Another day of saving the bees

Ronald Steenberg from Riverside Bee's urges locals to rather pay a specialist to remove bees before trying to take matters in their own hands. It could be the difference between saving a bee or saving their own life. PHOTO: Gypseenia Lion

It is busy bee season and there is a buzz in Bloemfontein, which is why their keepers are urging locals to stay away to avoid the worst from happening.

Imagine the harmonious buzzing sound of bees at work, either looking for a queen to follow or just migrating throughout the City of Roses, from hive to hive, in search of a plant to pollinate. This could be in your backyard or on a farm east of Bloemfontein, managed by beekeeper and bee removal specialist, Ronald Steenberg, from Riverside Bee’s.

Ronald and Zenobie Steenberg at the bee farm, geared up to give Bloemfontein Courant a demonstration of how they inspect their hives. PHOTO: Gypseenia Lion

“For three seasons the bees are very busy, but especially this season because of last summer’s rain. It was flooding in many places, the soil is still moist and the trees are blooming like mad, because of that, their [bee] hives are getting full and they [the bees] want to expand and they can’t,” he says.

As a result, the bees leave their hives with the old queen bee and leave a new queen behind with the old nest. Standing in the middle of thousands of bees, Steenberg calmly explains the process of removing bees after a call-out while his daughter and assistant, Zenobie Steenberg, smokes the hives to calm the busy bees down.

PHOTO: Gypseenia Lion

On occasion, it’s a four-week process with a bee vacuum that takes out an estimated 99% of the bees in the swarm. Bees can hang on a tree branch or the side of a wall for roughly three days. Once the removal is done, the bees are taken to the farm where the honey is harvested roughly every second week, keeping the worker bees working and confined in a safer location.

Kenneth Nel at The Bee Shop. Photo: Gypseenia Lion

Kenneth Nel from The Bee Shop in Bloemfontein, says that people should take precautions when dealing with bees they find on their premises by calling a professional to assist, instead of taking matters into their own hands. “People tend to be very afraid of them. They are not aggressive or dangerous at this point. Do not poison them. If you poison them they will sting you,” he warns.

He further narrates a story about a man in Johannesburg who died while mixing poison.

Locally, he adds, the calls for removals range from nine calls a day but to their disappointment, people are not willing to pay and they opt for using pesticides that can lead to detrimental outcomes.

“We did a removal for 9 hours and the people said that we are getting the bees for free, but it is not a guarantee that the bees are going to stay. It is hours, it is time and petrol,” Kenneth says.

Frederick Hattingh’s products made from raw honey. PHOTO: Gypseenia Lion

Frederick Hattingh, beekeeper and soldier, has been in the bee business for over a year and is well on his way to be a master in making products from raw honey and bee farming. From honey, lip balms and even making shoe polish for his fellow soldiers.

Frederick Hattingh. PHOTO: Gypseenia Lion


“Some people regard bees as pests but this small insect can produce a lot. In Bloemfontein, this time of the year, there are a lot of swarms that are looking for new places. So, for a beekeeper there is a lot of growth,” he says.

“People should please not kill bees,” Nel also concludes.




Gypseenia Lion