Southerns Beekeeping Association

Report of the Chairman Southerns Beekeeping Association annual general meeting 2 March 2017

First of all I would like to thank all the committee members and their families  who worked so hard during the past year to make it all happen here at Southerns.  It was my privilege to have served as Chairman of this association for the past two years.  We as a committee had our highlights, but also our challenges.  The support we got from you as members of Southerns is heart warming and fill me with gratitude.  There has been a steady growth of people attending our monthly meetings and the number of visitors attending our meetings is applausable.  I would like to give a short overview of the activities and topics covered by the current committee.

We dealt with all the seasonal maintenance before every change in season to ensure that our bees are healthy and well cared for in the different activities of the beekeeper’s diary.  We tried to stay in touch with international trends and challenges facing beekeepers elsewhere.  Using bees to protect crops from elephants, the decrease of the world’s bee population and the importance of bees for pollination of crops were some of the topics we addressed.  We even made some news by being on the leading environmental TV programme called 50/50 ‘s website and the number of visitors to our own website also increased due to greater visibility in the cyber arena.  Some guidelines were shared on how to increase honey production, especially during times of drought as we have experienced last year.

We are so grateful for the rain that has been falling since the beginning of the year and some of the beekeepers have also reported on good honey harvests lately.  We had an in-depth look on bee diseases and pests facing our bee colonies and practical solutions were given how to deal with them.  We visited a bottling plant and saw how to extract honey with a mega extractor.  For many of us it was an eye-opening experience and an interesting day on how things are done on a bigger scale.

The practical tips and tricks that were shared by some of the beekeepers during our monthly meeting was also a first and many ideas were exchanged on how to improve on what is already working.  Things like the anti-badger cage, the different design of a hive tool, frame wiring jigs, the bee vacuum, how to stop ants, branding hives, cleaning frames and the honey warmer were some of the inventions that demonstrated our engineering and creative capacity as beekeepers when faced with a problem.

The field day in Midrand where numerous other practical beekeeping tips were demonstrated was a huge success.  Many new inventions saw the light for the first time within the ranks of the members of this association and I want to congratulate you all for sharing so freely what you have worked on for many years to perfect.

Our honey tasting evening was again a great success with much more entries and a wider variety of honey as the previous year.  Thank you to all the participants.  It was a fun evening for all of us, but more importantly a learning experience for many.  Theft and vandalism are the realities we as beekeepers must deal with regularly.  Concrete hives and bunker hives were develop to overcome these challenges.

Congratulations to our own concrete hive designer, Louis van Zyl who entered the “Boereplan” competition of the Landbou Weekblad.  Louis was crowned the runner-up in the competition!!  Well done Louis!!  Kai Hichert and Tom Cain had radio talks to promote beekeeping in our region and Mike Miles also emphasized the importance of bees during an interview on eNCA News.  Charmaine Moolman also had an ongoing promotional programme to promote bees amongst our younger generation with her primary – and pre-school presentations.

A number of our beekeepers attended the Beecon in Oudtshoorn.  An overview of the bee industry in South Africa and the needs identified emphasized the role we as beekeepers have to play in the wider economy in the future.  Various opportunities were offered where we as beekeepers can tap into.  The insight into the wider bee industry in South Africa and abroad opened up a new way of thinking about the future of beekeeping as a key role player in the agricultural sector to ensure food security in South Africa.  I would like to thank this association for the financial contribution which enabled me as Chairman to represent this association on national level as the biggest beekeeping association in this country.

The various field days organised by our association were a great success and members found it to be valuable and a learning experience by all the newcomers and long-standing members alike.  The practical demonstrations during those days brought greater understanding between theory and practical application.

Some of the other topics we covered through the year were the marketing of honey, best practices in New Zealand, various skin and beauty products made from beeswax and propolis, foraging, pollination, bee losses, queen breeding, the role of bees in nature, present and future environmental changes, how to do bee removals, changes in government regulations, protective clothing, new bee-related publications and the latest developments in technology.

All these topics made our meetings more interesting and ultimately more meaningful and the vast number of members attending proof this format to be something the next committee can build on.

We embrace technology and the upgrade done to our website, the creation of our facebook page, whatsapp groups, email distribution and communication network, increased number of interested people on our database and the overall improvement of communication using all the different platforms available was a quantum leap into the present information age.

The year-end function at the end of last year was an event to be remembered.  The generosity of the committee and members alike in giving all those raffle prizes showed the heart of this association.  A special word of thanks to Charmaine Moolman and Kai Hichert for their financial contribution to the year-end function as well as all the hard work they have done for that event.  I was told that it was the best ever and that other associations elsewhere in the country can come and learn from us how to do it.

Our finances are in good standing and the new financial management system that was implemented made the administration of our finances much easier.  I would like to thank those members of the committee who are going to stand down tonight.  Your hard work and effort during difficult work schedules and commitments are appreciated.  People like you give me hope for the future and encourage all to do our best when we can and with what we have.

A key objective we as the committee has set for this year was to give a variety of topics to members at our meetings, raise the standard of our beekeeping where it was needed and to give value for money to all attendees.  As a team and an association we work well together and if there was not such a dedicated group of individuals we would not have achieved half of what we do during the course of the two years while I was Chairman.

I trust you have all enjoyed the meetings and events while I was Chairman of this association and will be able to take away with you some valuable insights into the current state of beekeeping in this country.  To all of you who made it the success it has been, I thank you.

Fanie Booysen

American Foulbrood

I think it is about time to refresh our memories on AFB: AFB guidelines

Alternatively print out this handy aides memoire.

Robert Post
(021) 971 1022
073 080 3544

Bee defenders head to court

Wow. We’re truly overwhelmed by the response to our call to support the a small coalition of beekeepers as they take on pesticide giants Bayer, Syngenta and BASF in a crucial court battle.

It’s not often that words fail us, but this is one of those times — so we’re going to share someone else’s words instead. Master beekeeper and founder of the Bee Defenders Alliance Thomas Radetzki has a message to pass along:

As they head into court next week, the voices of beekeepers and independent scientists will be critical to defeating the pesticide lobby and upholding this ban.

When members of the Bee Defenders Alliance enter court hearings next week, they’ll be facing off against teams of corporate lawyers for Bayer, Syngenta and BASF. We want to remind them that hundreds of thousands of us are cheering them on from afar.

That’s why we’re going to bring messages of encouragement straight to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg for the start of the hearings.

Please take a moment to add your own words of solidarity or encouragement, and we’ll make sure they get right to the Bee Defenders Alliance.


Thank you for standing up for the bees,

Wiebke, Liz and the team at SumOfUs

p.s. Beating Syngenta and Bayer in court isn’t the only way we’re protecting pollinators. We’re about to deliver over 200,000 messages and comments supporting a proposed ban on deadly neonics to Canada’s Health Minister, we just filed a shareholder resolution at US supermarket giant Kroger calling on it to develop bee-friendly supply chains, and we’ll be working with allies to extend and expand the EU neonic ban. Click here to learn more about our past victories to protect the bees and our plans for 2017.

Credit to the photo

“Dear SumOfUs campaigners – and most importantly, dear SumOfUs members who donated: thank you for having our backs! Your support allows us to play big when it comes to protecting the bees. With your help we can fight to keep up the partial ban of neonicotinoids and for stricter regulations at the highest European court. Our bees and beekeepers say Thank You!!!”

Beekeeper Thomas Radetzki

Bee pollen slow motion

I do love the slow motion of this video.

Beehives were introduced to protect Marula trees

Jejane, one of the regions in Balule, in conjunction with Elephants Alive at the end of 2015 undertook a project whereby beehives were introduced to protect Marula trees.
The theory is that elephants do not like bees and will avoid trees where there is bee activity. This may be important as it could be used to reduce the damage caused by elephants stripping the trees’ bark. Managers and researchers alike are concerned about a lack of recruitment of young Marula trees in the APNR (Association of Private Nature Reserves) bordering Kruger National Park.
150 Marula trees were identified in the research plot. 50 were left as control trees, another 50 were protected using wire mesh and the other 50 had 2 beehives (one active beehive and one dummy beehive) hanging from their branches.

The drought conditions, lack of nectar and pests like ants reduced the active hives to 20. After a decision was taken to begin supplementing their nutritional requirements by supplying them with pollen, nectar and sugar water all the hives stabilised and one of the hives actually split to bring the number up to 21.

The preliminary results show that the trees in the control group received 50% elephant impact (includes all forms of impact e.g. strip barking, primary branches broken, secondary branches broken, main stem broken, toppling, etc.). The trees which were wire netted received 24% impact, while the bee trees only had 2% impact (broken secondary branches).
The original beehives are made from wood but an improvement using aluminium and fiberglass is now recommended and used as it makes it easier to keep the hive disease free and has less of a carbon footprint.

Thank you to Glen Thomson and Robin Cook for giving information. Additional information was obtained from

Thanks to Noel Deacon, Noel the bee man for the article.

bee photo’s

Thanks to Norman Venn for sharing these awesome photos with us.

Further information on queen breeding

Hi everyone

Many thanks to Fred Smith for a very interesting talk on queen breeding. Further to his presentation (to confirm what he was talking about) and the question of introducing Italian Queens to our African bee colonies, the following comments were made on the google group Bees SA:

University of Pretoria etd – Lubbe, A (2005) Between 1930 and 1965 Lundie imported Italian queens as he wanted to breed more docile honeybees. But the Italian bees could not get established in southern Africa. When the queen was introduced the brood pattern was good. But over time as the number of African worker bees dropped and the number of Italian worker bees increased, the colony dwindled (Fletcher, 1977)African Allelic Dominance

When virgin queens produced by European colonies mate with African and European drones, the resulting colony will be composed of paternal African and European workers. In the next queen replacement cycle, these colonies will rear virgin queens from both African and European paternal lineage, but those from African paternity have a competitive advantage. Paternal African virgin queens develop faster and therefore emerge earlier than their European paternity counterparts, which may give them the opportunity to eliminate rivals confined in their queen cells (DeGrandi-Hoffman et al 1993 and 1998; Schneider and DeGrandi-Hoffman 2002 and 2003). Paternal African queens also kill more rivals than their European-paternity sister queens, produce more “piping” sounds that may prevent emergence of virgin queens or enhance dueling success, and attract workers to perform more “vibration signals” that may promote queen survival (Schneider and DeGrandi-Hoffman 2003; Schneider et al 2001). These factors in combination may result in paternal African queens becoming more likely to become the new laying queen of these colonies. With each new queen replacement cycle, virgin queens disproportionately mate with African drones, and African genetic introgression into European colonies continues.

We do not have to make the same mistakes again if someone else has tried it before. We learn from other and thereby save ourselves a lot of time and effort. Mr John Moodie, well-known beekeeper in SA commented further on the
Not to be recommended. The hybrid strain is extremely aggressive and because the Italian queen hatching time is slower they soon are superseded. We imported queens in the 1970’s in the Transvaal – from Dr Lundie – and so have experienced the effect.

This is the web address of the forum!forum/beessa 

Many thanks to all who participated in the panel discussion and question session. Very interesting comments and valuable information were shared. Also a big thank you to all the members who freely shared their expertise and experiences. It was really made the evening worth attending!

Kind regards | Vriendelike groete

Registered Beekeeper No TA1168
Chairman of Southerns Beekeeping Association (SBA)
Member of the South African Bee Industry Organization (SABIO)
Registered Beekeeper at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF)
Cell 082 332 8007
Tel (012) 993 0960
Fax 086 641 9181

Obtaining wax


I’m curious about obtaining excess wax from beekeepers around SA for use in a local, all-natural lip balm product through our social enterprise business ( We would love to develop a partnership directly with beekeepers to provide added value to otherwise excess wax. What is a good avenue to pursue purchasing wax from bee keepers?
Thanks so much!
Scott Hersey
Jozi’s Nut Butters (SA)
Olin College of Engineering (USA)

Catch boxes


Catch boxes, or catch hives, are used to catch bees from other colonies that are swarming. For the duration of the presentation, I will refer to a catch hive as a “box”.

These boxes are convenient to use during bee removals, since its weight is lighter than that of a brood box and is easier to handle and carry. It is also more cost-effective to catch swarms with a box than to purchase a swarm. When I purchased my first swarm from a beekeeper in 2009, I paid R350. You can imagine my disappointment when I opened the box a month later, only to discover the box contained a weak swarm with only two frames of brood! Often times, bees that move into a catch box by themselves tend to remain for a longer period of time than a swarm that has been forced into the box during a bee removal, since those swarms tend to abscond a few days later.

In the beginning, I bought my first catch box to try to capture others swarms to expand my apiary. Later, I started building the boxes myself. Catch boxes are easy to make if you have the most basic wooden tools and some DIY skills. The materials I used when I started making my own were:

Scrap wood:

  • You will be surprised to see how much scrap wood is available if you start looking around. This is the more cost-effective route.
  • Make sure the sides of the box are not warped and that there are no gaps. Bees don’t like to live in a wind tunnel. Make it easy for them to maintain the temperature in the box by sealing it properly.
  • Some people use plastic catch boxes, but they bend easily in the summer heat and tend to become too hot for the bees. It is not recommended. Wood is more natural.
  • Other beekeepers use painted card board boxes. It works, but doesn’t last very long.
  • Use waterproof wood glue to stick the wood parts together and secure with nails to ensure durability.
  • Nails made from mild steel will rust with time, so it is better to use galvanized nails. It is also important not to hit the nails at a 90 degree angle, but rather a 70 degree angle. The nails then grip the wood better and cannot pull out later, even if the wood starts to swell due to moisture.


  • I treated the inside of the catch box with Waxol to preserve the wood. It is available at most hardware shops. You mix in about 10% of paraffin to make the Waxol more of a liquid and make it easy to apply with a paint brush.
  • I also paint my boxes with roof paint on the outside to camouflage it, but you can paint it with Waxol as well.

A 5-frame catch boxes
A 5-frame catch box


Different size catch boxes are used for different purposes. I prefer a 5 frame catch box, for the simple reason that it is not too heavy to handle when you must remove it. Others use 6, 8 & 10 frame boxes.


Any time of the year is suitable for placing a catch box. However, the prime time to place catch boxes is before the beginning of Spring, since most of the colonies start swarming during that time.


The best places are in the branches of trees, hidden in shrubbery or other safe locations in the neighbourhood. Place it out of sight, since children like to investigate. Ask colleagues and friends if you can place a catch box in the

A catch box on top of a pergola
A catch box on top of a pergola

ir yard. It is essential to explain to them that bees, when handled correctly, are not at all dangerous. Convince them by giving them free honey as “rent” when you catch a swarm in the box that you have placed in their garden. Once the swarm has moved in, remove the box after about two weeks. The swarm is more likely to stay in the box after the queen has started laying eggs.


It is advised not to put a box directly on the ground due to moisture, termites and ants. Bees don’t usually fly close to the ground, but higher up in the air. Do not place the box close to entertainment areas and lawns. Bees are irritated by lights at night and tend to fly around the light if the box is too close to the light. The vibrations of a lawnmower or weed eater can also irritate them. It is scientifically proven that the best results are achieved when the box is placed at between 3 to 6 meters above the ground. In areas where theft of catch boxes is predominant, the higher the box, the better. Some beekeepers resort to put it 9 meters high to make it inaccessible.


Paint the box generously with melted beeswax on the inside and at the entrance
Paint the box generously with melted beeswax on the inside and at the entrance

My first box had no bees for a year. When I spoke to the company I bought it from I was told that I have to use bait to attract bees, because it was a brand new box. I treated the box with beeswax on the inside and at the entrance and caught a swarm soon thereafter. Try to purchase old catch boxes, because the smell is familiar to bees and this increases the likelihood of success tremendously. However, be aware that used boxes that are not looked after can spread disease.

Use the following bait to attract bees to new boxes and frames:

– Paint with propolis
– Melt honey and beeswax in a double warmer until it melts, not over an open flame as beeswax is flammable.
– Others use the oil used for horse hooves to paint their boxes. I have not tried this method, but apparently it works.
– Bind old comb onto the frames.
– Use old brood frames, because the smell is attractive to the bees.
– Put a few drops of lemon essence at the entrance of the box.


Use brood frames with a 2cm wax foundation strip at the top. Bees measure the cavity available in the box and using a full wax foundation often results in the bees rejecting the box. Make sure the tension of the wiring is correct.


Place the box facing east for sunrise, not south facing due to the cold and wind. Clear the entrance and flight path of the bees from hanging branches or any other obstructions. Bees build their combs vertically, so place the box upright. Also, tilt the box slightly forward to prevent water from flowing into the entrance.


A box with a single 60mm wide entrance
A box with a single 60mm wide entrance

Most boxes available on the market have two entrances for better ventilation and temperature control. I found that the bees only use one entrance and, therefore, I build my own boxes with one entrance of 60mm wide and 6mm high in the centre. Once the swarm has 3 brood frames full of comb, I transfer them to a brood box. The temperature factor is therefore not an issue if the bees are transferred well before the box becomes full. Do not open the box on a day where the temperature is lower than 16 degrees Celsius. Ensure your bee transfers are quick and efficient to prevent the cells being exposed to the colder temperature.


Attach the queen includer to the front of the box with two screws
Attach the queen includer to the front of the box with two screws

When I do bee removals, I use a queen excluder/includer to keep the queen inside the box until the swarm has settled in. I keep it in place with screws for at least two weeks.

11. LID

Make sure the lid is not skew and fits properly. If there are small gaps with normal lids, the bees will seal it automatically with propolis. I prefer a telescopic lid in order for rain to drip off easily. If the lid is warped, try to strap it tight. Commercial beekeepers prefer to have normal lids for the boxes, because the telescopic lid reduces the number of catch boxes on a single truck load by between 15% to 25%, depending on the width of the overhang of the lid. When you place the box in a tree, ensure the lid doesn’t move, which leaves a gap on the top. Strap the box securely to the branch in case of wind.


Use a hive tool to plug the entrances with a piece of hessian
Use a hive tool to plug the entrances with a piece of hessian

It is highly recommended that you do not use any smoke to calm the bees before the box is closed. Sometimes you will have to travel for 30 minutes or more to move the box to your apiary and you don’t want to kill any bees on the way. It is easy to suffocate them. Smoke only if needed i.e. if there are bees on the outside of the entrance. Use a piece of hessian 10cm x 10cm. Put your hive tool at the centre of the piece of hessian and press the hessian in the entrance of the box. Plug it tightly to ensure that no bees can escape. Do not use paper towels. Other beekeepers use perforated entrance plates for ventilation during transport. When you arrive at your apiary site, put the box in place, stand at the back of the box, pull the hessian out of the entrance and shake off any bees from the hessian. Do not linger longer than necessary, since the bees will be agitated from the journey.


The optimal time for moving bees is at night, since the worker bees will be out foraging during the day. Transfer the bees to a brood box where there are 4 frames of brood in the box. My wife made me a huge pillow case out of spare net curtain material. I usually place the box in the curtain sleeve and fasten the entrance of the sleeve with a cable tie. When transporting bees in the car, I always keep my protective clothing on for the journey in case of an accident.

Remember to give the owner of the property where you placed the box a free bottle of honey when you go to fetch the box! Take a spare box with to replace the one where the swarm moved in. I found the owners look after the box like a watch dog and are quick to let you know when your new guests have arrived.


I know of a beekeeper who caught 700 swarms in 6 weeks in one season in the citrus region and another who caught 100 swarms from 140 boxes in suburbia. Personally I caught 4 swarms in one season in one of my boxes. I am currently increasing my number of catch boxes for the next season.


Invest in catch boxes first, have brood boxes available for transferring them when the colony is big enough later. Catch boxes are a very cost effective way to expand your apiary.

If you have any other tips and tricks or ideas where to improve please pop them in the comments below and we will share it with our young upcoming beekeepers! Together we make a difference for a better future for our bees and for ourselves.

The world’s food security is currently at risk. Without bees we will have much less food on the table. Thank you for your commitment to protect our bees!!

Presentation by Dr Fanie Booysen
Cell: 082 332 8007