Monday 3 June 2013

Qatari Bees

After a few false starts I finally managed to meet up with one of Qatars few beekeepers and get my hands on some bees. I had seen a listing in the archive of the Qatar Natural History Group about a talk given by a local beekeeper some time before I arrived here. It gave his contact details and a few e-mails later I was kindly invited to a farm just outside Doha to see his small apiary.

Khalid Al-Suwaidi has been keeping bees for the last twelve years in an environment that is totally the reverse of that of the UK. In the Summer, when it's blisteringly hot, everything shuts down, and in the Winter, when it's Spring like and wetter, most things come to life. It is now just coming to the end of the beekeeping season which sees the disappearance of nearly all tender flowering flowers, shrubs and trees, and when standing water is at a premium. There were about twenty hives in three different locations around the farm, mostly with six frames in the brood chamber and six in the Super. Most of the hives seemed busy with lots of very placid bees to be seen. None of the frames we looked at were excessively full of honey but there seemed to be plenty being processed and lots of pollen. I took plenty of pictures! Because there is so little interest in beekeeping in Qatar all of his National hives and equipment, as well as the bees, were imported from Egypt. There is a lot of Arabic honey for sale in the supermarkets but none at all from Qatar. Khalid sells his honey from home as there is not enough to warrant his own shop. There don't seem to be many diseases (Varroa can't tolerate the heat apparently) or many predators (no wasps but lots of ants, and no ground base animals such as bears or badgers). The main problem is comb collapse due to the heat and a very colourful bird called a Bee Eater - can you guess what its main diet is? When we were talking about this bird, from the description, I thought Khalid meant a Woodpecker but checking in my Qatar bird book it was immediately obvious what he meant. Apparently they eat thousands of bees daily and have a very effective way of avoiding being stung - certainly different! Very generously Khalid gave me a selection of the produce from the farm - peppers, french beans, tomatoes, bottle gourds; much of which must have been pollinated by his bees.

As the weather cools down later in the year I might approach Khalid to see if I could catch a few swarms and keep them in some Warre hives. I intend to approach a local college to see if I can utilise their facilities to build the hives over the next few months. As I don't have access to any private outside space I intend to look locally for a place to keep the hives. I have heard that there is a gardening club in Doha that has something similar to allotments in the UK and they might be a good place to start.

Hope all is well back in the UK and Good Luck for the coming season.




  1. Good to hear from you,

    I knew it wouldn't take you to long to track down the bee's. Not many frames per hive is this to try and keep them a bit cooler or do they just not develop into large colonies due local conditions. It will be interesting to see how natural hives survive if comb collapse is a issue, I forsee lots of cross bracing.

    Sadly not making it to many meets as currently working up in Newcastle, bee's all came thru and are building up nicely now, not sure if they will swarm as they are all still pretty small colonies.

    Your obviously settling in well over there, all the best.


  2. Hi Dave
    The hives seem pretty happy being small so I guess it is a combination of not needing a large 'huddle' to generate heat and more room for air circulation I suspect.

    Going to see Khalid again tomorrow as he is being filmed by Qatari TV for a feature on local natural history. He asked me to come along and see him use his extractor in anger as well. I'm also keen to buy some honey!

    I did think about the comb collapse issue and thought it would be an idea to insert a couple of 10cm dowels (5-6mm diameter) into the top bars in order to give extra support.

    Hopefully going to strat knocking up my first Warre hive soon. And then where will it all end?

    Have you thought about looking for work over here? There is a very large community of 'home teachers' as well.


  3. Hi Boyd, I discovered today that a pretty large number of bees are starting to build an open air nest in my garden. It's about 30x30x8cm at the moment but grew in size fairly quickly today. Knowing very little about bees and now having read your post here, I can see that it's really not the best time for them to be starting a colony. Is there anything I, or you, or anyone you know, can do for them?

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