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Beekeeper Working Collect Honey. Beekeeping Concept


This extract serves to unpack the intensive year-long beekeeping management required to prepare for pollination as presented at the pollination webinar on 31 May 2022.

Deciduous fruit, berry and seed plantings are expanding rapidly each year, driving the need for the beekeeping industry to expand at an even faster pace to service these industries.

Currently, an estimate of 100 052 pollination units are required for stone and pome fruit alone, and the impact of substantial growth in the berry industry cannot be over-estimated. The deciduous areas planted, amount to 54544 hectares of which 30% is stone fruit and 70% pome. Apples, pears, fresh apricots, and plums account for 82% of the total stone and pome fruit planted, the majority of which is spread around the Western and Eastern Cape. Of particular importance is the industry’s increasing reliance on pollination. The projected expansion in the deciduous fruit industry over the next five years will increase the number of pollination units needed to in excess of 110 000.  As a highly regulated and legislated export-oriented industry, it is imperative that a value-chain approach with greater awareness of environmental sustainability be followed to ensure that the best possible quality product reaches the consumer. As part of this value-chain approach, proper pollination procedures, standards and beekeeping management practices have a significant role to play in sustaining the commercial viability of the stone and pome fruit industry.

Pollination standards are very necessary to ensure that both beekeepers and producers agree on practices which are acceptable, practical, and achievable simultaneously benefitting both parties. In South Africa, only honeybees are used as commercial pollinators. Fortunately, they are adaptable and easy to manipulate and manage. Honeybees constitute about 94 – 98% of all pollinators and are well-suited to their task. Their bodies are covered in fine hairs which develop static electricity attracting pollen grains. Bees need a balanced diet of nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (proteins) and will only visit flowers for such a reward. Field bees are sent out to collect nectar and pollen which are ‘tested and analysed’ by the colony to decide upon its suitability. Some bees will forage for pollen and others for nectar. They can forage within an average radius of 3km for better sources of food, implying that they might ignore some nearby crops producing a poor quality or limited quantity of pollen and/or nectar. It becomes a challenge when moving hives between orchards within 3km since the bees will return to their previous location resulting in a loss of workforce.

Beekeepers generally work on a ’40-day’ rule in preparing the colony for pollination. It takes a worker bee around 18-20 days from the egg stage to emerge as a fully formed bee and approximately another 20 days to mature as a field bee ready for foraging. There are several stages during the honeybee life cycle when the requirement for pollen is high.

Download the full extract here: Pollination webinar

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