Beekeeping in South Africa

Beekeeping Statistics of South Africa

©Dr Tlou Masehela
Sunflower is an allergenic plant and needs insects when flowering (especially honeybees) for seed production.
The profile of beekeepers in South Africa (SA) does not differ much from the rest of the world. Less than 5% of beekeepers in SA own the land where they keep less than 5% of their bees. Beekeepers are therefore reliant on other landowners, private, state or nature reserves, to support their beekeeping activities.

Statistics about beekeeping in South Africa are limited, but in 2017 South Africa only produced around 1 500 ton of honey per annum, in comparison to around 3 000 tons 25 years ago. It has been confirmed that more than 3 000 tons of honey are imported annually, mostly from China. South African exports to other countries are almost at zero.

When compared to other Southern Hemisphere countries, South Africa seems to be less than ideal for honey production. It is estimated that up to 200 000 swarms are managed in South Africa in comparison to around 650 000 in Australia and 450 000 in New Zealand (NZ). Chile and Argentina show more or less the same figures as Australia and NZ. All four of these countries are net exporters of honey, with Argentina producing more than 70 000 tons per year.

Three Bee Disasters in South Africa

The South African beekeeping industry is currently (2017) experiencing negative growth because of three recent disasters. In the early 1990’s, the Cape Bee (Apis mellifera capensis) infiltrated the northern provinces of South Africa, where the African bee (Apis mellifera scuttelata) was normally found. It has already shown a negative impact on beekeeping in the north.

Secondly, in 1997 the ectoparasite, Varroa destructor, settled in the Western Cape and continued to spread throughout the country.

The third crisis ensued when the feared American foulbrood, a deadly bacterial disease of honey bee brood was also identified in the Cape in 2009. Bacterial spores can easily be spread between hives through beekeeping practices such as the exchange of equipment and movement of infected combs. It is expected to spread to the north within the next 5 years (2022).

Bees and Pollination

Bees are ‘famous’ for their honey (and other products) that they produce. But there has been an increasing awareness of the important service bees provide by pollinating plants....more

Bees and Pollination Requirements for Crops

Apart from registering their hives, there are certain requirements for beekeepers to provide pollination services to food crops....more

Bees and their Social Structure

Honeybees are social insects and live in large colonies. Each colony contains one fertile female (the queen) and many thousands of worker bees (sterile females), but for a few months during summer a colony will also contain a few hundred males...more

Challenges and Opportunities for Beekeepers

In South Africa, honeybees and their related products (e.g. honey, beeswax, propolis) and services (pollination for crop production) contribute over R16 billion annually (2016). This includes almost 180 000 jobs within the industry....more

The Importance of Honey Bees

Pollinators, in general, provide a wide range of benefits to humans. Our well-being depends heavily on various ecosystems and their functions. To a large extent, pollinators drive and maintain the good health of these ecosystems....more

Water for Bees

Honey bees need water for two main purposes. Firstly, water is used to dilute crystallised honey so that it can be added to brood food. Secondly, honeybees need water to cool their hive....more

What Do I Need to Start Beekeeping?

The most important thing new beekeepers in South Africa will need when starting beekeeping is knowledge. You will need to understand the specific technique to manage bees, the hive structure, the bee’s tasks, its body and how it feeds...more