What do bees make? If your answer is honey, you are only partially right. Bees also make wax and propolis in the hive, both commercially valuable products. Less well known, beekeepers earn income from farmers who need the bees to pollinate their crops.
If you own a Fedgroup hive, you are also earning income from these pollination services. Bees pollinate crops when they collect pollen and nectar from the flowers on the crop. The more flowers that are pollinated on a plant, the more fruits or seeds the farmer will harvest from the crop. It makes sense that farmers want as many bees as possible to be on their farm when their crops are flowering. To do this, they pay to hire hives. The hives are moved on trucks, according to the crop cycle. Care is taken by the beekeepers to check the health of the bees, particularly the queen, with younger queen bees being used for crops that generate more honey than others.
There is no standard rate for pollination services in South Africa. Farmers pay different rates depending on which crop they are growing. The price depends on how valuable the pollination is to the farmer and how much honey the bees are able to make with a particular crop. For example, macadamia farmers up north pay as little as R300 per swarm for three months, while blueberry farmers in the same region pay as much as R1 100 per swarm for 14 days. Certain crops such as canola and citrus enable the bees to make so much honey that the farmer pays nothing for the service. Other crops such as onions and pears make less honey so the farmer must compensate the beekeeper by paying more. In general, beekeepers in South Africa move their hives to help pollinate avocados, onions, sunflowers, macadamia nuts, canola, citrus and blueberries. Beekeepers may also move their hives to areas of wildflowers, fynbos or eucalyptus in order to harvest honey with a particular taste.
Don’t forget you also earn income from beeswax and propolis. Beeswax is made by worker bees in the glands of their stomachs and is used to form cells for honey storage and to protect the larvae within the beehive. It is collected when honey is collected and has been used since prehistory. It was man’s first plastic, acts as a lubricant and waterproofing agent and as a polish for wood and leather. It is also used for making candles and as an ingredient in cosmetics. With so many commercial applications, there is always a market to sell beeswax.
Propolis is also known as bee glue and is made by bees mixing plant resins, wax, honey and stomach enzymes. It is used to seal unwanted open spaces in the hive. Bees not only collect nectar and pollen when foraging, but also water and tree resin. The resin is critical to the production of propolis. It is also collected from beehive frames when honey is harvested and has been used by humans for centuries due to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. It can also be used to varnish instruments such as violins and cellos, is used in propolis chewing gum, beauty products and as an ingredient in car wax.
When you own a Fedgroup hive, you benefit from all products produced in the hive.
Both beeswax and propolis are produced in lower quantities than honey and so have a higher price per kilogram than honey. Pollination service fees are variable. All sources of income have been factored into your returns. You receive income twice per annum after the harvesting of the honey, wax and propolis when all the sales of products and pollination services have been added together. Remember, your hive is still young. By the time it has matured, in about a year’s time, your hive will produce 24kg of honey every year on average for the next ten years.