Millions of bees died after an accidental poisoning. Picture: Supplied
Cape Town - Cape honey bees produce more than just honey and have an incalculable value for a number of spin-off industries and businesses.

In addition, bee farming is one of the fastest-growing niche industries in the country.

The operations manager at Bloomable, Nicholas James, says more should be done to protect local bees and ensure food security after recent accidental poisoning killed hundreds of colonies in Constantia.

“While some flowers and plants can self-pollinate, most require the help of bees to transfer pollen from one plant to another. Honey bees move from fruit tree blossoms to flower gardens and wildflowers, pollinating food and garden plants.

“The honey bee is considered the main pollinator of many agricultural crops, which is why they’re a vital part of ensuring food security. They also help us nurture an environment that promotes biodiversity and give you the ability to have a healthy and productive garden,” he said.

James has 17 years of experience in the florist and service industries and said the loss of bees could have a knock-on effect for the flower industry.

“Although bees are by far the very best pollinators around, birds, bats and butterflies also contribute to the vital task of nurturing our ecosystem in similar ways. I am not a scientist or an ecologist, but research does indicate that dramatic loss of bee populations will have an effect on many industries, specifically agriculture.”

Beekeeper Brendan Ashley-Cooper lost 100 hives, and between one million and 1.5 million of his bees died. He said this would impact honey production to a degree, and some families would have to go without honey this Christmas.

The chairperson of the Western Cape Bee Industry Association (WCBA), Tlou Masehela, said the importance of bees was massive.

“For agriculture, in particular, the demand continues to increase in terms of commercial crop pollination. At the same time, the capacity to sustain a healthy bee population is decreasing rapidly because we are losing good forage sites,” Masehela said.

He said no concrete figures for how much revenue was generated by the industry had been calculated, but he stressed the importance of taking note that bees had just come out of pollination and most beekeepers were now targeting honey flow for the summer months.

“It is a very critical period for revenue when it comes to honey production. For those hives that were in pollination, it’s more about a recovery process for the bees. Going back to financial figures for pollination, this differs from beekeeper to beekeeper, the number of pollinations carried out and the type of crop,” he said.

The WCBA recommended a pollination tariff of R802 per pollination unit (one bee colony for a maximum of 21 days).

Weekend Argus previously reported wine farmers were using the pesticide fipronil on their crops, which infected the bees. Fipronil disrupts the insects’ central nervous system and causes hyperexcitation of the contaminated insects’ nerves and muscles, thereby killing them.

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