Southerns Beekeeping Association

Eucalyptus gum trees and Bees

This booklet aims to help landowners protect or grow forage resources for honey bees, and understand why Eucalyptus trees are vital to the beekeeping and agricultural industries in South Africa.

Gums & Bees answers important questions such as:

  1. Why are Eucalyptus trees important to honey bees?
  2. Do I need to remove my Eucalyptus trees in terms of alien invasive species laws?
  3. What else can I do to help honey bees access good forage resources?

Where do eucalyptus come from?

Eucalyptus is a diverse genus of flowering trees and shrubs belonging to the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. There are no indigenous eucalypts in South Africa.

The genus, consisting of more than 700 species, is native to Australia.

Eucalyptus is one of three similar genera that are commonly referred to as ‘eucalypts’, the others being Corymbia and Angophora. Many species are known as ‘gum trees’ because they exude copious sap from any break in the bark. The generic name is derived from the Greek words (eu) = ‘well’, and (kályptos) = ‘covered’, referring to the lids that cover the flower buds.

Numerous species of eucalypts are cultivated widely in the tropical and temperate world because of their desirable characteristics such as:

  • being a fast-growing source of wood;
  • producing oil used for cleaning and as a natural insecticide;
  • their ability to dry out swamps, thereby reducing the risk of malaria.

Outside their natural ranges, eucalypts are both lauded for their beneficial economic impact and criticised for being ‘water-guzzling’ invasive aliens, leading to controversy over their total impact.

Bees and our food

Providing flowering plants for honey bees is crucial to South Africa’s food security.

Deciduous fruit, vegetable seed crops, subtropical fruit, nuts, oil-seeds and berries from 87 of the leading global food crops are dependent upon animal pollination, while only 28 crops do not rely upon animal pollination.

Insect pollination is worth over R10,3 billion per annum to South Africa.

South Africa’s honey bees are under threat. They face diminishing habitat and forage resources, attack by the Varroa mite pest and American Foulbrood disease, pollution from pesticides, and stress from being worked hard to provide a pollination service. For honey bee populations to withstand these stresses, a healthy diet is critical for a fully-functioning immune system.

This is my note: It is sad to see the removal of the Eucalyptus trees and I do feel for the bees but in the end it will be the humans that will suffer the most. Lucky we are human and seem to bounce back.

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