Easy steps can restore buzz to SA's bees

24 July 2017 - 07:22
By TANYA FARBER
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock File photo.

If you build it, they will come.

A group of scientists has discovered that two simple interventions can have a massive impact on attracting bees to agricultural areas, where crops are waiting for these "agents of pollination" to do their thing.

Bee colonies around the world have declined between 30% and 70% over the past few years as a result of pesticides, land-clearing, climate change and disease.

But two simple interventions - having more flowering plants in the target area and building nesting aids - can restore bee populations.

The scientists, Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter and fellow researchers from the University of W├╝rzburg in Germany, built the nesting aids from "short bundles of reed in which the insects can lay their eggs".

They also created "flower-rich areas near the nesting sites" because "flowers are the only food resource of wild bees".

They found that "when enough nesting sites and flowering plants are available", wild bees can reproduce rapidly.

Steffan-Dewenter said: "Our work has shown that comparably simple measures have had a positive impact on the number and diversity of insect pollinators.''

In South Africa, "declining bee colonies are putting an industry worth R20-billion at risk", says the University of the Witwatersrand.

This includes the Western Cape's fruit industry, "which has 77800ha of fruit farms" in a province that "has lost more than 40% of its bees".