Removal of Eucalyptus – a key honey bee forage tree – questioned

Latest figures and questions of Eucalyptus removal in a report from the Department of Agriculture indicate that the Bee Implementation Strategy (BIS) developed in the Western Cape in conjunction with the Western Cape Bee Industry Association, could not have come at a more pressing time.  Honey bees are in high demand pollinating over 50 crops and according to the department newsletter, Agriprobe, Hortgro estimate that “the current pollination needs required by bee-dependent deciduous fruit crops are 65 000 pollination units – a demand currently being met. This is forecast to grow by at least another 30 000 units over the next decade due to new cultivars and growth in agriculture. The seed industry is also forecast to increase demand for pollination units by 30 000 over the next decade, and berry growers by another 20 000 units. In effect, the demand for pollination services is expected to double in the next decade.”

Our honey bee population will need to keep pace with that.  Double demand, double honey bee numbers.

While honey bees and the Apiarian Industry face many threats, one of the biggest concerns in the Western Cape is the increasing lack of forage for honey bees, and with the impact of droughts and fires that have ravaged the landscapes there is an increased pressure on the situation.  Which is not being helped in any way by the targeted removal of eucalyptus trees as invasive species by governments Working for Water programme.  As the report by Bianca Capazorio states “this has seen six species of the tree being targeted for removal, even in contexts where they pose no water threat.”

Our honey bees rely on a good spread of indigenous and exotic species for year-round foraging – balance needs to be found if we are to address pollination needs to maintain food security in our country.

It is reported that the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has listed on their databases 130 000 managed colonies of bees, managed by 1 800 beekeepers.  According to their records around 70 000 of the colonies are based in the Western Cape, due to the lack of registration by beekeepers and transparency in areas of operation and reporting of colony numbers, these will likely be much larger.

Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, states in this report that “we need to take this strategy and turn it into reality because a properly regulated and managed industry has real potential to create new jobs and expand the economy. The report shows that in South Africa, we import a lot of honey. South Africa has imported 2 000 tonnes of honey annually since 2010, and honey production has dropped to 40% of what it was in the 1980s. This is an agri processing opportunity, to produce local honey and honey-related products right here in the Western Cape.” Minister Winde said farmers and residents of the Western Cape should be encouraged to plant bee-friendly crops and plants to secure a continuous food source for these important insects. “Bees are vital to our food security. This is a way for members of the general public to get involved and make a difference,” he said.

BIS aims to develop the sustainability of the Apiarian industry by focusing on 5 areas:

  • Ensuring sustainable bee forage. Under which a Bee Forage Commission has been established – made up of local and provincial government departments, universities and parties from the bee industry, with parties currently outlining plans for, amongst others, large scale bee forage projects.
  • Research and innovation
  • Developing a regulatory framework
  • Transformation in the industry
  • Governance and stakeholders

Under this framework SANBI have already collaborated to research and bring to print an invaluable resource on honey bee forage, Beeplants of South Africa, available through online stores and from SANBI directly.

In addition, The Bee Effect is party to BIS and we are currently raising funds for The Bee Smart Schools Program, a combined edutainment and seed program, designed to feed honey bees and build awareness in our youth driving a greater environmental consciousness in our future generations.

BIS is a collaborative program with many aspects to it, with all companies and individuals focused on changing the future for the better.  For honey bees and for us.

Ref: Dept of Agriculture Agriprobe 6 Vol 15 | No 3 | 2018 AgriprobeVol15no3-FINAL

Translate »