Research team visits beekeepers in Chris Hani area
Last week, a team from the Pretoria-based Agricultural Research Council (ARC) visited the Chris Hani District to inspect bee hives and collect samples of honey and pollen.
Team leader Elize Lundall-Magnuson has for many years worked with beekeepers throughout the country, providing mentoring and training courses so they can run viable businesses.
The team visited a bee business outside Tsolo, run by Sivuyile Ngudle, a graduate of the ARC training courses.
At the Eastern Cape honey competition in March, Ngudle won several prizes for his honey.
Sadly, he recently lost 27 hives to vandalism, a huge blow to his business.
The ARC team consisting of Lundall-Magnuson and Sam Mathibe (honeybee research and development) and Thabang Nkgau and Harry Boroko (bacteriology division) visited the Eastern Cape to collect honey and pollen samples from local beekeepers.
They collected samples in the OR Tambo district, from the Tsolo area in Ngudle, and from Komani where they visited local beekeepers Edrich Verster and Reg Morgan.
The team aims to look for a biocontrol agent for American Foul Brood (AFB) from the sample collection.
AFB is a new disease that attacks bee colonies and has been present in South African bee hives for more than 10 years. So far it is not widespread, except in the Western Cape.
There is no control method registered for AFB in SA. Regulations demand that if the disease is found, the hive and colony need to be burnt.
The ARC is therefore doing research funded by the national research foundation by surveying hives all over SA to see if they can find unique bacteria that could control AFB.
Research in Europe has shown there are possible bacteria that could control AFB, and they are now looking for similar types from Africa that could do the same.
The beehives that the team visited were very healthy and busy foraging (collecting pollen and nectar) from the gums and aloes in the area. The team was able to collect samples from the hives to analyse in their laboratory, and will report back to the beekeepers about the results of their survey.
After the hard work in the apiaries, all gathered at Reg and Helen Morgan’s home to taste honey from around the country and Malawi.
Then it was on to tasting mead from local honey and other parts of the country. Reg is a honey judge and Elize is training as a honey and mead judge. So it was an excellent experience to be able to taste well over 10 different types of honey and several meads.