Beekeeping with Dr. Anura Indrajith Sirisena
The curator of the Dilmah Conservation’s “Friendly Beekeeper” webinar series Rajarata University Faculty of Agriculture Lecturer in Applied Entomology Dr. Anura Indrajith Sirisena shared his knowledge on “How to start beekeeping: Basic requirements, tools and equipment”.
In studying the biological, agricultural, and environmental sciences related to insects and their interaction with humans and other organisms, it has been understood that the role of bees in our natural world and their role in the ecosystem is incredibly fundamental as a keystone species.
They play a vital role as pollinators, and if the bees die off it will end most life, as in nature, various animals depend on bees for their survival because their food sources – nuts, berries, seeds, and fruits – rely on insect pollination.
Bees are perfectly adapted to pollinate, helping plants grow, breed, and produce food. They do so by transferring pollen between flowering plants and therefore, keep the cycle of life turning.
Speaking with Dr. Sirisena, he shared that we can all lend a hand in helping the bees stay alive, and how we too can get involved in beekeeping. He went on to share some basic requirements in beekeeping, noting most importantly that if you can garden, then you can become a beekeeper. If you have a small home garden, you can certainly get started. He said that even if you do not have a large land you need not worry, as bees are not reliant on one territory and they are able to roam to neighbouring land to source their food and return to their keep.
However he said that there is a certain amount of time you must dedicate to your keep, one or two hours a week, to check with the colony if they are growing and able to sustain themselves. Much like having a pet, you must check on their wellbeing.
He said that even tea is a great foraging plant, and therefore even if your home is near a tea plantation or a smaller forest patch these can be great advantages in location.
He shared that beekeeping is essentially providing a new home for the bees to occupy. Our keep will be a man made “beehive”. He pointed out that there are numerous advantages in beekeeping – you can obtain bee’s honey, beeswax, bee’s venom, pollen, royal jelly, and propolis. You can also increase pollination of cultivated crops and even sell the colonies. He said that it is a great industry, if you wish to engage in some form of self-employment.
He said that in cultivation, if you see small shrivelled up crops, like pumpkins that are shrunken or misshaped, that is due to poor pollination. Therefore if you wish to produce a good quality product, you are required to employ pollinators.
Dr. Sirisena said that to get started you can always leave out a cold concealed space, something like a clay pot or wooden set up with parallel lining for bees to nest. However, you may be required to gout and capture a swarming colony to begin your beehive. He said that beehives reproduce from time to time, and they tend to produce new queens, and when a new queen appears, then some of the colony will leave with her to form a new colony and such a colony in limbo is called a swarming colony. He said that while it may appear to be a difficult task to capture a wild swarming colony, you are able to purchase a colony to get your hive started.
On a closing note, he also shared with us that often people are concerned about safety when it comes to dealing with bees, particularly afraid of their sting. However he shared that honey bees are incredibly peaceful and calm, and unless you disturb their home, they will not harm you. And even on an occasion where you are stung by a honey bee the sting is not in any case lethal.