Bee-informed about Bees

Bertus van Zyl
Bertus van Zyl

VAALWATER — Bertus Van Zyl was born and raised in the small Karoo village of Steynsburg. He answered the call of the wild and beautiful natural places and came to the Waterberg in 2001, fell in love with it and never left.
Van Zyl is currently working with the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve training nature guides and he is also involved in Sustainable Technology training and projects.
Van Zyl spoke about the importance of bees at the Waterberg Nature Conservancy meeting on Thursday afternoon, 18 February.
“Our ancestors, the Greeks, the Egyptians and the Bushmen all realised the importance of bees. This we know because of widespread pictures, paintings or scriptures about bees that were found from these eras,” van Zyl said.
80% of all our indigenous flowers are dependent on pollination from bees. Bees tend to stick to the same type of flowers year in and year out and don’t easily change to a new type. “This means that bees are crucial to the seed and flower industry and that they are specialist pollinators, much better than any other insect that is involved in pollination. It is also worthwhile to know that 71 out of each 100 food plants are pollinated by bees,” van Zyl explained.
If the pollination of flowers was to be done by human hand, the cost would be astronomical. In 2010 researchers in America calculated that the replacement value of pollination by bees is an estimated $190 billion a year.
In South Africa farmers are currently producing 1 500 tons of honey each year, however, this is not nearly enough as South Africans consume over 3 000 tons of honey per year. “Because there is a shortage of honey production in SA at the moment, the balance of honey needed has to be imported from other countries. Bees and honey production can create jobs and this should be considered by potential bee farmers,” Van Zyl said.
Why is there a decline in the number of bees around the world?
“There are a number of reasons for the decrease in bee populations globally. Dramatic climate changes are once again to blame, diseases, stress on bees to survive, colony collapse disorder and of course the big reason being poisons, pesticides and chemicals. Some scientists also suggest that bees need a diverse diet and that large mono-culture fields are also a problem for bee colonies,” Van Zyl explained.
How can we in the Waterberg help and increase bee numbers in our area?
“Each and every person can help to increase the number of bees again. Plant bee friendly plants like lavender, sage or mint. Do not use pesticides in your garden. Buy local organic foods and only SA made honey, not just honey packed in South Africa. Help to raise public awareness about the importance of bees in the circle of life. Learn to be a bee keeper or start owning your own bee hives. Do not go out of your way to kill bees, they are not out to get you, so do not kill unnecessarily.”
One bee can pollinate up to 300 flowers a year. Globally 20 000 different species of bees can be found.
To contact Bertus van Zyl about more bee information please send an email to

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