Normally, the mere mention of a bee sting sends shivers down the spine. It is an unpleasant experience and if a bee perches on you, there is need to quickly ward it off without annoying it. But here is one man who has made it a habit that on every single day, he allows at least a single bee to sting him! For the past 14 years, Taurai Nyamhuka (38) of Juliasdale plots, Nyanga, has lived with bees as a bee-keeper.He does not only eke out a living through bee farming, but claims he keeps himself fit and healthy by being stung by bees.

After a honey harvest, Nyamhuka occasionally allows a small swarm of bees to follow him home so that his wife Loice and their two-year-old baby girl, Providence, get the chance to be stung.

Strange and bizarre!

“I keep myself fit and healthy by allowing bees to sting me all over my body. During my first days, I would allow at least one or two bees to sting me, but I am now hardened, even up to 10 bees can sting me on every harvest and still I don’t get swollen or feel any pain. Only some itchy feeling,” said Nyamhuka.

He said initially his wife was scared of bees, but he deliberately brings bees’ home so that she and her two-year old baby girl also get stung.

“She is now slowly getting used to it but during the first days, she would lock herself up in the bedroom upon seeing me coming from a honey harvest but what I did was to place another bee hive near our yard so that if they smell honey they come home,” said Nyamhuka.

He said his family now treats bees as mere flies.

“We now live with bees and my family occasionally gets stung, but for me it’s an everyday thing. For the past 14 years I have been into bee farming and with bee venom all over my body, I have never visited the hospital,” claimed Nyamhuka, adding that bee venom was therapeutic and could heal any aliments including malaria, flue and headaches.

With over 100 bee hives dotted around Nyanga, every morning, he wakes up, reaches out for his regalia and a few other essentials needed for the job before setting off for the bush to check on his beehives.

“I harvest honey almost every day, it’s my source of income, but it has become also my hobby to make sure that every day I have a bee sting into my body,” narrated Nyamhuka.

Back home, his wife, Loyce waits to serve clients who on various intervals pop into their homestead to place either big orders or buy honey in smaller quantities.

They pocket between $15 and $20 per day from honey sales, itself good money for a rural setting where the cost of living is not as expensive as in an urban setup.

“I am the biggest honey supplier in Nyanga with over 100 beehives dotted around. I am still counting and my hope is to increase my beehives to over 500 because there is high demand. The majority of those people whom you see selling honey by the roadside in Nyanga would have come to do the orders here,” boasted Nyamhuka.

He says at times he leaves home as early as 7am and comes back well after 2pm.

“At the moment, I am not harvesting much because there are no trees flowering and bees are not getting enough nectar which is the major ingredient in honey making.

“These days I leave home at around 10am after doing some other chores since my hives don’t have much honey,” he said.

Nyamhuka said as a result of low honey production with some of his hives almost empty, he was failing to satisfy demand.

“At the moment, I am forced to limit the quantities I sell to each and every customer so that at least everyone gets something. It is also during this period when people make a lot of money through honey because it is on demand. This is why I am working on increasing the number of my beehives to over 500,” he said.

Clad in a ghostly beekeepers’ suits, a blue-overall, knee-level black gumboots, a mesh helmet, a folding veil, a homemade smoker filled with burning cow dung, and a 20 litre bucket, Nyamhuka’s pre-occupation is to visit every beehive, cleaning and empting it in preparation for a booming honey harvesting summer where the bees are expected to produce in abundance.

Cleaning the hives, he said, helps him harvest first grade honey as all residue in the hives would have been removed.

“While cleaning the hives, I will be also be harvesting honey because it’s rare to find the bee hives with no honey at all. At least I clean 10 bee hives a day and out of this I get about two buckets full of honey.”

However during the actual harvesting time, I can fill my 20 litre bucket with five or less bee hives.” he said.

Harvesting honey is an easy job for Nyamhuka. First he creates a small opening on the hive by removing at least one small piece of wood after which he uses the cow dung smoker to choke the bees.

With the bees still doused, weakened and confused in smoke he clears all residues out of the hive while at the same time harvesting honey into a bucket before closing it again.

Clever!

But having been in this business for the past 14 years, Nyamhuka says he has come across some bee species that were resistant to the smoke and hence the need for protective clothing when dealing with bees.

“While I don’t mind being stung, I put protective clothing so that I don’t ‘over dose’ myself. At least 10 bee stings per day are enough for me so protective clothing helps me to limit the number of stings,” he said.

However, medical doctors contacted expressed mixed feelings on the alleged medicinal effect of bees’ venom.

”I don’t know if this has been scientifically proven but what I know is that a growing number of people now chose to be stung by bees in a treatment form called apitherapy. This concept contends that bee venom has some therapeutive value in treating some illness,” said Dr Ralph Masadza.

Dr Masadza’s argument appeared to be supported by an online site which argued that that apitherapy as a traditional folk remedy has been used in many countries for centuries with people taking advantage of the healing power contained in honeybee venom which alleviate serious conditions like multiple sclerosis, arthritis and lupus (www.apitherapy.com)

However, another medical doctor, Dr Amos Ndlovu, said what he knows about bees was that their sting has fatal effects.

“What is on record is that we have had incidents of people who have died after being stung by bees and I don’t think you will have the guts to be stung by the bees yourself. Even a single sting would make someone get hospitalised so for this person to make bee stinging a habit is stranger than fiction,” he said.

– Zimpapers Syndication Services.