Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The bee-ginning of our urban bee adventure

We love honey. And without the Cape honey bee we would have a problem in our garden. We have heard scary reports over the years of bees dying in droves due to chemical farming and cell phones! We all know that bees and other pollinators make most of our vegetables.  Without bees there would be a whole lot less variety of fruits and veggies on our plates. So we need bees...and right now bees need us.

Honey on spelt, blueberry and banana breakfast pancakes
More recently there was a news article about honey being imported into South Africa that may not be honey at all actually! Most shop bought honey is ultra filtered and heated which leaves you with none of the pollen and natural healthy honey properties. Asian honey was dumped into the South African market a couple of years back too, and this Chinese honey contained lead, antibiotics and other toxins. There has also been a recent scare just over the mountain of AFB (American Foulbrood) which is extremely contagious and the only cure is destroying the hive and all beekeeping equipment. AFB is also said to be in our country due to imported honey.

Garden fresh berries on this muesli with honey to sweeten
So it has taken some convincing of Superman, but we are getting bees. Urban beekeeping is a growing industry with many folk choosing to keep their own hives in their yards and harvest honey for their families. There are others who keep loads of hives (I know a chap who has 7) and sell their honey to their neighbourhood.

Then there are people like my new friend Lian who is a first generation beekeeper and is building his swarms around Cape Town using people like me to help him. See, I am allergic to bees. Badly. But I garden next to them all the time and am not afraid of these guys as they go about their business. I just don't make them feel threatened at all. But I cannot risk working directly with the hives...and this is where Lian comes in.

He puts two hives in your garden - one is yours and one is his. He will tend them, monitor, feed (if necessary) and collect honey from them for you for an initial set up cost of R1 000.00. When its time to take honey, he gives you honey from your hive and he takes the honey from the other. This honey he sells at the Tokai Forest Market on Saturdays along with his other farm sources.

Last week he came by to see where he could put down some hives and settled on a cool out of the way area behind our garage. I had wanted the hives in the veggie garden but as it is full of people and pet traffic he felt it would be better out of the way. Today he returned with 4 hives.

The alley behind our garage freshly cleaned out

He explained that bees should naturally find their way to the hives he has put out. There are 4 here now, only two will stay in the long term. We have bees visiting the trees around us (Japanese Pepper and Eugenia) already and they love the rocket, coriander and celery flowers in the garden too, so perhaps some little scout bee will come and find these hives and tell his buddies that there is a nice new home waiting for them!?!
Ready and waiting for inhabitants

And because I am running low on honey at the moment I asked Lian to bring me some of his varieties and I was  astounded by the differences in colour between the honeys. Even the viscosity was different. Teaspoons were on the ready to try them all out.

(Left to right) Orange Blossom Honey, West Coast Fynbos, local Fynbos and Eucalyptus honey.

So here we step out into an urban beekeeping adventure...quite exciting actually :)


Unknown said...

So awesome! I can't wait to get my own hives one day. So chuffed to have found your blog!

Unknown said...

Is it legal to keep bees within 50 meters of yours neighbors?
I would love to keep bees but according to my municipality you have get permissions from your neighbors.

Urban Homestead South Africa said...

Hi Belinda, I also was told this, but there are no municipal bylaws about it an also a huge misunderstanding of bees behaviour and movement. They are around us all the time and leave the hive in the morning, return in evening and as long as no one bothers them they are quite happy to be left alone. Its when kids mess with hives that there are problems.