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Your Conservation - Our Focus

Bees are part of the biodiversity on which we all depend for our survival. Bees pollinate our plants, which is an essential function in the reproduction of plants and crops that humans eat. Agricultural pesticides pose an enormous threat to the survival of bees. Honeybees never sleep. An average hive has 50,000 to 60,000 worker bees.

Beekeeping is one way in which humans can protect bees. It also provides an important source of income for many rural livelihoods. For this reason, SA Hunters has embarked on a conservation initiative that has proven to be a valuable win-win project for bees and for people.

In 2020, the Pretoria-East Branch of SA Hunters partnered with the Northern Beekeeping Association (NBA) to acquire expertise to assist prospective beekeepers in rescuing unwanted swarms and managing their hives in a responsible manner. The Branch acquired 15 beehives from the NBA and donated them to four novice beekeepers in Gauteng and Northwest.

With this initiative, the bees are being conserved and protected for their essential function in pollinating plants in natural ecosystems, and for agricultural crops that are used for human consumption and animal feed. Simultaneously, the beekeepers earn a livelihood through harvesting and selling some of the honey.

Purpose

SA Hunters supports the conservation of our indigenous bee species, which are vulnerable to climate change, disease, commercial poisons, and habitat destruction.

The Association promotes bee conservation through:

  • educating and raising awareness of the nature and extent of threats to bees and steps needed to conserve and protect them
  • arranging rescue operations to translocate beehives built in undesirable places to safe spaces
  • promoting members to establish and host beehives in safe areas
  • promoting sustainable harvesting of honey

Background

Several scientific reports warn about alarming global decline in bee populations. Bees are essential for natural ecosystem functioning, and agricultural economics. Bees pollinate a wide variety of crops with significant economic implications. Almond trees, for example, almost entirely depend on bees for pollination. Without honeybees, the supply of blueberries, squash, watermelon, and other fruits would be greatly reduced, driving up prices and disrupting the marketplace.

There are about 20,000 bee species in the world, with South Africa being recognised globally as a bee diversity hotspot with nearly a 1,000 bee species, many of which are endemic to the Fynbos and Succulent Karoo biomes. However, 70% of South Africa has been poorly surveyed for bees, with no records on the status of bees in large parts of the country.

SA Hunters has embarked on a conservation initiative that has proven to be a valuable win-win project for bees and for people. In 2020, the Pretoria-East Branch of SA Hunters decided to add the conservation of pollinators to their other conservation initiatives. They partnered with the Northern Beekeeping Association (NBA) to ensure that they acquire the relevant expertise to assist prospective beekeepers in rescuing unwanted swarms and managing their hives in a responsible manner. The Branch acquired 15 beehives from the NBA and donated them to four novice beekeepers in Gauteng and Northwest.

With this initiative, the bees are being conserved and protected for their essential function in pollinating plants in natural ecosystems, and for agricultural crops that are used for human consumption and animal feed. Simultaneously, the beekeepers earn a livelihood through harvesting and selling some of the honey.

The NBA trained the novice beekeepers to manage the hives sustainably, catch or remove swarms from unwanted locations to establish new hives, and to harvest the honey responsibly. In less than two years, the four beekeepers that formed part of phase one of this initiative, expanded the initial 15 hives to over seventy managed hives.

In less than two years, the initiative has shown positive growth, albeit not without challenges to some of the new beekeepers for whom this venture was a steep learning curve.

This initiative was not only a good news story for bees but gave hope to people that had lost their jobs and were struggling financially during the 2020/21 Covid pandemic. Through the donated hives from SA Hunters and the support from NBA, some of the new beekeepers managed to generate an income that carried them through very difficult times. Together with the other novice beekeepers, this initiative is a success story about saving bees and improving the livelihoods of the people that care for them.

A percentage of the income from the bee project is re-invested to grow this initiative. Anyone that wants to participate in this initiative or donate funds to support the project, can contact the Pretoria East Branch of SA Hunters

Participation

Member involvement

  • Educate yourself about the threats to bees and reduce your impact
  • Rather phone us to relocate undesired beehives than killing them
  • Don’t use poisons that can kill bee
  • Farm and garden with nature
  • Donate funding and resources in support of the initiative
  • Actively get involved in the Sweet Success initiative with our assistance

For inquiries, contact the conservation manager.

Conservation in Action

Leon Venter of Mooinooi in Northwest, started off with four hives but was keen to expand his apiary. After completing a bee removal course, he turned his hobby into a business by removing unwanted swarms where it resulted in human-wildlife conflict. Leon relocates these swarms to empty hives that he manages in support of bee populations whilst earning a sustainable income. Leon’s apiary has grown to 45 hives.

Riekie van der Berg, one of the beekeepers in this initiative, started looking after bees when a swarm moved into an owl box in the garden. She had five hives of her own when she heard about the SA Hunters initiative to enable beekeepers. She also donated a few of her own hives to help another beekeeper to get started.

Riekie is looking after 17 hives and wants to increase her apiary to 20 hives. “As a pensioner, 20 hives are just enough to keep as a hobby and to save some bees. I love my bees and this amazing hobby more than ever!” she said. Riekie also markets the SA Hunters initiative on the honey she harvests and sells.

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