TIPWG Newsletter May/June: Saving the honeybee through agricultural unity

The message must be clearly understood, if we delay in putting every effort towards saving and protecting our honeybees, we will lose so much of our country’s unique biodiversity. The road to repair the damage we are doing now will be very long and a very difficult one” – Inge Lotter, bee expert.

In a brilliant article, in The Macadamia which shares this title, apiarist and Mpumalanga bee expert Inge Lotter discusses the plight of South Africa’s honeybee and what needs to be done to save them.

While she credits South African farmers for increasingly adopting more bee-friendly practices despite often incurring increased costs as a result, she highlights the need to prioritise the provision of year-round forage to ensure the survival of the insect and applauds those farmers and beekeepers who have already begun planting species like African Blue Basil that provide year-round forage. She goes on to say, without year-round food for bees, optimal pollination for food crops cannot be achieved, emphasising “we all have to work together to protect our honeybee population. We all need to act now.

Lotter discusses the threat faced by the spread of the Capensis honeybee and its “parasitic” relationship with the African honeybee, as well as the risk posed by American foulbrood – a fatal bacterial disease that currently appears to be confined to the Cape. She also mentions the losses that result from theft and vandalism, which shockingly can be as much as 30% and worryingly for the forestry sector, she identifies beekeepers whose hives are kept over a large area such as Eucalyptus plantations are at particular risk. As a result, the bee industry is finding it difficult to grow in line with agricultural pollination demand and for beekeepers to make anything but marginal profits from what was very demanding work.

In the article, Lotter provides several great tips which are worth reading through and applying where appropriate – remembering point two is MANDATORY!

How to be bee-friendly

  1. Do not apply pesticides unless necessary while trees are still in blossom.
  2. Always follow the instructions on the label – even if you have used the product before, as instructions do change .
  3. Never mix pesticides with sugar, this will attract bees.
  4. Do not spray in conditions where the spray can drift onto hives, lands or natural bush where other beneficial insects may reside.
  5. Night spraying will reduce your impact on bees. Certainly, in the hotter provinces, bees are active during the early morning.
  6. Avoid tank-mixing insecticides and fungicides – as fungicides limit the fermentation of pollen making it useless to the bees, which can lead to starvation of broods dependent on pollen protein.
  7. Warn beekeepers and neighbouring farmers at least 48-hours before applying pesticide so that they can cover their hives.
  8. Provide clean water near the hive.
  9. Place hives in dappled shade to protect them against extreme heat and placing them on stands to protect against honey badgers and ants. Make sure the stands can be secured to protect hives from thieves and vandals.

Photo Credit: Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

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