Inmaculada Jiménez - a beekeeper
Degree in Technical Engineering of Mines and Master in Occupational Risk Prevention
Inmaculada Jiménez is a beekeeper that started in 2013 with 5 beehives and in 2015, when she was granted the help of incorporation to the agrarian company, she set up her beekeeping operation. It obtains honey and pollen and to a limited extent propolis. She would also like to learn how to extract royal jelly, but this is more complicated. She is dedicated to the sale of these products. She also carries out transhumance, since some farmers need bee pollination to considerably increase their production. She has her production in ecological conversion, which in the case of honey and its by-products, is one year. Finally, she teaches beginner courses in beekeeping.
Degree in Technical Engineering of Mines and Master in Occupational Risk Prevention
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Inmaculada has 3 settlements, in the Natural Park of Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas, in the Sierra de la Grana of Jamilena and in the Sierra de Torre del campo. She would like to expand to 2 more settlements that are already selected by the flora they host. The bees collect the pollen in around 6 km diameter from where the settlement is. The landscape to choose depends on the type of honey you want to obtain. The Natural Park is excellent for beekeeping and the other locations also have a great variety of vegetation and that is why they were chosen. The Natural Park has a very early flowering and there is a continuous flowering chain throughout the year (except summer). The flowering of the rosemary begins, then the thyme and when this one finishes the one of the marjoram is produced, and the rockrose. After summer, the strawberry tree and the holm oak begins to flower.
When she started with a few beehives in 2013, she fell in love with beekeeping. For this reason, she wanted to become more involved and in 2015 she requested the help of incorporation into the agricultural enterprise for young farmers and she was granted one.
The location of the beehives is one of the most important factors to consider. Depending on the type of honey you want to obtain, be it rosemary, thyme, oak, eucalyptus, etc. Then she had to choose the settlement for the beehives in a landscape in which that particular vegetation predominates. Having one of their settlements located in the Natural Park gives an added value, because they offer very high-quality honey, very varied and currently highly-demanded. The location of the settlement is indicated on the label of the products.
Through transhumance, you can cover the periods with less flowering in the forest, starting with almond and fruit trees. There is a win-win relationship, the farmer gets a more effective pollination, higher fertilization, which results in higher production and the beekeeper enables her apiary to collect the nectars. Farmer's crops allow beekeepers to activate the hive and start producing earlier.
In summer, when the scrub dries up and there is no flowering, she transhumances with the beehives and takes them to cooler places or to some plantation. When the flowering is about to start, the farmers notify and contract the beekeepers to take the hives and thus get between 20-30% more yield. This occurs in plantations of sunflower, almond, pistachio, plum, etc.
Inmaculada this year has registered as a handmade bottler in the decree of direct sale to be able to sell her products. At the moment she sells honey and pollen to some shops and to private individuals on request. As soon as she obtains the ecological certification, she will sell honey in a cooperative in Córdoba with which she has already established an agreement. She also wants to produce propolis and royal jelly.
"I encourage everyone who applies to be confident and set up their own agricultural operation and thus obtain either main or secondary source of income."
"Those who start in this segment have to be well trained because otherwise they can seriously harm other beekeepers, especially when it comes to chemical treatments. There should be more control in that sense, because sometimes there are individuals who are not even in the apicultural registry prepared by the OCAs (county agricultural office) and when they do what they think is right they might damage the production of their own and of the other beekeepers."
Beekeeping is a fascinating and complex world at the same time. Beekeepers encounter many obstacles until they begin to see any results. One of the most relevant aspects is the choice of land. If you do not have areas where settlements can be set up or you have to buy land, which is not always the most cost-effective option, or you get free unused land or you can even get permission to use public forest. Every 5 years, the assignment of a public forest plot can be requested from the appropriate authorities. Depending on the scale you perform, they may grant you the land or not. This arrangement maybe renewed later. The disadvantage of these lands is that they are widely-known and easily-accessible areas, so the risk of being robbed is very high and there are many cases of stealing honey, even the whole hives. For this reason, sometimes inaccessible and unknown terrains are preferred, which on the other hand also have their negative side, especially when the weather is bad, it rains or snows and the paths become impassable and you cannot access your settlements. Being removed from your locality also means having higher expenses for travel, time, etc.
The pollination carried out by transhumant beekeepers is of great importance and helps to guarantee and improve the biodiversity of forest areas and maintain native species. The bee is responsible for pollinating 80% of the wild vegetation even the vegetation sown by man.
In recent years, beekeepers are very concerned with the entry of honey of Chinese and Argentine origin to our country. This honey is of very low quality, diluted, with little sanitary control and mislabelled. This brings disadvantages the beekeeping sector. On their labels, they appear as honeys from the EU and not from outside of EU, without specifying the percentage of honey they carry. That honey is sold at € 1.60 and local beekeepers cannot compete with those prices, because in order to be profitable they have to sell theirs for around € 8. In Spain, beekeepers are beginning to mobilize to demand more control in the labelling.
Another concern is the risk of contact with the mite Varroa destructor, which fulminates the hives and the Asian wasp, which for lack of means for its eradication, is proliferating and eliminating our bees.
When she began her journey, she contacted other beekeepers to ask them and thus solve the doubts that had arisen. This was not easy since beekeeping has always been a work inherited from parents to children and it is a very closed society, very reluctant to share their knowledge.
She tries to attend all beekeeping workshops, courses and other events whenever she can. She considers them very useful because she can expand her knowledge and meet interesting people who will always bring something new. The subjects that she considers most important are those related to food, bee health, ecological treatments in hives and biocidal treatments in hives. This last one is very important since approximately 40% of the hives die in winter and this is thought to be due to the large number of diseases that they suffer lately. This is because the habitat to the bee is changing and the bees can no longer subsist in any environment as they did years ago.
Starting from nothing in the segment of beekeeping, you have to know where you can buy the materials, the food that you have to put the bees in the hives in seasons of scarcity so that they arrive strong in the spring, where you can and should install the hives, what treatments are appropriate, etc. All this is not possible without basic knowledge of beekeeping. There are people who start with 50 beehives and soon realize that they don't know how and can't maintain them. In addition to that, you need the same machinery and therefore the same economic investment, if you have 50 beehives as if you have 170 of them.
In Spain, there is formal training in this respect, which is carried out by the IFAPA (Institute of Agricultural and Fishing Research and Training of Andalusia). It consists of 8 modules, each one a week long. They are done in person and allow you to complete them in a period of 2 years. When finished, they accredit you as a beekeeper. Years ago, you could prove yourself as a beekeeper if you showed that you had been active in this field for 5 years with your family or other beekeeper. Today this formal training is needed.
Is beekeeping a type of work easy to learn and accessible to all farmers?
Would it be possible in your country or region to define a profile of a specialized professional beekeeper whose management was based on a transhumant system such as the case of Inmaculada?
Is there any regulated education system that trains beekeepers in your country, like the one in Spain?