Make Beer while the Bees Visit
The global swing towards more sustainable living has made us all more aware of the delicate balance between harmful and healthful, both as individuals and as a species. Ironically, as we progress along this path, we find ourselves returning to the older, simpler ways of living in an effort to turn back the clock. We are learning to walk again, instead of driving, to waste not want not, to enjoy the simpler things in life when it comes to meal times, and to pay attention to the finer details.
Honeybees in general are one of these specifics. Mankind has enjoyed a working relationship with the honeybee for millennia, although it is only in recent times that we have recognised the full impact of this small creature on our own survival.
In traditional Xhosa and Pedi cultures, bees are regarded with great reverence. Believed to be messengers from a higher power, a visit from a colony of bees is seen as a reason to make traditional beer, slaughter a goat, and eat honey.
Not only is honey a delicious source of energy, it is also coming to the fore as an excellent antiseptic with seemingly miraculous healing powers and other health benefits, and the penny has finally dropped with regard to the vital role that bees play in the plant life cycles.
Southern and Central Africa is home to the African Honeybee (not to be confused with the aggressive Africanised Honeybee of North America), which fulfil the same role as bees throughout the world. They are similar in appearance to European honeybees, only slightly smaller. Flowers and trees depend on them to reproduce, and some species of wildlife eat bees or the honey that they produce in the wild, such as the honey badger and the carmine bee-eater.
In recent times, a life-sucking mite called the Varroa destructor has raised its ugly head in our environment, presenting an added threat to the African honeybee. This tiny parasite can wipe out an entire colony of bees in a few years, and scientists are keeping a watchful eye on bee populations in the Kruger National Park to ensure that this threat remains contained. It stands to reason that increasing urbanisation and the use of pesticides do not help the cause of the honeybee either.
Although bees are not considered endangered – yet – it is difficult to determine their numbers, and a world without bees cannot be contemplated. Ask your game ranger to explain how you can make sure that the bees in your environment enjoy a long, healthy life, and don't fret too much when they want to share your soft drink. After all where would be we without the humble bee?