Southerns Beekeeping Association

Field Day Saturday 12 Augustus 2017 In Magaliesburg

We opened some hives to demonstrate Spring maintenance.

Some feedback:

Andre Horak: Thanks very much. That was really awesome. Thanks Andrew for hosting us.

Mc: Thank all of you experienced bee keepers and Andrew for a wonderful morning. ?

Andrew Etzinger: It was a great pleasure to host the field day guys. Thanks to Oom Fred and Louis for sharing your knowledge patiently with each of us. Kai, your Pap and Sous was fantastic. All the best, Andrew

Mike O’CONNELL: My thanks to all concerned with the field day and the hospitality of our hosts today. It was most informative and great to meet and chat with everybody. Look forward to the next one.

Ruth Ward: Agreed, thanks to all involved, and those who shared their experience, and particularly Andrew. Much appreciated ?

Bees and Agriculture: The Connection, the Crisis, and How to Help

Millions of people shop organic for their own health, but society is just waking up to how food choices directly affect the planet’s health. From soil-depleting monocultural farming practices to the greenhouse gas-emitting meat industry, there’s no denying food’s environmental impact. One issue everyone should be concerned about is the impact of conventional farming practices on bees.

Bees are an important part of today’s food system. On top of native bees pollinating small farms, gardens, and wild plants, honey bee hives are rented in enormous numbers to pollinate the crops that appear on grocery store shelves. Without bees, crop yields and biodiversity would plummet as food costs rise.

However, bees’ livelihood may also be the greatest threat to their health. While there’s no consensus on why honey bee colonies are dying in record numbers, some of the leading suspects are related to how crops are grown.

Concern over the effect of agricultural pesticides on bee populations led to a temporary ban in December 2013 on three common neonicotinoid insecticides in Europe. Scientists believe that exposure to neonicotinoids, or neonics, can impact foraging ability, reproduction, and pest resistance in various bee species. Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in the world; almost all of the corn grown in the United States is treated with neonicotinoids, along with cotton, soybeans, cereal grains, rice, nuts, and most fruit and vegetable crops.

But pesticides alone aren’t responsible for growing annual hive losses. Monocultural growing practices — that is, growing a single crop in the same area — are also contributing to declining bee populations. In diverse environments, bees move between food sources as plants come in and out of bloom. But in a monocultural environment, food is only available at one time of the year. With no other food sources in range, this environment can’t support bee populations.

To compensate for monoculture, the agricultural sector employs large numbers of honey bee hives to travel farm to farm pollinating crops. Millions of bees are used every year to pollinate almonds, cherries, avocados, squash, and pumpkins, among many other fruits and vegetables. However, this method puts a lot of stress on bees as they’re transported long distances and sustained on sugar and pollen between farm visits. It also promotes the spread of viruses, mites, and fungi that can devastate colony health.

Among honey bee pests, the varroa mite is undoubtedly the most destructive. This pest feeds on developing larva and latches onto adult bees, spreading viruses from bee to bee and hive to hive. Another pest, a fungal parasite called nosema, interferes with bees’ digestive systems and can rapidly lead to colony collapse. It’s suspected that these pests, among others, play a role in massive bee die-offs.

For much of the threat facing bees, the answer lies in a shift away from monocultural farming practices that rely on pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers for production, and into bio-diverse growing environments that naturally attract and support pollinator life. While the opportunity for the largest impact lies with the agricultural industry, non-farmers have a role to play as well.

Average citizens can help bees by forgoing pesticides in their homes and gardens, buying from local beekeepers, and shopping for pesticide-free food and clothing — while keeping in mind that “organic” doesn’t always mean pesticide-free.

Another great way to support bees is with a pollinator garden. A backyard bee habitat is doable even for beginning gardeners, as the best pollinator garden is a wild, unmanicured space. Gardeners can get started by visiting a local garden center for advice on native flowering plants that attract bees. Native plants offer low-maintenance gardening as they’re adapted to the natural rainfall and soil type of a given environment. Gardeners should incorporate plants that flower in different seasons so that bees can forage in spring, summer, and fall. Once planted, the garden should be left to grow, flower, and reseed itself, providing a self-sustaining pollinator habitat. Check out for more tips for beginner gardeners.

Bee die-off is a major issue threatening the world’s food security, but it’s not a lost cause. With effort from agricultural corporations, farmers, and average people alike, bees, and biodiversity, can be protected.

Image via Unsplash

Starke Ayres field day

Looks like some of our members had a very interesting field day to Starke Ayres thanks ⁠⁠⁠⁠Kai Hichert for putting it together.

Some comments from our members.

Len: Thank you Kai for organizing an extremely informative and interesting visit to Starke Ayres. Well done mate

Tony: I loved the visit and will have more respect and understanding for those seed racks in the shops in future.  Would now like to visit kirchoffs if possible.

Kai:  I must admit I found it very interesting.

Laura: Thanks Kia for organising a lovely morning, I’m all the wiser on seeds.

South African Bee Journal – March 2017

Dear All Beekeepers and Association Chairpersons / Co-ordinators,

The latest copy of the South African Bee Journal was published and distributed in March in hard copy to all paid-up members of SABIO.

The electronic version has now been placed on the SABIO website under Publications and Reports.  The direct link is as follows:

All comments and contributions are welcome and may be addressed to either the Editor at or to

Would Association Chairpersons / Co-ordinators please disseminate this message to all your members to keep them informed of industry issues and encourage them to support the work of SABIO.

You are also welcome to pass this link on to anyone else you know who has an interest in South African Beekeeping.

Kind Regards,

REG. # TA735
TEL: 011 476 5626
FAX TO E-MAIL: 086 775 2409
CELL: 082 456 4177

why should I have to pay for bee removals

Bee keepers who carry out pay bee removals provide a service to the community. Many people who ask for bees to be removed from their property complain when are advised that there will be a fee for this service. “I am giving you the bees, why should I have to pay for bee removals?” is the type of comment often made.

There are several reasons why a fee is justified.

First of all why is the request made in the first place? Because the person asking for the bees to be removed does not the expertise to do so.

Why you should pay bee removals.

A beekeeper who provides the community this service should be paid for the time and effort required. A swarm which arrives and hangs in a tree can easily be shaken into a card board box and then left on the site until dusk when all the flying bees will have gathered in the box, which the beekeeper can close and take the swarm to a place where he keeps his bees and put them into an empty hive. Those are the easy jobs.

The problem jobs are for removal of bees that have been living in a situation for a long time. Sometimes situations are easily accessible but in many instances they are not. Bees in Chimneys and in roofs for example. Most bee removals are for established colonies.

Sometimes bees live in situations that are high off the ground so there is a danger for the bee remover if appropriate equipment and safety measures are not in place.

To provide a bee removal service the beekeeper needs various tools and a suitable vehicle. These involve an expense to the bee remover. In addition a beehive is required to put the bees into. These are not cheap. A basic new hive without honey supers, but with new brood frames fitted with wax foundation sheets, is in the region of R1000.00.

Travel expenses can be considerable, as the beekeeper’s apiary maybe a considerable distance from where the bees were living. I have often driven fifty kilometres, some times more, to do a bee removal. Fuel does not come cheap!

Time is money. Many bee removals take hours to do. As removals of established colonies should only be undertaken as the light is fading, to avoid any disturbances in the vicinity by angry bees,  the bee remover of large colonies often arrives back home VERY late, when everybody has already gone to bed!

Thank to Tom Cain for the article and a very big thanks to our members for submitting the photos.

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.

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

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