Insect, birds, bats and other animals serve as pollinators while they forage for their own survival, consequently providing a free ecosystem service upon which we depend. Concerns over declines in pollinator populations led to studies being undertaken in 7 developing countries as part of the “GEF/UNEP/FAO Global Pollination Project”, which took place from 2011 to 2015.
Findings from the studies of monitoring pollinators in three agricultural crops (apples, onion seed and oil sunflowers) in South Africa show that the honey bee (Apis mellifera capensis in the winter rainfall region, and Apis mellifera scutellata in the summer rainfall region) are the most important crop pollinators. Most of the farmers rely on honey bees to ensure adequate pollination, and usually pay beekeepers to provide the bees, as they are aware that deficits in yield or quality can be prevented through the use of managed honey bee pollinators.
As South Africa’s honey bees are indigenous and an integral part of our biodiversity, SANBI decided to take the research one step further and investigate the resources underpinning the managed honey bee industry. According to researchers, a lack of good quality and variety of forage (consisting of nectar for carbohydrates and pollen for protein) can lead to unhealthy honey bee colonies that are more vulnerable to pests and diseases. This, in turn, can lead to insufficient pollination of our important agricultural crop flowers, leading to decreased yield or quality of the food crop. The Honeybee Forage Project, a project funded by the Working for Water Programme, Department of Environmental Affairs and implemented by SANBI and the Agricultural Research Council, was therefore undertaken and showed that eucalyptus trees, certain crops such as sunflower, citrus and canola, indigenous trees and shrubs, flowering plants in suburban gardens and even roadside wildflowers or weeds are all critically important to South Africa’s indigenous honey bees.
The outputs of these projects are all available for download below:
Academic papers and theses produced through the project:
Useful information for landowners and researchers:
Use this LUCID Key to African Bee Genera as an online tool to help identify bees (you will need Java on your machine to make use of this online tool).
Join the Mendeley group for the African Pollinator Initiative to network with others that are interested in pollination and pollinators.
Booklet: Gums & Bees – A roadmap for landowners in South Africa (Please note that while every effort has been taken to make sure this booklet contains accurate advice about which eucalypts in which circumstances need to be controlled as per the NEMBA AIS Regulations, it is advisable that you consult an expert.)
Lists of bee-friendly plants:
Beeplants of South Africa book: “Beeplants of South Africa” is a review of plants utilised by honey bees in the region, authored by Mr Martin Johannsmeier. Data in the book shows a “bee plant value” for each plant species that gives an indication of how valuable the species are as honey bee forage. The book also contains additional information such as the flowering times of species, its common name, its morphology, its distribution and origin. Colour photographs of the main honey plants, as well as some representatives of important beeplant groups, are provided as a first step in plant identification. The book (ISBN 978-1-928224-17-4) is available in hardcover A4. Price: R450.00. It can be purchased from the SANBI Bookshop or downloaded here.
Case Studies/ Profiles
Many farmers and beekeepers in South Africa undertake innovative practices relating to pollination issues, and it is unfortunate that we cannot profile more. We hope that the profiles/ case studies that we have chosen to present here are understood as being just some of the many interesting practices that could inspire discussion and consideration, and not as the championing of any particular practice or person.
Capacity Building materials:
- Booklet – Pollinators in Africa: Understanding is the first step to protecting
- Poster – Pollinators of South African Crops (full-size for print version available on request from Carol Poole)
- Poster – Honeybee Forage as an Ecosystem Service InfoGraphic (full-size print version also available from Carol Poole)
- Film and association materials for facilitators and educators
- The Buzz for Food film (long version)
- Introduction to materials for facilitators and educators
- Facilitators’ Guide
- Educators’ Toolkit Instructions
- Educators’ Q&A examples
- Educators’ PowerPoints
- Educators’ Activities
- The Buzz for Food (shortened version via YouTube)
For any further information about the projects, please contact: Carol Poole
Kirstenbosch Research Centre (Cape Town)