Honeybee forage, bee visitation counts and the properties of honey collected from different agro-ecological zones of Uganda
The aim of the survey was to document honeybee forage plants and asses honeybee visitation counts on different forage plants and properties of honey from selected agro-ecological zones of Uganda. In order to achieve the objectives of the study, a survey of the apiaries and beekeepers was done by selecting fifteen bee farmers with established colonies per agro-ecological zone. A vegetation survey of about two kilometers radius of each apiary for bee forage plants was conducted. The preferred forage plants were established by questionnaires and independent field observations on plants that where visited by honeybees. Samples of honey were collected from apiaries in the selected agro-ecological zones for laboratory analyses. Specifically, honey water content, sugars, pH, acidity and colour were analysed in the laboratory.
The results indicate that honeybees in the different agro-ecological regions had diverse honeybee forage sources. A total of forty six plant species belonging to twenty families were identified as honeybee forage sources. Although, the Eastern and Lake Victoria agro-ecological zones had the greatest number of honeybee forage plant species that were visited by honeybees during the study period, other agroecological zones equally had honeybee forage sources that can support the beekeeping industry. Honeybee visitation counts on forage plants during the different times of the day varied significantly in some forage species and not in others. Honeybee visitation counts on forage plants in the different agro-ecological zones did not vary significantly in all cases except between Eastern and Northern agro-ecological zones in the late afternoon. The chemical properties of honey (water, pH acidity and sugar) varied among the agroecological zones but in all cases met the UNBS and international standards. From this study, I recommend that beekeepers should plant more honeybee forage plants or crops that can act as sources of forage in cases where the natural honeybee forage has been cut down. In addition, bee farmers should be trained on proper honey harvesting and processing techniques so that they can ensure no contamination of honey.