Sustainable ceramic hive for beekeeping in West Africa: Structural design and materials aspects for mass production
Most hives used for traditional beekeeping in West Africa (tropical zone) are made of wooden materials, which are light in weight, movable, and relatively available. The traditional beehives are less technical to construct and managed by end-users, but normally suffer from natural ageing, and termite and rodent attack. The wood used in construction also causes deforestation further leading to climate challenges. Though plastic hives were introduced in modern beekeeping, the cost and ageing problems are still challenges for end-users in tropical countries. This paper aims to fabricate ceramic beehives with dimensional and thermal stability with a longer lifespan from local materials for sustainable beekeeping activity in West Africa. The ceramic hive is designed to have a common structure of removable combs with top bars; porous ceramic interlocking slabs and embedded in metallic frame to form a rectangular shape. The slabs were of insulating properties, specially developed from Mfensi (MF) and Teleku Bokazo (TB) kaolin clays, obtained from Ashanti and Western regions respectively. X-ray fluorescence was used to determine the chemical compositions of raw materials used. Phases of the fired products were characterized by X-ray diffraction. Wet to fired linear shrinkages, apparent porosity and water absorption of the products were also measured. Among all specimens, the one with the lowest fired linear shrinkage of 8.9%, providing dimensional stability, and highest water absorption of 34.7%, leading to insulating performance, was used for hive body fabrication. Under the expectation, during the field test, the selected components of the fabricated ceramic hive lowered the temperature in hot weather, and also stabilized the inner temperature even when the ambient temperature was low. Moreover, the hive was successfully colonized rather than the wooden hive in use, and yielded honey even at the lean season.
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