Five reasons to start beekeeping for anyone with a secluded garden; you don't want anyone in your own family, or the neighbours badly stung. The occasional sting is inevitable but that is no reason to fuss.
The first of our five reasons to start beekeeping is simply that in a struggling economy going into world-recession, each and every family needs to be thinking of ways to earn a few extra bucks on the side.
Keeping bees in your own backyard is simply one to consider. The capital outlay is relatively small and the return almost immediate. No expensive equipment is needed if you have three or less hives; quite soon though you will be wanting an extractor and a bottling tank.
A hive in the flat costs less than R1,000. All that is needed is a hammer and a pair of pliers; and a few bits and bobs. And a free Saturday afternoon when there is no ballgame on. Catching a colony is not difficult during the swarming season if you know someone living in the Karkloof, Lions River or Currie’s Post areas; that is right now but it will soon be coming to an end.
How to prepare the hive, making it attractive to passing swarms, is taught every year at open days by the KZN Bee Farmers’ Association; find them on the web. It is a group of mainly hobbyists eager to earn an extra few bucks from selling honey with a few professionals too who make their sole living mainly from pollination services.
Numerous beekeepers give short courses for a reasonable fee.
I would recommend spending a little extra and buying hives that have been hot-dipped in Waxol to preserve the wood; painting them is not sufficient, and probably more expensive in any case.
I routinely get 60 to 70 bottles annually of the very best natural honey per hive which retail these days for around R100 each; that’s not too shabby for an investment of one thousand rand.
I have wonderful memories from my childhood of firstly helping to extract the honey from the combs in our home, with many promises to clean up afterwards, not always kept. When we got to ten hives my brother and I were finally thrown out. “Get outta my kitchen!”
That meant a move to an outside storeroom that had to be adapted. My grandfather gave me my first hive when I was eleven; it’s been the very best of my many hobbies.
Depending on the age of the queen a new colony can be expected to mature within one to two years, giving you an astonishing return. Last year a newly arrived swarm gave me 14 bottles in a few months; that you cannot rely on.
How to rear young queens is one of the many courses taught by local beekeeping associations; it’s central to good management. Once the princess of the hive starts to age she is unable to lay as many eggs and the colony starts to decline; and may eventually die out.
Don’t expect to get this kind of return from your hive in the first year; it may come with an old queen. But already this season I have harvested thirty 500g bottles from a swarm I captured in 2021 with many more to come before year-end. The jacarandas in PMB and the gums in the Midlands produce superb honey.
For the other four reasons to start beekeeping you will have to come to the 2022 Honey Festival to be held on Sunday 31st of July at the Royal Showgrounds. Yours truly will be speaking on the subject with considerable passion at 11am, noon and 2pm. I am absolutely besotted with my bees!
It’s a fun day for the whole family with many talks, demonstrations and displays of honey, beekeeping equipment and mead, a fermented wine; and plenty of food. The entrance fee is R30 for adults and R15 for children; all profits go to the association which fosters sustainable beekeeping in KZN.
If you are serious about making a go of keeping bees, I would strongly recommend joining the local association. The African honeybee is a dangerous little beast; the European less so but a sting can still be fatal for some. Learning the fundamentals from the start is vitally important. There is an art and a science to be acquired so do not let me mislead you into believing that it is all plain sailing; it’s not.
South Africa needlessly imports 70% of its honey and much of it is awful; and all is irradiated.
Honey, olive oil and dairy products are the three most adulterated foods in the world; buyer beware. You could have on your table some of the very best pure, natural honey obtainable anywhere; that’s the second reason to start beekeeping.
One of the most surprising bits of research I have seen in many a year is that natural, unprocessed honey from a local beekeeper has a low GI; it hardly affects your blood glucose. However once the commercial bottlers get hold of it, everything changes.
Honey is made up of two simple sugars, glucose and fructose, and we should assume it would affect blood glucose quite dramatically; but unprocessed "uju" as the Zulus call it, does not.
Or unprocessed "honig" as the German researchers called it, does not affect blood-glucose.
Unprocessed natural honey from small beekeepers contains large amounts of pollen from literally thousands of different flowers; it has been proven to protect the prostate gland from engorgement and it is also thought to help with hay fever and even asthma.
All of the pollen has been strained out of commercial honey as it provides granules that act as seeds for granulation; the public demands clear, liquid honey, little realising the grave loss from filtering and heating.
The real reason for beekeeping actually has little to do with honey. One in three mouthfuls of our food is totally dependent on pollination by our little friends; without them we would starve.
Nut trees like almonds and macadamias would produce absolutely nothing if it wasn't for the pollination services of professional beekeepers.
Blueberries would produce zero fruit without honeybees.
Let's add one more to our five reasons to start beekeeping. Professional apiarists work extremely hard during honey flows and when their pollination services are being sought. In between they have quite long periods of rest and relaxation, and time to attend to other interests, another job, or go on extended holidays.
Bees are pets that you don't have to feed daily; they provide for you.
We live in a world that scares me; I see our children's minds being totally captured by cellphones and social media. No longer do they have any interest in hobbies like sailing, hiking and beekeeping; and a thousand others. They would spend every waking hour if we allowed them with their eyes glued to a screen; and over fifty percent of the web is focused on pornography apparently.
Make a family affair of it; add that to your five reasons to start beekeeping. It's all about the benefits of flowers and insects; and leads on directly to deep matters of the planet. Just possibly we can divert them from the suicidal path both they and Mother Earth are on.
Five reasons to start beekeeping for the family, Mother Earth and a few extra bob.
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