With the summer heat upon us, this is a great time of the year to…
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.” Although nobody for certain knows who said this first, it does send a strong message of awareness and indicates the importance of the black-and-yellow insect’s role in the world and sustaining mankind.
According to The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Honey Bee colonies across the world are under tremendous threat due to various factors including pests, diseases and poisons dwindling their numbers.
What is happening to the bees?
Some bee colonies are being attacked by pests such as the Varroa mite and diseases such as the American Foulbrood, along with misuse of pesticides in the environment and the lack of good quality nutrition when they forage.
Are our bees indeed under threat?
Our bees in South Africa face similar challenges to other parts of the world, but they are fairly healthy at the moment. In saying that however, the American Foulbrood disease is prevalent in the Western Cape and unfortunately in some agricultural areas bee poisoning is still common practice. The biggest hurdle bees face is the lack of available forage for them across the Country throughout the year. This therefore has a negative implication for the current and future health of our bee population.
There are also other negative contributing factors namely vandalism, bee hive theft which incidences are on the rise in the country which makes bee keeping/farming a major challenge in some regions. Other disasters such as fires also destroys hives, and in the recent past, this occurred in the Western Cape.
It doesn’t help matters that the Government further declared Eucalyptus trees as an evasive specie and started eradicating them. This has resulted in a loss of bees and a source of forage for them, which has been seen in the South- Western Cape.
What makes Bees so significant to us?
To sum this up in one sentence would be to say that Bees are so important to mankind for food production. Without bees- crops, trees and the like would not be able to reproduce. Bees pollinate crops, nuts, vegetables and fruits as well as natures natural growing trees.
In South Africa there are more than 50 types of crop that depend on insects to pollinate, with a lot of farmers proactively bringing in beehives onto their farms and within their crops to improve crop production and yield.
Would there not be any food to eat if bees declined seriously?
If we had no bees, quite a significant amount of food we enjoy would be no more. Food nutrition and food security would be negatively affected.
What can man do about this crisis?
The best thing to do is for each and every person to look after our own environment and become more environmentally aware, this is not just focused on bees, but also extends to the other pollinating insects so they not destroyed too.
One fundamental thing to do is not spray bees or kill their hives, along with not killing off weeds that are beneficial to bees. Even as a Pest Control Company, no company is allowed to kill or spray bee hives. Bee hives need to be removed and relocated by registered bee keepers.
To assist bees, one can grow plants that bees favor such as indigenous flowers (aloes, pelargoniums, buchu, agapanthus and scabiosa to name a few). Grow herbs such as lavender or basil, and one can always introduce and grow a wide range of flowering indigenous shrubs.
Facts about Bees:
In South Africa, we have two species of bees- The Cape honeybee and the African honey bee. The Cape honeybee is darker in colour to the latter and occurs in the Cape region where there is more winter rainfall. The African honeybee is endemic to Southern and Central Africa.
Bees require nectar which is a carbohydrate and pollen which is a protein to feed on, which is acquired from flowers and also need a variety of other forms of trees and bushes to sustain good health and production.
The Department of Agriculture estimates that there are 80 000 registered beehive colonies are managed by beekeepers in South Africa.
The Queen bee has a lifespan of between three-five years, compared to the worker bees (all females) that live for less than 40 days. The male bees are called drones and die after a mating cycle with the Queen.