Bees are a critical part of our food cycle and with the growing publicity given to the adverse effect of diseases on many of the bee species of the world, more people are beginning to appreciate the important role they play in our gardens and in agriculture as a whole. It has often been stated that while bees are indispensable when it comes to our food security, loss of habitat and the increasing use of pesticides in agriculture are also to blame for the current plight of the honey bees.
Sadly, last year we had to have an enormous beehive removed from our roof as several members of our family are allergic to bee stings and the bees had started behaving aggressively whenever we happened to be in the garden. The apiarist was determined to find the queen bee to put in the boxes of bees which he transported to an area out of town where a large number of aloes and other wild flowers grow. In the process he collected buckets filled with honeycombs.
Bees require a diverse habitat in terms of flowering plants, which is why farmers are generally encouraged to maintain natural vegetation and flowering plants near their crop lands. Gardeners are likewise encouraged to plant a range of flowering plants to attract bees. We have always done so and in winter find that the variety of aloes are particular draw cards. Here is a bee visiting one such aloe:
A close-up view shows the pollen sacs on its legs.
Several hundred beehives were destroyed in the recent devastating fires around the areas of Knysna and at Plettenberg Bay. Not only that, but much of their forage was denuded by the fires, which meant that the surviving bees had no food. It has been heartening to read of efforts to provide new hive stands as well as pollen and nectar substitutes for feeding in the short term. I was interested too to find out that plans are afoot to plant both basil and borage – fairly quick growing plants that produce a lot of pollen and nectar.