The beauty of bee keeping

F is for Fearless February! Dare to do something different and come buzz on the wild side with Life is a Garden as we explore the beauty of beekeeping. Whether you live on a plot or farm, townhouse or flat – the enchanting world of beehives, honey extraction, bee courses and baked goods are all available to you. Here’s the basics to get you going. 

 

Beekeeping has a few rules 

Before we fly on, there are specific by-laws for beekeeping stipulated by the Metropolitan Municipality Public Health. You can’t own a hive on your balcony in the suburbs, for example, but you can go on an epic beekeeping course and tend to a hive away from home. For our plot and farm dwellers to have sufficient space, here is a brief overview of the current laws:

  • No person may keep bees on any premises unless that person is the holder of a permit authorizing that activity and every beehive is situated –
  • A minimum of five metres from any boundary of the premises.
  • A minimum of twenty metres from any public place or building used for human habitation or from any place used for the keeping of animals.
  • The bees are kept in an approved beehive and the beehive is kept in an area inaccessible to children and animals, kept in the shade at all times, and supplied with a source of drinking water within five metres of the hive.

 

It is important for beekeepers to register with The South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) so that your set-up is in accordance with the regulation standards. This is to ensure all bees live a happy life and to prevent accidents or injuries to your neighbours. Now that we’re all clued up, let’s look into the benefits of starting a beehive and what treasures could be yours! 

Try this: If you can’t meet the beekeeping regulations but still want to be part of the magic, join a beekeeping training course that still gives you all the benefits of the experience. Learn how to understand bee language, harvest honey, and get thrilling hands-on experience in the field. Take a look at some of these gems around SA: 

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Tools and treasures 

  • Your journey begins with the right education! There are stunning beginner beekeeping courses around SA to indulge in. These courses offer a hands-on experience where all tools, suits, and hives are provided for you to get the best practical experience. These courses can be done with friends too – how fun! Is there a green finger birthday coming up?
  • Basic tools and equipment include a beehive box, a colony, a bee queen, a bee suit, a bee brush, and a smoker.
  • Treat yourself and your family to the treasures of your hive by investing in honey extraction equipment. This opens a whole world of honey bliss – from making your own skincare products to delicious baked goods.
  • Have you ever tried raw honeycomb? What is it? Honeycomb is a natural product made by our honeybees to store honey and pollen or house their babies. It consists of a series of hexagonal cells constructed from beeswax, which generally contain raw honey. Loaded with incredible nutrients and simply divine to eat, honeycomb is a royal treat! 

Did you know? You can purchase a queen bee and colony to easily begin your beekeeping journey. 

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Blooms for bees 

So, you’re looking to start a hive or contribute to one? Ready to support our country’s food chain and add to your garden’s wildlife? Planting blooms for bees makes you an essential service part of the beehive process. After all, one in every three mouthfuls of food is because of bee crop pollination – how’s that for some perspective. 

Research suggests that bees prefer blue, purple, and yellow flowers. Although, there are exceptions, such as orange Aloe flowers, and the white flowers of the White Pear (Apodytes dimidiata). Bees also tend to favour flowers that stand out from their surroundings, are planted in blocks of colour, or are available in a large group. This means that they can harvest more pollen and nectar without using up too much energy searching for flowers. It’s important that the hard-working honeybees reserve enough energy to get back to the hive. Always have a freshwater source nearby and plant the following plants according to your region and growing season (ask your GCA Garden Centre assistant for advice on which plants to grow where and when).

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  • Acacia species, particularly Acacia karroo (= Vachellia karroo) – Sweet Thorn (tree)
  • Agathosma ovata and cultivars – Buchu (perennial)
  • Anchusa capensis
  • Aloe species, esp. Aloe marlothii – Aloe ferox – Bitter Aloe (large succulent)
  • Anisodontea “Classic Cerise” - Pink Mallow
  • Apodytes dimidiata – White Pear (tree)
  • Buddleja saligna – False Olive (tree / large shrub)
  • Buddleja salviifolia – Sagewood (tree / large shrub)
  • Bulbine natalensis – Broad-leaved Bulbine (succulent perennial)
  • Bulbine frutescens – Stalked Bulbine (succulent perennial)
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  • Combretum erythrophyllum – River Bushwillow (tree)
  • Combretum krausii – Forest Bushwillow (tree)
  • Crassula capitella 'Camp Fire' – Campfire Crassula (succulent perennial)
  • Crassula Morgan's beauty (succulent perennial)
  • Crassula multicava 'Purple' – Fairy Crassula (succulent perennial)
  • Cunonia capensis – Red Alder (tree)
  • Delosperma tradescantioides (succulent groundcover)
  • Delosperma versicolor (succulent groundcover)
  • Drosanthemum hispidum
  • Eriocephalus africanus – Wild Rosemary (shrub)
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gardening, beekeeping, South Africa, sustainable gardening, organic gardening, urban beekeeping, native plants, pollinators, bee-friendly garden, honeybees, bee conservation, gardening tips, South African flora, beekeeping practices, backyard beekeeping, biodiversity, eco-friendly gardening, indigenous plants, garden design, honey production, bee colonies, bee health, beekeeping guide, pollinator-friendly plants, South African climate, gardening techniques, bee-friendly crops, pest control in gardening, local honey, beekeeping for beginners, African bees, garden maintenance, flowering plants, bee habitat, garden biodiversity, sustainable agriculture
  • Freylinia tropica 'Blue' – Blue Honeybell Bush (shrub)
  • Gazania rigens var. leucolaena – trailing Gazania (groundcover)
  • Halleria lucida – Tree Fuschia (tree)
  • Justicia petiolaris – Blue Justicia (shrub)
  • Melianthus comosus – Feather Touch-me-not (shrub)
  • Nymphoides indica – Blue Water Lily (water plant)
  • Oscularia lunata (succulent groundcover)
  • Rothmannia globosa – September Bells (tree)
  • Scabiosa africana – Cape Scabious (perennial groundcover)
  • Scabiosa columbaria – Wild Scabiosa (perennial groundcover)
  • Scadoxus puniceus (including Tall Natal Form) – Paint Brush (Bulb)
  • Senecio barbetonicus – Succulent Bush Senecio (Succulent Shrub)
  • Tetradenia riparia – Ginger Bush / Misty Plume Bush (Shrub)
  • Zantedeschia aethiopica – Arum Lily (Bulb / Rhizome)
  • Ziziphus mucronata – Buffalo Thorn (tree)
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gardening, beekeeping, South Africa, sustainable gardening, organic gardening, urban beekeeping, native plants, pollinators, bee-friendly garden, honeybees, bee conservation, gardening tips, South African flora, beekeeping practices, backyard beekeeping, biodiversity, eco-friendly gardening, indigenous plants, garden design, honey production, bee colonies, bee health, beekeeping guide, pollinator-friendly plants, South African climate, gardening techniques, bee-friendly crops, pest control in gardening, local honey, beekeeping for beginners, African bees, garden maintenance, flowering plants, bee habitat, garden biodiversity, sustainable agriculture

Try this: If you would still like to home some bees in the backyard, you are legally permitted to have a bee hotel (link), which you can purchase from your GCA Garden Centre or build yourself. These cute hotels home the solitary bee – one of 1300 species found in SA, which do not produce honey or have a queen, making them very unlikely to be aggressive or sting. These bees like their own home amongst neighbours and are still extremely important and efficient pollinators in our agricultural, natural and urban landscapes.

We hope that you enjoy the beauty of beekeeping and feel a little more informed and inspired to become part of this extraordinary lifestyle. Our friends in the field have told us that beekeeping is not just a hobby as once you get into it – oh boy, there’s a whole world of adventure, creativity, learning, and expertise ever unfolding. Life is a Garden – so make yours a sweetly buzzing experience!

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