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Pollination for deciduous fruit orchards is almost over, and soon hives will disappear from orchards until next year. Every year’s pollination is different. This year, with the excellent rains, the veldblomme are showing spectacularly, which often makes bees less interested in orchard blooms. And although many variables come into play during pollination, one thing growers and beekeepers do have control over is ensuring good relations with the other party.

Here are some tips to improve relations on both sides.

  • Use only colonies provided by a registered beekeeper – with the DALRRD. It’s the law.
  • Agree on pollination tariff beforehand. The current going-rate is R980.00, plus vat.
  • Stay in regular contact with your beekeeper throughout the year, and clearly indicate pollination needs and what is happening when on the farm.
  • Discuss the expectations for blossom period?
  • Indicate clearly when Dormex/restbreak is being sprayed.
  • Make sure you are getting strong hives, by conducting proper inspections. Weighing the hives is just one of the options. There are set pollination standards that need to be adhered to: see
  • If the bees are not working well, for any reason, inform the beekeeper immediately and make arrangement to bring in new colonies.
  • Make sure colonies are structurally well-placed in the orchards (see #3, 4, 5 guidelines below).
  • Keep a record of where the hives were prior to coming to your orchards.
  • Never spray pesticides during pollination – especially when the crop is in flower.
  • Don’t spray herbicide (for instance for ‘gouwsblomme’) before or during pollination. If you want to spray herbicides, do so at least two weeks prior to bringing colonies in.
  • Good pollination will be reflected in the crop yield. Colony-wise it’s all about inspecting the colonies you get for pollination. These should conform to standards.
  • Keep communication channels open before and after pollination. Check-in with grower how the crop is doing.
  • Beekeepers should check in with the growers that they work with, what their specific demands will be in five, ten years from now? Adapt pollination demand and manage expectations.
  • Work on a long-term relationship. If the farmer has marginal soils available for foraging, broker a deal that could suit both parties. Make sure that there are enough forage and water.
  • Ensure that the grower and beekeeper have a thorough and complete pollination contract to protect both parties, especially with regards to pesticide usage.

General Guidelines and Pollination Standards

  1. Colonies used for pollination must be queen-right, have at least 8 brood frames covered with bees and 4 brood frames with a brood of different stages.
  2. For most crops, colonies can be moved into the orchard or field when flowering is at approximately 10% (i.e. 10% of all flowers have already opened).
  3. Colonies should be placed in groups, preferably forming a circle to limit drifting.
  4. One site should be no more than 400m from the next. If this can’t be done, they should be placed along the edge of the orchard or field.
  5. When the colonies are placed in a line it is best to stagger them as much as possible and turn every second entrance 180°.
  6. Hives should be placed on low stands, e.g. bricks, to provide some protection against soil moisture and rainwater.
  7. In areas where honey badgers are a problem, the stands must be at least 1 m high.
  8. The colonies must be protected against ants.
  9. If there are competitive bee-plants in or near the orchard, increase the number of colonies, or if possible remove the plants.
  10. Supplying fresh water is essential throughout the year because in winter there may be a shortage of natural water and in summer the colonies are hot and need more water to maintain the required humidity and temperature for brood rearing.

Information provided by Tlou Masehela, Johan van As and Mike Allsopp.

DOWNLOAD the latest Pollinator Charter 2020 here: pollinator-charter-final_2020

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