“I am still a hobbyist” says Chris Goodman, “but I think that one of the main reasons that I started a bee sanctuary at Londolozi is to raise awareness. Londolozi’s campaign to restore Eden is a mission that will hopefully run over many hundreds of years. And bees are one of the best indicators of environmental quality. How many people know that the world is experiencing a bee crisis, also known as ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’? The United States alone has less than half the number of bee colonies today than it did in 1945.”
Chris Goodman is responsible for many of the “eco” projects behind the scenes at Londolozi, from finding sustainable ways to reduce energy usage in the village, to creating organic manures. I was surprised though to find that – for just over one year – Chris has been looking after a colony of bees, and in a couple of months, he will be harvesting his second batch of honey.
The Londolozi “Bush” Bee Sanctuary is located on the west side of the village, very close to the plant nursery. That is no accident of course. The bees help to pollinate gardener, Kenneth’s, plants and provide a nearby food source (bees acquire their protein from pollen and their carbohydrates from nectar).
The colony resides in what Chris refers to as a “fully furnished apartment”. The technical term for the box is a “Langstroth Hive” which contains a brood chamber (we like to call it the queen’s “Private Granite Suite”), and a couple of shallow supers. The super contains eight to ten frames where the wax and the honey are stored.
Apart from the honey, humans also harvest the propolis, the bee glue used as a kind of sealant in the hive. Propolis has been used for centuries in a variety of medicinal and cosmetic products, including face creams.
“It is definitely our goal to start supplementing Londolozi’s kitchen with home-made, organic honey” says Chris, “but that vision is still a way off. What I am more excited about is the prospect of never having to destroy a bee hive. In many lodges, from time to time, a bee colony will form in close proximity to guests, which puts guests at danger and can also become a nuisance. It is part of our long term vision to transplant bee hives as and when they impact the guest experience. So put the word out – the Londolozi Bush Bee Sanctuary is now open for letting! And who knows, in a couple of years’ time our guests might be able to go home with a 1926 range of honey and propolis.”
International bee expert, Marla Spivak recommends that individuals can help bee populations in their own backyards by planting bee-friendly, indigenous flowers. They should also avoid using pesticides, which can disorientate and even kill bees. Like humans, bees need access to good nutrition, and the expansion of urban spaces and crop monocultures is eliminating bee feeding grounds.
For those of you interested in finding out more about Colony Collapse Disorder, you can watch Marla Spivak’s TED talk, “Why bees are disappearing”:
One final word: although extremely nervous about visiting Londolozi’s Bush Bee Colony, I can report that Chris has never been stung, and nor was the author (our bee suits, as well as our “smoker” acted as adequate lines of defense). However, I remembered one of our earliest, blog posts, penned by Tom Imrie, in which Tom explains why bees die after stinging their victims. It’s a golden oldie – Contemplating the Bees.)
If any of our readers are bee-keepers, we would love your feedback and learnings keeping bees. We are also interested in the ongoing debate on Colony Collapse Disorder. This is a recent phenomenon and, although they have an idea, scientists are still trying to put the puzzle together.
Written & Photographed by: Ryan James