The plight of bees globally is pretty common knowledge these days. It’s something you hear, but not necessarily pay any attention to. I signed up for a beekeeping course with Walkerville Beekeepers and it’s completely changed the way I look at bees and honey. What an incredible little creature and we had better start doing something to save or we’re going to be in more trouble than we can imagine. Just in this area, honey production dropped from 2 tons to half a ton in the last year.
American Foul Brood (AFB) and Black Bee are decimating colonies all over South Africa. The Cape has lost 50% of it’s bees already and the situation is dire. All caused by importing dodgy honey fro China and feeding it to our bees.
Some did you knows and interesting things learnt on the course so far :
- Farm animals are just as susceptible to bee stings as people are.
- No two beehives are the same and what a bee does today, it won’t necessarily do tomorrow. Because of this unpredictability, there are no bee experts anywhere, just people with more experience than others.
- Bees can be and are worked to death by humans. They can vomit and get diarrhoea from stress.
- They don’t like cut grass, it’s unknown if it’s the smell or the vibration of the lawnmover, it sends them into a frenzy.
- There is a bee mafia in South Africa – I really didn’t need to hear that, is nothing sacred anymore. This is due to the huge money in honey. You need to be careful of unethical beekeepers.
- Never do beekeeping alone, it’s dangerous! And always wear protective gear.
- Bees make hives in silly places like electrical boxes cos there’s nowhere for them to live anymore.
- Fire is the biggest threat to bees, followed by theft, then damaged hives from farm animals kicking them over.
- Only the queen eats royal jelly.
- Bees live for 46 days.
- You need to be fit to do beekeeping, a broodbox can weigh 40kg’s.
- Not all honey is created equally. The cheap stuff imported from overseas is not real honey and full of chemicals. Know where your honey comes from and only buy from reputable, local suppliers.
- It’s against the law to kill bees.
- Bees sometimes sleep on flowers at night.
- It’s not the smoke that makes bees drowsy. The smoke signals there is a fire, the queen then gives the signal to eat honey because they think the hive will burn and they don’t know when they will get food again. So they gorge themselves on honey, and it’s that that makes them sluggish.
- It’s better to work on hives at night when bees are most calm.
- Bees need to be given food in winter when few blossoms are around. They are fed sugar and maize meal – most of which is genetically modified in this country! 😦
- Bees will go for your face first, protect all open skin on your head and back. If you do beekeeping, you will get stung, just deal with it.
- The one rule to rule them all : don’t panic.
- Never approach a hive from its entrance and the bee flight path.
- There is a severe shortage of up to date bee books in this country.
What you can do :
- Stop spraying chemicals on things.
- Plant bee friendly plants and stagger things that flower all year so they always have food and don’t have to fly so far.
- If you have the space, contact your local beekeeping association and get a hive put on your property. They will maintain it for you and you get honey from it.
- Only buy honey from reputable beekeepers, not from supermarkets.
A small collection of hives (apiary) that we visit during the course.
Old honey comb. It goes black with age.
Marbles are put into the sugar / water solution so bees don’t fall in and drown.
See Day 2, (took place 7 August 2015).