Smallholders need no reminding of the vital role played by bees in the environment. Today is designated by the United Nations as World Bee Day ~ but we would say that every day should be bee day.

Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities.

Pollination is, however, a fundamental process for the survival of our ecosystems. Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land. Not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity.

We should stand in awe of the highly complex and sophisticated system in which bees live.

What can we do on our plots to create a healthy environment for bees?

We can ensure that there is a diverse range of plants, preferably indigenous, which flower at different times of the year, not only in our garden but in our fields where wild flowers can be encouraged. Bees rely on a wide variety of both indigenous and exotic forage. And don’t forget that flowering weeds are very important food sources for bees.

Honeybees see most of the colours that we can see, although they don’t discriminate amongst shades of red very well. However, they can see ultraviolet. We are told that bees prefer violet, blue, white and yellow flowers.

They are also attracted by strong, sweet scents.

We should avoid pesticides, fungicides or herbicides on our smallholdings.

If you are lucky enough to have a wild bee colony, offer it protection if it is safe for the people and animals on your land.

With winter coming on we should make a bee water fountain by leaving a water bowl outside.

Preserving the veld and tree ecosystems will help to sustain bees.

We should all raise awareness around us by sharing this information within our communities and networks. The decline of bees affects us all!

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