Forestry in South Africa
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September : National Honeybee Foraging Week

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11 September, 2014

National Honeybee Foraging Week

22-29 September, 2014
Celebrate Heritage Day 2014 by planting honeybee-friendly plants


Ensuring the health and survival of honeybees across South Africa is the key to the inaugural launch of National Honeybee Foraging Week (22-29 September, 2014) this year.

Supported by the South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO), South African Green Industries Council (SAGIC), South African Nursery Association (SANA), Garden Centre Association (GCA) and as well as  honeybee scientists and concerned communities across the country, the new celebration aims to showcase how every South African can play their part in ensuring the continued survival of a healthy honeybee population.

Start this spring by planting a variety of flowering plants in your garden to provide food for honeybees. Choose plants that flower at different times throughout the year to provide honeybees with a continuous supply of pollen and nectar.

Thousands of honeybee colonies are used every year to pollinate important crops across South Africa.  Our deciduous fruit industry, for example, relies on bees to pollinate blossom every spring.  After the blossom season is over, honeybees move into gardens, onto farms and along roadsides in search of pollen (protein) and nectar (carbohydrates) from flowering plants.

Forage availability and accessibility are major constraints for beekeepers in South Africa.  "A lack of good quality and variety of forage can lead to unhealthy honeybee colonies that are more susceptible to disturbances like pests and diseases. Weakened honeybee colonies are less effective in pollinating our crops", says Mike Allsopp of the Agricultural Research Council's Honeybee Research Section.

South African beekeepers need access to a variety of flowering plants to provide forage or food for their colonies at different times of the year.  A recent study undertaken by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) reveals that eucalyptus trees, certain crop species like sunflower or canola, indigenous trees and shrubs, flowering plants in suburban gardens and even roadside wildflowers are critically important in order for honeybees to build strong and healthy colonies.

The latest National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) Invasive Species Regulations which come into effect on 1 October, 2014 acknowledge the importance of gum trees (Eucalyptus species) to honeybee foraging.  In particular, the regulations make provisions for landowners wishing to demarcate their gum trees as ‘bee-foraging zones'.

"Crops that provide a high value to bees, such as canola, citrus, sunflowers and lucerne, play a significant role in the healthiness of South Africa's honeybee colonies. We also need to promote bee-friendly garden and agricultural practices, particularly in relation to agro-chemicals," says Mike Miles, Chairman of SABIO.

In the winter rainfall region, indigenous fynbos species, including ericas, proteas, buchus and mesembs, are a vital forage source for honeybees.  In the summer rainfall region, species of aloe and indigenous thorn trees such as the sweet thorn (Vachellia karoo) and buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata) make excellent forage plants.

Gardeners should ‘think bee-friendly' when seeking out new plants for the garden; and farmers must use honeybee-friendly plants when restoring dam walls, crop borders or road verges.

National Honeybee Foraging Week is an excellent time to start to encourage local communities, groups, schools and organisations to think ‘bee-friendly' when planting this spring.

Urban greening programmes, road verges, school gardens and city parks all play a vital role in increasing the amount of forage available for South Africa's honeybees. Now is the time to make decisions with honeybees in mind.

More information:
Please see the accompanying Factsheets about South Africa's honeybees, pollination, and the various types of forage that beekeepers use.

Download the following documents:

For lists of honeybee foraging plants, go to See ‘what we have achieved' page.                                                                                                                            

For more information, contact: