Gift of the Givers head Imtiaz Sooliman with a bee hive in Knysna. The organisation will be sponsoring the setting up of new hive stands after more than 300 were destroyed in the recent fires. Picture: Supplied

KwaZulu-Natal aid organisation Gift of the Givers has given Knysna beekeepers R250 000 to help them set up again after fires devastated the region.w

The fire took its toll on people, homes, businesses, pets, horses, livestock, economy, environment and on bees.

“More than 300 beehives were destroyed and each hive holds roughly 60 000 bees. Those bees that survived are traumatised and hungry. They are in search of a hive and forage to survive.”

The organisation pledged to rehabilitate the Cape bee populations and would sponsor the setting up of new hive stands, provide pollen and nectar substitute for feeding in the short-term and plant perennial basil and borage plants as these are rich in pollen and nectar. “We hope to rehabilitate a substantial number of bees in the long run. Our support is immediate with the first R250 000 payment being done on Monday (yesterday).”

Anyone interested in contributing to the project may contact the organisation.

The Cape honeybee, they said, was a “robust and hardworking species” managing to overcome many diseases wiping out bees in other parts of the world. “The conservation approach to beekeeping in Knysna (not feeding them sugar, ensuring their apiary sites are not overstocked and keeping them close to a variety of foraging) is thought to be responsible for their resilience.”

A National Geographic article explained that bees were paramount to food supply.

“About a third of our foods (some 100 key crops) rely on these insects, including apples, nuts, all the favourite summer fruits (like blueberries and strawberries), alfalfa (which cows eat), and guar bean (used in all kinds of products).”

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) said that while the Cape honeybee was officially classified as not threatened, they were experiencing threats, including diminishing forage resources, pests and diseases, as well as problems arising from misuse of pesticides and insecticides in the environment.

The organisation said the species was unique.

“(It) is the only honeybee in the world that can create a laying worker queen if their queen dies by accident or disease.

“She lays diploid and haploid eggs as the workers (female) and drones (male) and the female (fertilised egg) can become the queen when a special queen honey cell is created for her.”

Gift of the Givers said they were actively providing food and medical supplies to many pet shelters in Knysna, George, Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage. “We now have an additional request for horse and livestock feed. The fires aggravated the existing drought which destroyed substantial hectares of grazing land. Fortunately, farmers in the Free State have opened up their hearts and donated close to 1 600 bales of fodder to (us).”

The feed of various types, they said, came from Hertzogville, Bultfontein, Welkom, Wesselsbron and Ventersburg.

“Thus far, we have distributed 5 000 food parcels to individuals and families, provided supplies to various distribution centres and delivered a range of liquids and food items to 1 200 firemen daily.”

The Mercury