BEEKEEPING – To collect 1 kilogram of honey, bees make 120,000-150,000 flights, one bee carries 20-30 milligrams on each trip

David Baxter is a fulltime management consultant with a South African firm based in Johannesburg. He is a passionate hobbyist beekeeper with 13 years’ experience.

David owns 30 hives with 5 apiary sites in and around Johannesburg, with an average hive age of 3 years. He is registered with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries as beekeeper (Registration number TA910). He is also an active member of the Southern Beekeeping Association.

Honeybees are a hardworking and important insect contributing to biodiversity.

Facts:

  • Insect pollination is worth R10 million per annum to the South African economy
  • South Africa produces an estimated 1500-2000 tons of honey annually
  • One colony contains 40 000- 50 000 honeybees and can produce 15kgs of honey per annum (forage and climate dependent) and fly up – to 10kms to gather forage

Key contributions of the honeybee are from:

  • Biodiversity through indigenous plant pollination
  • Pollination of agricultural crops
  • 87 of the leading global food crops are pollinated by bees
  • One colony pollinates an estimated 4000 m2 of fruit trees

Types of honeybee in South Africa:

  • Apis Mellifera Capensis
  • Apis Mellifera Scutellata

Key challenges in South Africa

  • Theft and vandalism of hives
  • Healthy and diverse diet
  • Diminishing habitat
  • Pesticides and poisons
  • Pest and pathogens
  • Beekeeping management practices

David’s proposal to the Environmental Committee was to support our objectives expressed in the Field Guide to:

  • Preserve and interpret the indigenous Greater Woodmead Estate for members and guests
  • Eradicate invasive species from pristine bushveld
  • Elevate indigenous flora
  • Educate members, guests and local communities

Safety: The safety of people and animals is a primary concern, therefore hive placement and impact on local activities has had to be considered.

Support for biodiversity: As critical contributors to biodiversity via ecosystem management and pollination honeybees are centrally positioned.

Enhance a positive environmental impact: Golf courses are under scrutiny for water usage, and the impact that they have on the diversity of fauna and flora, therefore to offset some of this impact many courses are rehabilitating ecologically sensitive areas and honeybees through their pollination activities promote flowering and seeding in many indigenous plants, supporting rehabilitation.

Education: Globally honeybee populations are under pressure from disease, poor agricultural practices and poor understanding of their role in the ecosystem and so to align the environmental committee’s education objective of raising awareness of the role of honeybees is important.

David’s objectives are:

  • To produce small batches of niche honey and related products
  • Low stress and sustainable beekeeping
  • Identify safe and secure apiary sites, free of vandalism
  • Maintain a number of hives in a hobbyist capacity

The initial focus areas to establish a working apiary at CCJ requires a working together and the roles of David and CCJ to be defined.

David Baxter will do regular on-site management and monitoring of the hive colonies, checking for diseases and pests, harvesting if required and observe the strength of the hive and support member and community communications. CCJ are required to manage community communications for awareness and non-interference and to ensure adequate bee-aware signage is in place. Further any impactful activity (e.g. veld burning, Golf Data operations, tree felling near hives etc.) is to be conveyed to David well in advance.

Eight locations were visited which were carefully assessed using certain criteria to evaluate their suitability.

The correctly chosen location for apiary placement results in the happy coexistence of honeybees and people.

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