Historical relationship of the honeybee (Apis Mellifera) and its forage; and the current state of beekeeping within South Africa

Hutton-Squire, James Peter (2014-12)

Thesis (MScConsEcol)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Apis mellifera, the honeybee, is regarded as the most crucial insect pollinator to South African agriculture as it is the only managed pollinator used in the pollination of commercial agricultural crops. Essential to sustaining managed honeybees is the supply of adequate and sustainable forage resources upon which managed honeybee colonies can forage throughout the year. In most instances agricultural pollination services are only required for a brief period of the year, and consequently managed honeybee colonies need to be sustained on a variety of alternate forage resources for the remaining months of the year. As an essential resource in maintaining managed honeybee colonies, honeybee forage can subsequently be linked to the maintenance of agricultural crop pollination. Exotic honeybee forage species have always been an important part of managed honeybee foraging patterns, however recent pressure to control exotic plant species in South Africa has put this type of honeybee forage under threat. This studies’ first aim was focused on identifying the historic honeybee forage use pattern in South Africa, thereby identifying which forage species have maintained managed beekeeping up until this point. A comprehensive literature review of the South African Bee Journal, dating back to the journals first publication in the 1910’s documented both the exotic and indigenous forage species that have sustained the beekeeper industry in the past. Significance ratings of individual species were determined according to the number of times a species was cited in the literature throughout the review period. Although indigenous species where cited in the literature, the predominately used forage species was found to be exotic, highlighting the role these species played in the development of South African beekeeping. Secondly, this study identifies and highlights the current honeybee forage usage pattern in South Africa. By means of a country wide honeybee forage questionnaire, honeybee forage usage patterns were determined based on forage species usage by beekeepers in different provincial regions. Important forage species were highlighted in each region on the basis of number of colonies using individual forage species. In addition to identifying current forage usage, this questionnaire was able to help estimate the number of managed honeybee colonies in South Africa at present, given that census data is not yet available. Even though there is currently a greater awareness and usage of indigenous forage species, it remains that the predominantly used forage source are exotic forage species. Whilst there appears to be a movement and awareness towards the use of indigenous forage species across South Africa, forage species usage patterns have not shift dramatically in the last century. In order to fulfill their foraging requirements, managed honeybee colonies remain heavily dependent on exotic species, especially that of Eucalyptus and certain agricultural crop species. The removal of Eucalyptus should thus just be done in sensitive environments, while all woodlots should be demarcated and managed to ensure continued forage availability. In turn growers of forage crops should be made aware of their contribution to provincial honeybee forage resources.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Apis mellifera, die heuningby, word beskou as die belangrikste insek bestuiwer vir kommersiële boerdery in Suid Afrika, aangesien dit die enigste bestuurde bestuiwer is wat vir kommersiële landbou-gewasse gebruik word. Die beskikbaarheid van voldoende en volhoubare voedselbronne vir bestuurde heuningby kolonies is noodsaaklik vir hul voortbestaan. Bestuiwing deur hierdie insekte is in die meeste gevalle net nodig vir ʼn kort tydperk elke jaar, dus benodig bestuurde heuningby kolonies ʼn verskeidenheid van alternatiewe voedselbronne vir die oorblywende maande. Heuningby voedselbronne is noodsaaklik vir die handhawing van heuningby kolonies, en dus kan die beskikbaarheid van hierdie bronne gekoppel word aan die onderhouding van landbougewas bestuiwing. Uitheemse heuningby voedsel spesies is belangrik vir die voortbestaan van die heuningby, maar ’n toename in uitheemse plant spesies bestuur bedreig hierdie heuningby voedselbronne. Die eerste doel van hierdie studie was om die historiese heuningby voer gebruik patrone in Suid Afrika te identifiseer, om vas te stel watter plant spesies tot nou toe belangrik was vir byboerdery. ʼn Omvattende literatuuroorsig van die South African Bee Journal, vanaf die eerste publikasie in die 1910’s, het bevestig watter inheemse en uitheemse spesies belangrik was vir die voortbestaan van byboerdery in die verlede. Betekenis gradering van individuele spesies was bepaal volgens die aantal kere wat ʼn spesies aangehaal is in die literatuur binne die oorsigtydperk. Alhoewel inheemse plant spesies aangehaal was in die literatuur, was die meerderheid van die spesies uitheems. Dit dui dus die belangrikheid van uitheemse spesies aan vir die ontwikkeling en voortbestaan van Suid Afrikaanse byboerdery. Die tweede doel van hierdie studie was om die huidige kos soek patrone van die heuningby in Suid Afrika aan te wys. Die heuningby voer gebruik patrone is bepaal deur ʼn landwye vraelys, wat die voedselbron spesies van byeboere in die verskillende provinsies ondersoek het. Belangrike voedselbron spesies in elke streek was uitgelig in terme van die aantal by kolonies wat daardie spesie gebruik. Hierdie vraelys was ook gebruik om vas te stel hoeveel bestuurde heuningby kolonies daar tans in Suid Afrika is, aangesien sensus data nog nie beskikbaar is nie. Alhoewel daar tans ʼn groter bewustheid is van die gebruik van inheemse spesies as ʼn voedselbron, word uitheemse spesies steeds die meeste gebruik. In die laaste eeu was daar nie ʼn dramatiese verskuiwing vanaf uitheemse na inheemse spesies nie, ten spyte van die toeneemde bewustheid. Ten einde hul voedsel vereistes te voldoen, bly bestuurde heuningby kolonies afhanklik van uitheemse spesies, veral Eucalyptus spesies en sekere landbou-gewasse. Eucalyptus moet net in sensitiewe omgewings verwyder word, en bebosde gebiede moet afgebaken en bestuur word om te verseker dat hul as volhoubare voedselbronne beskikbaar bly. Verder moet produsente van gewasse wat byeboere kan gebruik bewus gemaak word van hul bydrae tot die voedselbronne van bestuurde heuningbye in hul streek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/96092
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