The plight of the honeybee is a global concern. The agricultural sector is heavily reliant on bee pollination (some industries more so than others), impacting on crop quantity and quality. As the sector expands to meet market demands (both national and global), it is progressively demanding more from managed bee services. In many regions of South Africa, especially areas with mono-crops, good bee forage is scarce to absent during the dry season. This is a matter of great concern, as most crops that are bee-pollination dependent (such as macadamia flowers) already provide little sustenance for bees.
Within the next 10 years (with some industries sooner), it has been estimated that double the current number of beehives will be required to successfully pollinate crops in South Africa. This demand is unsustainable with the current floral resources available to the bees and the lack of space for hive placements. It is therefore critical to engage the support of all stakeholders to secure adequate bee forage to ensure healthy swarms to satisfy the current and future pollination demands.
While it is essential for government to support this cause, it is critical for growers to realise their role in securing their current and future pollination demands. Growers can invest into the future of the honeybee by keeping as many beehives as possible year round on their property. To prevent the bees from absconding (as the African Honey Bee ‘Apis mellifera scutellata’ is by nature a migratory specie) and to ensure strong, healthy swarms (essential for effective crop pollination), pesticides should be applied with due care for its affect on honey bees and additional bee forage has to be provided. Responsible planting of non-invasive bee forage plants will enable bee populations to persist throughout the year. Without this measure there will not be enough bees to effectively pollinate the crop.
Depending on the crop, at least two hives are required per hectare for effective pollination. Using our suggested planting plan, we expect that an average of 10 hives can be sustained on one hectare of mature Bee Forage Garden and Pasturage. It can therefore be reasonably assumed that for every 5 hectares of crop, 1 hectare of Bee Forage Garden is required to support 10 beehives. Plants in the planting plan have been carefully chosen not to compete with the target crop for pollinators and also to be hardy and capable of growing in more difficult terrains which are usually left unplanted. While some crops demand more hives per hectare, the stronger and healthier the servicing swarms are, the lower the number of hives required and we propose that using our strategy we can achieve this together.
The Bee Forage Garden and Pasturage plan enables the planting of bee forage without landowners having to give up valuable farmland and through the permanent placement of beehives growers can expect to progressively reduce the number of contracted pollination hives, thereby reducing the associated high costs. This will in turn reduce the existing pressure on pollination hives, thereby assisting the industry as a whole. Most importantly, it will sustain our wild bee population that beekeepers depend on to produce secondary swarms to catch in the swarming season.
This forage garden planting plan contains a variety of plant options (medium shrubs and herbs, small and large trees, and pasturage) to meet the needs of both the grower and the bees. It also lays out detailed information on their growth and flowering specifics, their location and soil requirements, and their value to the bees in terms of nectar and pollen.
Contact Inge Lotter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0828215011