Thousands of dead bees have been found outside their hives in the Constantia Valley region. Pictures: Brendan Ashley-Cooper.
Cape Town - Cape beekeepers are faced with a crisis as honeybees are dropping dead in their “thousands” on farms in the peninsula.

Apiarists believe the deaths could be due to suspected accidental poisoning from agricultural farmers.

Commercial bee farmers said in the past week they had noticed a large number of bees lying dead in front of their hives in the Constantia area.

Beekeepers think farmers are spraying pesticides that contain a mixture of ant poison and molasses on their crops. The sweet taste of the concoction attracts the bees who become infected and carry the poison back to their hives.

Vice-chairman of Western Cape Bee Industry Association and commercial bee farmer Brendan Ashley-Cooper said he had lost 100 hives. He has sent a sample to be tested in Cape Town’s Hearshaw and Kinnes Analytical Laboratory.

“Until we have the lab results we won’t know what the actual cause of the deaths are. But it seems that all things point to accidental poisoning. The largest number of bee deaths we have are from agriculture where farmers are misinformed by suppliers about the effects of the pesticides,” said Ashley-Cooper.

He said his bees would normally produce around 20kg of honey per hive selling at R80 a kilogram, which translated to a total of 2 tons of honey.

In the Western Cape, around 50% of commercial beekeepers’ revenue comes from pollination services, with the remaining 50% from the production of honey and other bee related products.

According to the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries there are 130000 managed colonies of bees and 1800 beekeepers on their records. About 70000 colonies are based in the Western Cape.


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Weekend Argus