Beekeeping and the challenges that face the industry 

By Inge Lotter 4 September 2020

Part One:

  • 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 i.e Blueberries that have virtually unmarketably small fruit without adequate pollination. As the sector expands to meet market demands (both national and global), it is progressively demanding more from managed bee services. It has been proven that both the quantity and quality of fruit set on Macadamia trees improve when the flowers are well pollinated. The main pollinator specie used on Macadamia orchards is honey bees.
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There is a misconception amongst both farmers and public alike about what beekeeping is about and how easy and lucrative the industry is to operate in. South Africa is not a bee forage friendly country and apiculturists are struggling to maintain the industry. (More about this in the upcoming instalment on Beekeeping and the challenges that face the industry part three). There is a real risk that there will not be enough healthy bee colonies to service the agricultural industry, in terms of pollination services, in the very near future, especially with the rapid increase of target orchards, especially Macadamia and Avocado.

This situation is compounded by the incredibly high rate of theft and vandalism experienced by virtually all large and commercial beekeepers, but also with the many smaller beekeepers. It is almost an industry norm for commercial beekeepers to have to absorb between 25 – 30% losses due to theft and vandalism. Although this industry is by no means the only one affected by this scourge, it has a serious knock-on effect for clients of beekeepers, the agricultural sector. Having those type of losses make providing enough swarms for pollination demands difficult and also affects the price that has to be charged for this service The estimated loss (in terms of equipment and existing honey harvest loss; swarm replacement value; and potential pollination and honey production earnings) is between R3500 – R4500 per hive. This is significantly higher than what most people realise.

Although much of the vandalism (where honey is stolen and hives damaged in the process) is performed by non-beekeepers for personal use and resale, the theft of hives is increasingly becoming a huge problem. This happens especially just before or during the pollination season which gives rise to the assumption that this is perpetrated by either other beekeepers of farmers that want to use these swarms to rent out for pollination services or for pollination of their own orchards.

Due to the scale of the problem, insurance of beehives are almost never an option due to high premiums if the insurance company is willing to provide cover. Several methods to limit theft are implemented such as cameras, tracking devices, concrete hives and steel cages but one can rarely protect all your sites and assets. The Department Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) has implemented a registration system for all beekeepers whereby a permanent registration number is issued and registration is compulsory even if you only have one beehive. Currently registration has to be renewed every 24 months with updated details as stipulated by the Agricultural Pest Act 36 of 1983 and Control Measures Relating to Honey bees No. R1511, (https://www.sabio.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/R1511-of-2019-Beekeeping-Control-Measures.pdf) Each beehive belonging to the farmer or beekeeper is also required by law to be marked with the relevant registration number. This will enable beekeepers to be able to positively identify their property if stolen. At the same time the owner can be located if needed. It is strongly advised to brand or router the number onto the hive which makes removing it by thieves much harder as paint can just be sanded off. Should hives with an existing registration number be purchased, the new registration number should be added in addition to the old number and DARLLD notified of the purchase using the available registration form.

What can farmers especially those that rent hives for pollination, do to help? According to the above-mentioned Control Measures, hives are to be marked with the permanent registration number of the beekeeper and no unmarked hives should be allowed. Also: “(Clause 9) No person may utilise the services of a beekeeper for the purposes of carrying out any beekeeping activities unless the beekeeper is in possession of a valid registration certificate issued in terms of control measure 2 (1)

It is therefore imperative to obtain the registration certificate from the prospective pollination/beekeeping service provider and to ensure that the hives placed are all clearly marked with that registration number. Should that beekeeper have purchased or sub contracted hives marked with another number, proof of such purchase/sub contract rental should be at hand. If there is doubt, the validity of registration can be confirmed with DALRRD.

After speaking to several other beekeepers, members of the SABIO Board, inspectors of DALRRD and members of the SA Police, we request that farmers allow (or even request) spot inspections by the inspector of DALRRD accompanied by a SABIO Board Member and/or local commercial beekeeper (if available) on their property to ascertain that pollination service providers are registered and that no stolen bee hives are used. This will greatly assist the industry as a whole by making it harder for the criminal element to get away with the crime of hive theft.

Please contact Inge Lotter on 0828215011 or inge@thebeegerpicture.co.za or DALRRD on info@DALRRD.gov.za to book a spot inspection on your farm.

Beekeeping and the challenges that face the industry part one

By Inge Lotter 4 September 2020

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 i.e Blueberries that have virtually unmarketably small fruit without adequate pollination. As the sector expands to meet market demands (both national and global), it is progressively demanding more from managed bee services. It has been proven that both the quantity and quality of fruit set on Macadamia trees improve when the flowers are well pollinated. The main pollinator specie used on Macadamia orchards is honey bees.

There is a misconception amongst both farmers and public alike about what beekeeping is about and how easy and lucrative the industry is to operate in. South Africa is not a bee forage friendly country and apiculturists are struggling to maintain the industry. (More about this in the upcoming instalment on Beekeeping and the challenges that face the industry part three). There is a real risk that there will not be enough healthy bee colonies to service the agricultural industry, in terms of pollination services, in the very near future, especially with the rapid increase of target orchards, especially Macadamia and Avocado.

This situation is compounded by the incredibly high rate of theft and vandalism experienced by virtually all large and commercial beekeepers, but also with the many smaller beekeepers. It is almost an industry norm for commercial beekeepers to have to absorb between 25 – 30% losses due to theft and vandalism. Although this industry is by no means the only one affected by this scourge, it has a serious knock-on effect for clients of beekeepers, the agricultural sector. Having those type of losses make providing enough swarms for pollination demands difficult and also affects the price that has to be charged for this service The estimated loss (in terms of equipment and existing honey harvest loss; swarm replacement value; and potential pollination and honey production earnings) is between R3500 – R4500 per hive. This is significantly higher than what most people realise.

Although much of the vandalism (where honey is stolen and hives damaged in the process) is performed by non-beekeepers for personal use and resale, the theft of hives is increasingly becoming a huge problem. This happens especially just before or during the pollination season which gives rise to the assumption that this is perpetrated by either other beekeepers of farmers that want to use these swarms to rent out for pollination services or for pollination of their own orchards.

Due to the scale of the problem, insurance of beehives are almost never an option due to high premiums if the insurance company is willing to provide cover. Several methods to limit theft are implemented such as cameras, tracking devices, concrete hives and steel cages but one can rarely protect all your sites and assets. The Department Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) has implemented a registration system for all beekeepers whereby a permanent registration number is issued and registration is compulsory even if you only have one beehive. Currently registration has to be renewed every 24 months with updated details as stipulated by the Agricultural Pest Act 36 of 1983 and Control Measures Relating to Honey bees No. R1511, (https://www.sabio.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/R1511-of-2019-Beekeeping-Control-Measures.pdf) Each beehive belonging to the farmer or beekeeper is also required by law to be marked with the relevant registration number. This will enable beekeepers to be able to positively identify their property if stolen. At the same time the owner can be located if needed. It is strongly advised to brand or router the number onto the hive which makes removing it by thieves much harder as paint can just be sanded off. Should hives with an existing registration number be purchased, the new registration number should be added in addition to the old number and DARLLD notified of the purchase using the available registration form.

What can farmers especially those that rent hives for pollination, do to help? According to the above-mentioned Control Measures, hives are to be marked with the permanent registration number of the beekeeper and no unmarked hives should be allowed. Also: (Clause 9) No person may utilise the services of a beekeeper for the purposes of carrying out any beekeeping activities unless the beekeeper is in possession of a valid registration certificate issued in terms of control measure 2 (1)” It is therefore imperative to obtain the registration certificate from the prospective pollination/beekeeping service provider and to ensure that the hives placed are all clearly marked with that registration number. Should that beekeeper have purchased or sub contracted hives marked with another number, proof of such purchase/sub contract rental should be at hand. If there is doubt, the validity of registration can be confirmed with DALRRD.

After speaking to several other beekeepers, members of the SABIO Board, inspectors of DALRRD and members of the SA Police, we request that farmers allow (or even request) spot inspections by the inspector of DALRRD accompanied by a SABIO Board Member and/or local commercial beekeeper (if available) on their property to ascertain that pollination service providers are registered and that no stolen bee hives are used. This will greatly assist the industry as a whole by making it harder for the criminal element to get away with the crime of hive theft.

Please contact Inge Lotter on 0828215011 or inge@thebeegerpicture.co.za or DALRRD on info@DALRRD.gov.za to book a spot inspection on your farm.