A Hive Of Activity : The Life Of A Beekeeper (vid Clip )

09 Nov 2015 11:00am

By Francois Lottering (Nampa Features Service)


For many, seeing a swarm of bees, be it in flight or simply nesting under a roof or in a tree, is a frightening sight. Be that as it may, bees are part and parcel of the environment we live in.

In fact, without bees there will be no pollination and without pollination there could be a limited supply of crops like fruit, vegetables and cereals, as well as honey. No one knows this better than Roland Graf zu Bentheim who has been catching and resettling bees since his childhood.

His main duty has been to catch and resettle bee colonies. Graf zu Bentheim is one of only a handful of beekeepers in Namibia who take it upon themselves to rather relocate, as opposed to destroying bee colonies.

Before Graf zu Bentheim relocates a colony, he prepares and safeguards the area by cordoning it off and putting up signs, indicating that there are beekeepers collecting bees, because bees may become violent if abruptly disturbed.

On the day that Nampa visited him, the eager beekeeper is preparing to extract a bee hive from under a roof of a government flat in Eros, a suburb in Windhoek. Many people flocked to the area out of curiosity to witness the activities of the man dressed in white protective clothing from head to toe.

This 'swarm' of people caused a delay in the operation because they first had to be placed at a safe distance to avoid any possible attack by bees. "According to information availed to me, at least one swarm of bees in Namibia is destroyed every week," Graf zu Bentheim tells this reporter, adding this is one of the reasons he rather catches and relocates the bees.

Talking this reporter through the operations of catching and reallocating bees, Graf zu Bentheim puts dry cow dung in a kettle-like device, sets it alight and the smoke released paralyzed the bees without harming or injuring the insects. It is during the time the hive is touched/handled that bees usually become defensive, and would do anything instinctive to protect their queen, Graf zu Bentheim explains.

As cautious as could be, Graf zu Bentheim prepares the hives to relocate the queen, and once she is safe in the new hive, the rest of the bees will follow and start to make everything comfortable again for the queen bee.

According to Wikipedia, a bee colony generally contains one queen bee, (a fertile female), seasonally up to a few thousand drone bees (or fertile males) and tens of thousands of sterile female worker bees. The colony that Graf zu Bentheim relocated to a plot outside of town, is estimated to be between 10 000 to 12 000 strong.

Colonies of such size could hold life-threatening consequences if not handled accordingly. During the transfer of this particular colony, several curious onlookers and some reporters witnessing the operation had to run for cover after some bees got agitated and started defending their territory and in the process stung some people who defied the warnings to keep a safe distance.

Sharing some advice on what to do in case of a bee attack, the beekeeper said: "Keep calm, do not panic and put your hand in front of your mouth and over your nose as a bee sting in your air ways could be fatal".

After inspecting the few marks left on this reporter's body after being stung, Graf zu Bentheim advised to put on honey from the very same nest that the bees were removed from to stop any irritation caused by the stung.

Although the application of honey eased the burning, stinging feeling, it did not help with the swelling as this reporter still suffered a swollen nose and hand for a day or two. In case a whole swarm of bees attacks you,

Graf zu Bentheim's advised to take off your shirt and cover your head and move away as fast as possible from the area. Graf zu Bentheim urged Windhoek residents not to destroy or kill any bee colonies and rather call him to relocate it. His number is 081 635 7323.