World Bee Day 20 May - Without Bees We Will Not Survive

20 May 2024

When we think of bees, two things come to mind: a painful sting and sweet honey. We never think that humans and most terrestrial animals would never be able to survive without these little busy insects. Most of the food we consume and enjoy is available because of the hard work done by bees: pollinating flowers so that fruits and seeds are available for us to eat and for new plants to grow. If there were no fruit, no seeds and no plants, there would be no oxygen and without oxygen, no life as we know it.

In Namibia we should be even more thankful to bees as they do not have an easy life in this dry country. Although we have the Namib Desert in the west, the Kalahari Desert in the east and arid areas in the southern part of the country, we have, according to Namibian entomologist John Irish, 413 bee species of which 77 are endemic. The largest is a carpenter bee with a body length of 25 to 30 mm and the smallest the stingless Mopani bee of 2 mm.

All bees play an important role in pollinating flowers, but the Western Honey Bee is the best known supplier of honey in our country. People have traditionally used honey and wax without destroying wild bee colonies. The Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) was domesticated for honey production and crop pollination. Namibia has a number of beekeepers and the Beekeeping Association of Namibia’s mission is to represent and promote the interests of members and all persons involved in beekeeping in Namibia. Unfortunately, no research has been done on wild bee populations and little is known about the distribution and population dynamics of wild honey bees in Namibia and the threats they face. The MEFT tries to regulate apiculture, a very important agricultural sector that should be strictly controlled to prevent diseases, low grade products and unwanted parasites coming into the country.

Bees, especially the honey bee, have many enemies. Birds like the bee-eaters are a natural enemy because they feed on bees. The honey badger is known for his destructive behaviour when it finds an active hive and feeds on the honey and larvae. Females of the Greater Wax Moth, which was introduced from Eurasia, lay their eggs on honey combs and the caterpillars feed on wax, covering the combs with their silken galleries. Adult Death´s Head Hawkmoths are well known for raiding beehives for honey.

In a dry country like Namibia it is important that beekeepers are well trained, care for colonies and are supported by the local market. Wild bees should be protected by law.

A honey bee colony consists of workers, drones and a queen. Hundreds of workers are responsible for building the nest, collecting food and rearing the brood. On average a worker bee lives five to six weeks while the queen can live up to five years. When conditions are perfect a queen can lay up to 2500 eggs per day. Bees live in holes in trees, wood, buildings, rocks and even underground. There is still much to be discovered about our different species of wild bees in Namibia.

Text and Photos by Dirk Heinrich

Sorry, we can’t seem to find any matches for your search. Have a look at our popular searches below.