Most of us are familiar with Eucalyptus trees, but we might not know of the relationship between bees and gum trees.

The gum tree or Eucalyptus is a diverse genus of flowering trees and shrubs belonging to the myrtle family. There are no indigenous eucalypts in South Africa, but more than 85 different species were introduced from Australia.

Because they flower at various times of the year, they provide a constant and reliable flow of nectar and a source of pollen, making them most important in the survival of bees and the beekeeping industry.

Listed invasives

Many gum trees are problematic however, as they affect the environment where they grow and upset the ecological balance.

The Alien and Invasive Species Regulations list six gum trees as invaders. However, under certain circumstances you might not need to be remove them. If the gums are within cultivated land and are at least 50 metres away from untransformed or natural land (natural land may not be cleared to achieve this) they may remain there. If the gums are within 50 metres of the main house on a farm, they are exempt from removal.

Gum trees in urban areas are exempt from removal if their trunk diameter is more than 400mm at 1000mm height. You do not need to remove the trees if the gums form an existing formal plantation.

Smallholders must guard against unscrupulous contractors who claim that all gums must be removed. This is not true and the often unnecessary removal of gums can be avoided.

However, you have to remove the gums if they are along or near the banks of a river or within 32m of the edge of a lake, dam, wetland or estuary,  even if any of the above is true.

Gum trees and bees
Bees love the red flowering gum Corymbia ficifolia.

We are encouraged to look out for non-listed Red flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia), Grey ironbark (Eucalyptus paniculata), Yellow box (Eucalyptus melliodora) and Black ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) as bees love them.

To help you to identify the gums on your plot refer to the booklet published by the SA Biodiversity Institute available for download here.

Which gums are on the invasive list in SA?

The following the six gum species are on the invasive alien list:

  • River red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)
  • Spider gum (Eucalyptus conferruminata)
  • Sugar gum (Eucalyptus cladocalyx)
  • Karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor)
  • Saligna gum (Eucalyptus grandis)
  • Forest red gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis)

If you have an invasive gum tree on your property  and it forms part of a plantation, woodlot, bee-forage area, wind-row or to line avenues, you may still retain these gum trees. However, you must apply for a permit to demarcate them as Category 2 invasive species under the NEMBA AIS Regulations.

To read about other insects and trees click here and here.

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