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Nelson Mandela University recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement with bee industry role players to not only ensure the conservation of healthy bee colonies but also to benefit from floral pollination and the resulting seed distribution in sensitive ecosystems.

Honey bee colonies worldwide are under threat by urbanisation, pesticides and disease.  Without these avid pollinators, the fruit and vegetable industries would collapse, leading to eventual food scarcity, says Elana Storm Senior Manager Horticulture Department who works together with the University’s nature reserve ranger Craig Breedt, on this project. 

Apart from conservation, unfortunately, ageing infrastructure leads to swarming bee colonies building hives in wall cavities in buildings.  These are not only costly to remove but sometimes impossible without severely damaging the structures themselves.

“We felt it would be worth trying out a ‘catch box’ system to lure swarming colonies away from infrastructure by providing easy access to bee boxes.  Once the swarm has settled in the bee box, the box is removed by the relevant apiarist, and immediately replaced with an empty baited box to invite new colonies, says Elana.

Due to the cost of the process, the University reverted to an MOA, to ensure that hives are regularly moved, and replaced with empty trap boxes, thus there is no outlay for the University.

The increase in University students has highlighted the need for food security, and financially sustainable objectives for the University has led to the exploration of this project.  The ultimate idea for the honey bee project is that the potential of third-stream income can be explored.  A win for the environment and ultimately a win for the University, according to Elana and Craig.

The boxes are sited mostly on high access roofs, away from windows and doorways.  These are placed on abandoned infrastructure wherever possible.  In the interest of healthy seed production in the nature reserve, a few bee boxes have also been placed in isolated areas where the likelihood of human interference is minimal.

For safety, all boxes are clearly marked, to indicate bee activity together with a warning to avoid the area.

Contact information
Mrs Elana Storm
Manager: Horticulture
Tel: 27 41 504 2476