Beekeeping is one of the most rewarding activities you can do, not to mention that bees are also a very interesting species. With Fairview being a farm there are many benefits for orchards that we discussed in our previous article Beehives in orchards.
In South Africa bees are under threat due to lack of pollen, poison, extreme weather conditions and urban development, hives have also been under attack by people searching for the “golden product”, honey. A way in which we can help this is by beekeeping. You will also be rewarded by the amazing honey that is being produced.
So, you are interested in becoming a beekeeper but not sure where to start? It’s suggested that you do a beekeeping course or do a lot of research with established beekeepers. There are also amazing books out there with most of the information needed. Trevor Thompson from Seaforth Farm recently gave our Farmers a talk on beekeeping and he also offers beekeeping courses.
Whilst nothing compares to hands on experience, here are a few tips on how to get started…
Setting up your beehive
This is a very important step and the hive you choose depends on whether you want your beekeeping as a business or hobby. The three main types of hives are Langstroth hives, Top Bar hives and Warré hives. You need to make sure you get your chosen hive from a reputable seller.
If the hives are not looked after or maintained properly, then the colony will leave the hive and look for a “better home” to settle.
You will need a zip-up bee suit, veil to protect your face and neck, PVC or soft leather gloves will also be needed to protect your hands, and you will need boots or wellies, to protect your feet and ankles.
The best place to get these would be from a local beekeeper or beekeeper organisation. You can order these in the form of “package bees”, which includes a queen, some workers, and a feeder. Another option is to order a “nucleus hive”, which usually include five frames of honeycomb, bees, a queen, and brood. This is a half-size colony.
What to plant
Providing a variety of flowering plants to provide forage or food for colonies at different times of the year will help your bees to flourish. Think ‘bee-friendly’ when seeking out new plants for the garden, driveway verges and orchards. Many Fairview farmers have already planted Blue Basil to their orchards as a pollinator forage.
Plants such as eucalyptus trees, crops such as sunflower or canola, indigenous trees and shrubs, flowering plants, wildflowers and wild basil are critically important for honeybees to build strong and healthy colonies.
Indigenous plants recommended by beekeepers for KwaZulu-Natal include the trees white pear, wild pomegranate, Erythrina spp., Natal bottlebrush, the tree fuchsia, forest elder, wild date palm and water berry.
Shrubs and groundcovers include agapanthus, asparagus fern, indigenous bush violets, clivia, Euryops daisy, kingfisher daisy, carpet geranium, wild banana, and bride’s bush. Aloes and vygies also are valuable nectar sources.
In a herb garden plant borage, chives, fennel, mint, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
If beekeeping is something you are interested in, then a great way to start would be to connect with Trevor Thompson and join one of his courses.