South Africa’s indigenous honeybees are managed by beekeepers for honey harvest and to provide a crop pollination service.
Managed honeybees are vitally important for food production in South Africa. More than 50 crops rely on insect pollination.
Beekeepers use various flowering plants to provide forage (food) for their colonies throughout the year. Eucalyptus trees, crops, indigenous trees and shrubs, urban gardens and even roadside weeds are used to provide the pollen (protein) and nectar (carbohydrates) that the honeybees need to build a strong and healthy colony.
It is difficult to sustain sufficient healthy honeybees for crop pollination.
For honeybee populations to withstand pests (e.g. Varroa mite) and diseases (e.g. American Foulbrood), as well as pesticide exposure, a healthy diet is crucial for a fully- functioning immune system.
Bee-friendly policies and practices can help secure forage for honeybees, and thereby support South Africa’s beekeeping industry and increase agricultural crop production.
American Foulbrood caused by the spore-forming Paenibacillus larvae
Paenibacillus larvae is a rod-shaped bacterium
American Foulbrood – Paenibacillus larvae is a rod-shaped bacterium
What Landowners Can Do
Landowners can undertake the following
Consider allowing access to beekeepers. Local beekeeping associations are listed on www.sabio.org.za.
Work with beekeepers
To ensure that beehive sites are secure and inaccessible to vandals . One of the big challenges for beekeepers in South Africa is that their hives are often damaged or honey is stolen.
Protect natural vegetation on your farm
Always consider plant resources when implementing management plans, Environmental Impact Assessments and agricultural best practice.
Landowners with gum trees should identify the species and their location on the farm
Those without could consider planting certain non-listed species (e.g. E. ficifolia or E. gomphocephala ) in areas where they are not a threat to water resources or an invasive risk.
Remember that agro-chemicals can have a major impact on all insects
Education on chemical application and safety is needed among farmers, farm workers and extension officers as off-label use is likely a problem in South Africa. Growers should discuss spraying regimes with beekeepers.
Consider planting complementary crop plants
Such as lavender, basil or even fodder crops (like lucerne, clovers or vetch) that provide important honeybee forage. Do not unnecessarily spray or remove weeds that are attractive to bees.
Consider planting bee-friendly plants when gardening
Planting wind- breaks or when rehabilitating after a development (e.g. dam walls, road berms, etc.). Check with your local nursery which varieties occur in your area to avoid invasion problems or hybridisations with veld species in the vicinity.