Western Cape beekeepers are meeting the challenge of rapid agricultural growth in the province by introducing new measures to improve and professionalize their pollination services.
With food farming soaring, and the introduction of many new crops, beekeepers are coming under enormous pressure to meet the increasing demand for managed beehives. As apex pollinators, honeybees play a crucial role in helping to maximize a crop. More and more farmers are realizing the importance of managed pollination as a necessary tool in their farming practice. Research shows that pollination also improves the quality of a crop – from its nutritional value to its shelf life.
The Western Cape Bee Association (WCBA) – which represents local beekeepers – is committed to building a close working relationship between its members and farmers who require pollination. To achieve this, the WCBA has overhauled its guidelines to ensure all its beekeepers provide pollination beehives of the highest standard. As a bare minimum, their hives need to be of a certain strength and delivered to farms in peak condition. It is in the interests of both the beekeeper and the farmer that pollinating colonies are able to perform optimally.
Beehives need to be expertly prepared to do a proper pollination job and comply with the WCBA’s new criteria. Pollination of crops is a professional service provided by beekeepers through a full understanding of the bees’ requirements. This requires beekeepers to move their bees to certain forage types, such as canola and fynbos, at an early stage, to overcome the hardships of winter. During this time, they must nurture these colonies, sometimes feeding them with sugar syrup and a protein supplement, to stimulate the queen into laying as many eggs as quickly as possible. A beehive with a strong force of foraging bees is essential to ensure successful pollination.
Honeybees crave pollen. It is their staple protein, much like meat is for some human beings. They need to feed pollen to emerging baby bees up to three thousand times a day! This heavy dependence on pollen compels honeybees to go on an endless collecting spree. In so doing, pollen catches on a honeybee’s body and passes between plants, fertilizing them. It’s why honeybee pollination is so effective.
As part of the drive to improve our pollination service, the WCBA encourages the beekeeper and farmer to enter into a formal written contract. This contract was recently revised and can be found in the members’ section of the WCBA website. WCBA also set up an inspection team to ensure farmers are receiving a professionally competent service. Requests for inspection can be obtained at www.wcba.co.za under the Pollination header.
Farmers can familiarize themselves with the complete pollination standards at www.wcba.co.za – also under the Pollination header.
(Text, prepared by WCBA. Image credit: WCBA)