To the people of Bwala Mkubwa, a small village in Norther Rhodesia, there is money in honey...
To the people of Bwala Mkubwa, a small village in Norther Rhodesia, there is money in honey...and when the gathering season arrives the local tribesmen are fully equipped for the job.
Years of experience have told them exactly when the honey - stored by the bees in tree-top hives - should be gathered. Preparations for the climb include cutting bamboo stakes, throng and fibre while pegs driven at three-feet intervals into the tree serve as a ladder. A "purification ceremony" is performed at the foot of the tree - and when night falls the climbing party of three or four is ready to scend. The climbers know that a rotten peg in the tree or a poor grip could prove fatal.
At the end of the climb, a lighted torch is placed on the topmost branch to disturb the bees while the stubborns ones remaining in the tree are scattered by rubbing the torch on the hive. The bees, cleared, two men move in to collect the honey into containers. Meanwhile the homeless bees wing their way into the darkness to find a new place to build their hives.
Honey-gathering for the villagers may only be a seasonal occupation but when the time arrives it receives all their attention. The honey is filtered and bottled and ready for sale, and Bwala Mkubwa settles down to wait for the tree-top hives to turn a golden yellow again, a sure sign that harvest-time has come.