“Don’t be scared. The bees feel fear.” I have bees sitting on my shoulder!
Today I spent the day with the beekeepers from Beeutiful Creations and I learned the finer art of bee keeping. Let me just say we went off roading to get here, I mean off roading. Once we got to the point where there were no more roads, we hopped out and started walking. They did not explain that I would be hiking in tall grass! Once we arrived arrived at the house, Jean Paul explained to me their operations. Before Beeutiful Creations, he had bees and they really weren’t doing well. Beeutiful Creations trained them, rented land for them, taught them how to make modern hives, and got them bee keeping clothing. This was a game changer for them! They took me to see a traditional hive. It was high up in an avocado tree. Side note here: every time I ate with the artisans, it always included avocados that were absolutely delicious. This is also the part where the bees were landing on me. He explained when they harvest, they do it at night. They climb the tree without a shirt and use a lot torch to get the bees to leave so they can collect the honey. Why shirtless? “The bees are all about scent and also if you get a bee in your shirt, they will sting you repeatedly.”
It was now time to make a modern hive. Made out of eucalyptus and bamboo, this hive is a way to have better quality honey and a higher yield. This cooperative has 100 hives and each hive can product 22-44 lbs of honey a year. One interesting fact I learned is that when it is cold (Rwanda cold or rainy), production is low. Why? The bees stay in their hives and eat their honey.
After lunch of cassava, sweet potato, beans, and bananas, it was time to make candles. This group makes hand dipped candles. We had 2 pots; 1 with beeswax melting in it and the other of just boiling water. To make the candles, we melt beeswax and dip 100% cotton in it. That’s it. Seriously that is it. This is a pure candle. This is extremely important. This is a healthy candle. It does not release toxins. It burns clean and purifies the air at the same time. Why? It produces negative ions which neutralizes pollutants. Beeswax candles are also the lightest and brightest of any candle and closest to natural light. Once the beeswax is melted we pour it in a metal cylinder and create a bath by putting it in the pot of boiling water. The water has to stay around 162 degrees to ensure the optimal temperature for dipping. We cut the cotton into 40 inches, fold it over and tie 2 washers in the end. We put a piece of cardboard in the middle so we can hold it, and now we dip. 1st dip, we put the wick in and hold it for 30 seconds and then pull it out. We wait for it to cool and each subsequent dip is a quick in and out. Let me just say the wind would change as I was dipping and I felt like a bee being smoked out! That smoke would burn your eyes. This is a labor intensive craft. It takes about an hour to make a pair of tall candles. They have a scale and each pair has to weigh 80 grams.
As my day came to an end, they hiked me back of the hill to my car and wished me a safe journey back home. I thanked them for welcoming me into their home and promised that I would share their story and sell their candles. They clapped and smiled! “Please come back and see us again.” What an amazing day, I truly will not look at their beeswax products or honey the same way again! I have a few new products I will be bringing back with me.