Honey thieves strike again in KZN, kill farmer's bees

2019-06-20 19:44
Saving bee populations has become a popular conservation effort in recent years. (Gift of the Givers)

Saving bee populations has become a popular conservation effort in recent years. (Gift of the Givers)

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A prize-winning small-scale honey producer is reeling after thieves killed all of his bees and stole the honey that keeps his small business going.

"It is heartbreaking," said a devastated Guy Solomon, who won first prize for the best bottle of honey in KwaZulu-Natal at the Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg this year.

Not only did the honey thieves wipe out his swarms and break the hives, but they had also placed the jobs of the people who work at the small enterprise at risk, Solomon said.

The only reason he could think of to explain the theft was that someone needed quick money and saw the prized honey as something to sell on the side of the road.

"They roam around by moonlight," said Solomon of the bee killers and honey thieves, who have struck before. 

READ: Beekeeper back at work after kidnap ordeal: 'I don't want them to scare me'

Tell-tale signs are cigarette butts from boxes of cheap cigarettes found on the ground near the destroyed hives, which indicate attempts to smoke the bees out.

For Solomon, bee keeping and honey production started as a way of earning pocket money when he was a child.

It later became the thing that he did to earn extra money for his children's school necessities and other day-to-day expenses he would otherwise not have been able to afford.

His business grew large enough to be able to hire people, and his customers include a home for the aged in Pietermaritzburg, and bottle exchanges.

However, the theft - the second this year - may place their jobs in jeopardy, unless he can set up new hives fast.

'I might have to lay off or retrench'

"I employ about five people who work with the bees in one way or another, and they are dependent on that income," he said.

"I might have to lay off or retrench."

He and his daughter were figuring out a way to get the slow business of honey production up and running again as quickly as possible.

The link between the survival of bees, which pollinate food crops, and the long-term survival of humans, has become such a hot environmental topic that restoring hives was even made a priority in Knysna after the area was devastated by fires in 2017.

Gift of the Givers set aside R250 000 to help replace more than 300 Cape honey bee hives that were destroyed.

Solomon explained that he sourced his bees from people who call in to ask for the removal of troublesome swarms.

Instead of killing them, they are captured, and taken off to buzz around on sunny days on his property.

He added that bees were very sensitive to changes in society. Also, the plundering of a wild honey source was usually a sign that people were having problems and needed money. 

In the meantime, a friend posted on his behalf on Facebook to warn people about buying honey in plastic bags off the streets in Pietermaritzburg or the Midlands.

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