For many the idea of a beekeeper is someone that keeps some bees on a farm or elsewhere. That's correct! What we have learned is that many people are not aware of how a commercial beekeeping operation works. The reason why commercial beekeepers have agreements with multiple property owners or farmers where they have apiary sites (bee hives) is because bees will not be able to pay a bond if you are thinking to buy land and use the bees as an income (it might, but will take a hundred++ years). Beekeeping operations also differ slightly depending on the area you stay and what your main focus is, eg. honey production, pollination services etc. Read further to see how we do things!
It is not for us to be the biggest operation, but to be the biggest and smartest we can be with a family size team & resources. We are one of the largest owner-operated type bee farms/apiaries in South Africa. Owner- operated means: We proudly do all the yearly hard, dirty, shitty tasks ourselves or work with the few that help us (we actively make a point of not shying away from any physical labour as is the norm for many).
We still want to farm and actively have to choose not to follow the trend of becoming just another office farmer (so boring) by continuously adapting our strategies. Our operation is nothing like large overseas beekeeping empires, but a more complete bee farming entity, which focuses not only on the commercial side but also on a few other aspects of beekeeping-related avenues which comes from a deep-rooted desire to plough something back to others.
The 4 main branches to our operation:
This is by far our back bone that keeps all things together. Without this we would have to use many other avenues to keep going. Most of our time is spent doing work that is related to this. Once again, what we have learnt from the consumer is that they think you only take the honey from the bees and that is all you do. Well, then a dairy also only milk the cow and that's all they do. No, there is much more. Further down on this page we have a little wider explanation of this side of the operation.
Bottling of our produce
We've been doing this right from the starting years. Our bottling is slowly expanding and we are working on new basic products. This gives us an indirect connection to the consumer where we do our best with what we have to supply to them. We are not focused on many products, but rather keep things simple and of high quality. To mention a fact is that we could easily make 100+ bee products and even cleverly market these, but the consumer doesn't need all this stuff, really!! Bottling etc. comes with it's many entanglements, but we manage to find ways to keep things rather simple. You can read more on our WHOLESALE page.
At Apiarista we connect directly with people. Our heart behind this is to bring the consumer to the farm to make them more aware of all that bees offer and see the processing / production side of things. This is a humble, growing shop positioned in a tranquil, rustic farm atmosphere. A place where we and the coffee welcome everyone. Future additions is also a working project... growing slowly. We also sell a full range of beekeeping equipment. You can read more about our farm shop Apiarista HERE.
This is our latest branch of the entity and are developing more ideas here. With an educational farm yard experience and tours already operational, we are also working on other farm yard educational activities and a online educational article section - all to be kept very basic to convey the essentials things. We don't keep our selves busy with highly complicated things and believe simplicity's reward is sometimes more time for yourself and others.
Farming work have a common seasonal way of doing things. Working with the four seasons every year gives a new meaning to patience through doing what is required in faith with no spectators, only to see the outcome much later and keeping us humble... on our knees.
MID WINTER (pre-season)
Our pre-season starts just after mid-year winter time when bee hives, that are needed for pollination services in spring, are gathered and moved to winter flowering vegetation or commercial crops.
Hives are transported to various locations and some go as far as a 500 km journey from home. This move results in the numbers of bees increasing during the course of their stay, making them ready for spring and early summer pollination services.
LATE WINTER (the start of our main season, August)
Before spring arrives, all hives are moved to the best possible areas to gain maximally from the bees in spring. This will either be pollinating soft fruit, seed crops, citrus, or placing them on indigenous flora food sources.Production hives are also checked for any disease so that they have the best conditions to produce.
During this time of the year our operations circle is very wide in distance and the spectrum of flora covered. Some bees are contracted out for pollination needs or used on other crops/organic flora for honey production.
Hives are taken off early pollination crops and moved to summer/autumn positions to strengthen up after the exhausting effects of pollination services. Bees do not gather much honey or good pollen during pollination work, resulting in the colony becoming weaker.
Also, hives needed for summer pollinating crops are moved to their locations, while harvesting of honey has also started taking place in various areas where hives have been placed to gain from spring nectar- producing flowers.
Pollination is still ongoing at this stage but coming to an end as summer flowers are starting to show signs of buds. Bees still get moved to best possible positions coming from pollination. High heat conditions are a problem during some nights to move bees. Harvesting of honey taking place also on areas with a late spring bloom.
Bees are now all back in their permanent locations to gain some strength after pollination while the honey-producing colonies are hopefully gathering summer honey. Honey is harvested on areas that had a summer bloom and ideas start slowly forming on how to farm better in our next season.
AUTUMN (the end of our main season, May)
The last of the honey is harvested and hives are being prepared to go into winter time. Our season of working with the bees now mostly ends. This is also an exciting time where new ideas are now shaped and looked into as to whether they will be viable to be designed, manufactured and implemented during the off season.
WINTER (post season)
Checkup routines are done to ensure that hives are safe from pest animals/vandalism/theft and disease.
Our wood workshop is now singing some tunes as the wood gets cut into various parts to make new beehives and also repairing old ones. General yard work/improvements/vehicle repairs also get done for the next season. In general, winter is more the off-time where things are a bit more relaxed and also allowing more time to sow back to others.
Working hives through late summer, taking honey and do some inspections.
Migrating hives: as fast as it gets, engine temp good, the night has only started, but 1st coffee stop is around the corner... happy trucking.
Citrus orchards, good honey and also plenty thieves, a watchful time of the year.
Sweet Sweat Reward....Honey Extraction
9 O-clock view after a long night migration.
Workshop singing some deafening tunes.
VANDALISM & THEFT
Eastern cape, South Africa...you need more than endurance.
Not even the police can help us!!
My first question to myself was, "why am I writing about this real feel?" Where do I start, well let’s start at ME. The word 'ME' is a very powerful word. Me has got the ability to be strong or weak, humble or prideful, selfless or self-centered, deceitful or true. What a underestimated powerful word!
For the past decade ++, being solely reliant on nature and what it throws at you, what the world throws at you and not to mention the humble fact what you throw at yourself, I will do my best to give a short, albeit slightly incomplete insight.
World's obsession... no form of wealth can ever be our security or comforter in life.
"So you a bee farmer," Yes I answer.
"Oh, okay you must make lots of money..." No, I am always praying for honey and protection and rain and, and, and."
There is a miss conception about store prices, small scale enthusiasts vs commercial and the world's obsession with appearance. My first vehicle was bought second-hand and only 9 years and 900 000 km later, I was able to buy a new (second hand) vehicle. Another little fun fact is multiply no satellite TV and no habitual social activities by only 10 years and see to what it comes to. I am not keeping up with the Joneses (nor restrict them) and this does have advantages, but more than many times do you get told directly or indirectly as the person that hides his money behind old vehicles etc. Well, if you ever need to hide money make sure it is in my bank and it's called Heaven (PS: the bank Owner is awesome).
Giving is a calculation of how little we need.
Proudly South African I am; but the theft and vandalism, the absolute destruction of beehives seeing your hard work in pieces does affect the way I sometimes say this slogan. Other difficulties such as pest animals, drought, veld fires, crop failures and pesticides used on crops can lead to complete colony losses.
It's hard and heavy work with no easy way around. A hot day is hell in a double suite all closed up and only your sweaty burning eyes are peeking out of the veil, cold nights loading a truck is uncomfortable when migrating hives, roads are becoming ever increasingly dangerous, bee stings can be fatal and definitely not always avoidable, the lack of work ethics keeps you going in a circle of always training new people and never getting a chance to do the things that has been laid on your heart. But over the years these hundreds of theft/vandalism losses and other difficulties brought me to a better place, God I praise You!
One reward is flexibility. In one day you could be a bee farmer, vehicle mechanic, truck driver, sales rep, really any type of engineer, your own PA, arts designer and even a human resources officer. Or you could decide that today none of this is needed and you can make the day your own. You need to be a Jack of all trades if you starting from scratch with little finances. But to become Jack takes humbleness, time and many mistakes when you have no inherited farming roots and a well supported industry. I am grateful for not having much in the starting years, which led to a greater appreciation for what I have now and thankful to now know little bits about much and I am still learning.
Yes it is at times difficult. I am not sopping this up like a romantic worldly movie where butterflies are mistaken for reality that causes our minds the be subtly "conformed by the world".
But before I start feeling sorry for myself, let's for a minute think about people in slave trade working 20 hour days, 7 days a week, eating left over starch foods which is far worse off and ironically sometimes have more joy. (Remember this when things are not going our way) and I haven't even touched on their living conditions!
Q : Does ME have JOB SATISFACTION? The question that we hang around our necks and some days give way too much weight to! Once the realization manifest in you that it is not about us your focus changes from 'pity little me' to "count it all joy", because...
IT'S NOT ABOUT ME... IT IS ALL ABOUT HE, our Shepherd...
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow Me." - John 10:27
If it wasn't for the fact that I wanted to keep this specific page short and to the point then I could've written about this paragraph all night, even without coffee! "His faithfulness endures forever..."
How my Shepherd was always there even in the deepest pits (dug sometimes by myself) of my life, more than enough times have I not even acknowledged His mercy and His mighty hand of grace in situations that were only made known to me years later because of stubbornness at the time! God allowed all the ups and downs for His glory and if it wasn’t for all of this I will not have been on my knees submitting every part of this entity under Him; it took me years to finally submit, God owns this and I am merely the steward! I say thank You!
I have countless stories of His faithfulness and I really hold my breath in these times, not certain about the outcome, but certain of the God I am serving. To be honest, every year has got its breathtaking moments, I will be lying if I say this does not affect me, but in these times God always gives me vision for something new. Many times He needs to take away things to give vision to see things like He do.
How does the sheep get to know the Shepherds voice? Surrender every little part of self sufficiency under Him because you know His spirit leads you to green pastures that you cannot see yet, but on arrival you fall on your knees thankful for His faithfulness. Jesus without You, trusting in your faithfulness will make no sense to man. We don’t always have to figure out why He allows things, we are merely standing on the wrong side of the picture and He on the artist's side with a mighty paint brush, giving and taking away colour to His will. A life of submission to His will is what He wants. The price has been paid and we are all heading to eternity, but it is our choice on which side of eternity we going to spend it.
My Shepherd have always provided, He always will and gave me a normal functioning brain, able body and 10 degrees (fingers) what a blessing this is and even if we only produce one bottle of honey per year it doesn't bother us, because His provision comes in a different forms, and it always ends up being sweeter than the best honey ever tasted!
God you give and take away…and I choose to say blessed be the name of the Lord! Take me to deeper waters for Your name sake. "He is a rewarded of those who diligently seek him"
Life, it’s not easy and no promise said it would be, but He has overcome this world. A day could be anything therefore "put on the full armour of God," He wants to be in the center of your life to "seek first His Kingdom," "my flesh and heart will fail" but we abide in Him and His ocean of grace to attain the ultimate goal of a saint - the manifestation of Jesus in me by the power of Your spirit.
"Be still and know that I am God," "For He who was and is and is to come," "I will never leave you nor forsake you"