HONEY BEES are not pests; they are a highly developed species of the animal world and contribute significantly to the sustainability of the eco-system in all areas – urban environment, farming areas and bush lands. In Africa alone there are an estimated 3000 species of bees and throughout the world some 20,000 different species.
In South Africa we have two main species – apis mellifera scutellata which is found throughout South Africa except the Cape areas, and apis mellifera capensis, the Cape bee which was originally restricted to the Western and Eastern Cape area.
Scutellata is the infamous “African Killer Bee” which is well known for its ferociousness and hard work. Its ferocity is ingrained from centuries of adapting to the harsh hot African sun, and constant irritation of robbing by vandals intent on stealing its plentiful supply of honey without regard to professional care and attention. A properly managed hive of African bees can be easily and meekly handled with the proper care, equipment and patience. It is these bees which have become notorious as the African Killer Bee in South America and southern North America after they were introduced from a Pretoria apiary for experimental breeding purposes.
Capensis was restricted naturally to the Western and Eastern Cape regions until unsuspecting and ambitious Western Cape Pollinators introduced them to the Transvaal region in the 1980’s. Cape Bees are unique in that the worker bees are able to reproduce their own kind through egg laying, whilst Scutellata does not do this. The Cape Bees are also invasive bees which roam and invade the more prolific and productive Scutellata hives where they take over and eventually destroy the Scutellata swarm. The introduction of the Capensis Bee into the Scutellata region created total havoc amongst the beekeeping industry in that region. A Scutellata hive with Cape Bees has to be destroyed to prevent the spread of the Cape Bees to other hives.
Southerns Beekeepers Association Members only keep Scutellata swarms.
|Pure Honey from the Bee Factory!|
The average colony of bees consists of 40,000 or more bees. Approximately (⅓) 13,000 of these bees will be out during the day collecting nectar, pollen and water whilst the balance remain in the hive cleaning, ventilating, guarding and tending to the young larvae. These numbers increase proportionately as the food supply increases.
Each bee can carry about 20 to 60mg of nectar. (Nectar is the sweet secretion produced by a plant to attract the insect to visit its flowers in order to pollinate naturally with other plants of the same plant species. Nectar is unique to each plant and this is why we are able to produce different honey flavours. Hence we get Blue Gum, Citrus, Avocado, Lucerne, Cosmos, Litchi, Mango or Aloe flavours). The nectar has enzymes added by the bees to preserve it and moisture removed also by them to concentrate it to about 18% moisture. It therefore takes about 20 trips and over a 1000 visits per flower per trip to collect and produce 1 gram of honey. When next you eat honey, think of all the work, effort and the glories of nature which has gone into producing this delicious product.
|A beautiful pattern of bee larvae and brood|
|A feral swarm containing up to 50, 000 bees|
Both the Queen Bee and the female worker bees have the ability to sting, although it is the worker bees which are more ferocious in this activity given their fundamental instinct to protect. It is not in a bee’s nature to randomly sting for the sake of it. Bees sting to protect themselves, their homes and their food sources as well as their queen and the brood. A single bee which stings does so to protect itself, if you try and swat it for instance. Bees invade fizzy drink cans to consume the sugary syrup as a substitute for nectar. If you swallow a bee in a coke can, it will sting you to protect itself. Cover your fizzy drinks when you notice bees buzzing around them.
Bees will attack collectively and go on a stinging spree for a number of reasons. If they sense the hive is being robbed when it is vandalized or is knocked they will attack. They can attack in very hot weather, especially if their wax combs are melting and they fear their home will collapse. If they run out of space to make new combs they become very irritable.
Never provoke a swarm of bees. Never try and destroy them or get rid of them by spraying them with an aerosol can of Insect Killer, for instance.
If you find yourself in a serious situation where bees are stinging, get yourself and everyone else and pets out of the way. Once bees start stinging something, the stings emit strong pheromones which incense other bees to start stinging that victim. If an animal is being stung, remove it to a place of safety and cover it with a blanket to protect it. If it has been badly stung take it to a vet.
Never jump into a swimming pool in the hope of avoiding the bees. They love this game. You can’t hold your breath for a longer period than the bees’ disinterest. When you come up for air they will be waiting to zap you on the head and face.
When a bee stings a victim with a thick hide, like a human, the barbs on the end of the sting embed themselves in the victim’s skin. When the bee tries to forcibly extract itself, or is brushed off, the poison sac is ripped from the bee’s belly, maiming the bee to death. When bees sting other insects the barbs do not embed themselves.
The poison in a bee sting is a strong protein, hence the stinging sensation. To neutralise the stinging use an acidic substance such as vinegar. Never grip the sting sac between your fingers to pull it out – you only squeeze more poison in. Use a sharp blade to scrape off the sting.