adaptations. As a result, one subspecies may do well in a particular location but not necessarily in another. The race used can have a considerable impact on practical beekeeping tools.
Photo: A local honeybee in southwestern Ethiopia
In the region of Metu, as well as Bonga, a dark, tiny subspecies of Apis mellifera was found and subsequently named by the Holeta Bee Research Institute A.m. gambella because it was determined to be new to science and not any of bee species expected in the region, such as A.m.scutellata, A.m.jemenitica, and A.m.simensis.
A worker from this subspecies is only 10 mm long, and build cells with a diameter of 4.7 mm in contrast to 5.4 mm by European subspecies.
The behaviour of the subspecies is typical for a wild population with no beekeeper selection pressures. Swarming, the natural way a honey bee colony reproduces, is frequent in September and during winter until April in the Supé and Bonga regions, respectively. Defensive behavior is intensive, and beekeepers also report a tendency for absconding (i.e. bees leave for a more suitable environment in times of food shortage).

Skilled beekeepers in Supé (Mr. Wodajo) and Bonga (Mr. Mirutse Habtemariam) showed that honey production from the local bee can be fruitful and produce good quality honey.
It is very important that beekeepers work with the locally adapted honeybee, and another, exotic bee race should never be imported because this greatly increases the risk of introducing diseases that local populations are not adapted to. If the local bee is aggressive, proper queen breeding and selection of the resulting stock will lead to gentler, more manageable bees.

a. Threats and Diseases
Beekeepers must protect their bees from robbing ants and honey badgers. In addition to simple protective measures such as metal or plastic funnels (see photos), beekeepers sometimes shoot honey badgers. No sign of significant disease, especially American or European Foulbrood, was observed; however, contradicting official government statements, parasitic Varroa destructor mites are ubiquitous. Beekeepers do not actively control V. destructor, apart from infrequent application of smoke from herbal leaves as a general pest protection with questionable effect.
The local bee therefore appears to co-exist with the mite; the underlying mechanisms of this relationship is of significant interest because of the problems this mite causes to honeybees in other regions of the world. A simple explanation could be frequent swarming or absconding, as well as defense behavior and mutual grooming.
Photo: Brood cell with varroa mite

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