The Sarah Baartman Honey Bee Trust (SBHBT), which is funded as part of Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm’s enterprise development programme, is well on its way to success. The beekeepers, who are Trustees of the SBHBT, which launched a year ago, have already completed their first two harvests and will be operating 500 beehives by the end of this year.
An exciting development in this programme is the relocation of hives from Patensie, Loerie and Baviaanskloof to the Hankey area. “We are moving the hives, in order for the beekeepers, who predominantly live in the hamlet of Hankey, to easily access their hives, without the added cost and hassle of using transport,” explained Marion Green-Thompson, Economic Development Manager for Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.
In addition to the active 300 hives that will soon all be settled in areas around Hankey, an additional 100 hives have been manufactured and another 100 are being delivered from the canola fields in the Southern Cape.
Moving hives is a delicate operation as bees can get stressed and hot if transported during the day. So, to avert bees dying, the hives are secured and moved at night, after the bees have returned at nightfall.
Once the hives have been relocated and the bees settle, the productive hives will be split to increase the number of active hives and make use of the currently empty structures. The beekeepers in fact built 100 of these hives themselves, making use of recycled wood from industrial pallets, which were donated by local companies.
The development of this local beekeepers trust included skills development, training and funding of equipment. 40 beekeepers started on the programme and over time 17 developed an affinity for bees, committed to programme and are now registered members of the Trust. This is an extraordinary enterprise development programme, initiated and sponsored by the wind farm, which has empowered and created a commercial opportunity for local community members whom were previously unemployed or seasonally employed.
The beekeepers have registered as commercial beekeepers with SABIO (South African Bee Industry Organisation) and have been equipped with the necessary tools, equipment and skills to operate successfully as commercial beekeepers.
Some of the harvested honey is being distributed to the local market and being sold to bulk honey buyers, who then process it and resell it into the retail industry. However, the Beekeepers Trust has developed its own brand and intends soon package and marketing their honey themselves, which the area of Hankey will surely be very proud of. This will ultimately increase their profit margins.
SOME HONEY BEE FACTS:
• An apiary (also known as a bee yard) is a place where beehives of honey bees are kept. Traditionally beekeepers (also known as apiarists) paid rent in honey for the use of small parcels of land. Some farmers will provide free apiary sites, because they need pollination, and farmers who need many hives often pay for them to be moved to the crops when they bloom. It can also be a wall-less, roofed structure, similar to a gazebo.
• Bees in South Africa: South Africa is home to two sub-species (races) of honeybees which are indigenous to the country: the African bee and the Cape bee.
The Cape bee is generally confined to the western and southern Cape regions particularly referred to as the Fynbos region; and the African bee covers the region to the north of this area.
The Eastern Cape is considered part of the dual area, however the area around Hanky and Patensie, where the apiaries are situated, is within the Fynbos region i.e. Cape Bee territory.
• Current status of bees in South Africa: Beekeepers and honeybees in South Africa have been faced with a series of significant problems including vandalism and theft, the persistent and the continuous loss of bee-friendly forage through habitat destruction and urbanization.
In addition to this bees need to deal with diseases and parasites. The ability of bees to resist diseases and parasites seems to be influenced by a number of factors, particularly their nutritional status and their exposure to toxic chemicals. Some pesticides, for example, seem to weaken honeybees that then become more susceptible to infection and parasitic infestation.
It was estimated that up to 40% of the commercially managed bee population of the Western Cape has been affected by American Foulbrood. This figure is not clear in the Eastern Cape.
• What is the effect of crop spraying on the honey bees in SA? Pollen, collected by bees from commercially farmed sources can contain high levels of pesticide residues, if these pesticides are applied routinely. So, with pollen being the main food source for honeybees it’s a very important factor affecting the individual bee and the colony as a whole.
Climate and environmental related effects on bee food sources have a higher effect on bee populations than pesticides alone.
• The impact of a threatened honey bee population:
The majority of plants in the world need animal pollination to produce seeds and fruits and therefore need pollen to be transferred from other plants to reproduce and all of these will inevitably be affected by a decline in bee populations.