At first glance you may think Oakhurst is all about cows and pastures. But behind the scenes, there’s a growing population of honey bees, not only busy producing our delicious farm honey, but also playing a vital role in Oakhurst’s biodiversity drive and sustainable farming practices.
You see, there’s more to bees than the trickle of honey in your Rooibos or the glistening layer of sweetness on your toast, they provide an important helping hand in the world of agriculture through pollination, which for us results in a higher yield in plant growth, something that has a positive effect on the health of the Oakhurst herd. In a nutshell, bees are worth their weight in gold.
Bring on the bee man
Riaan van der Sandt doesn’t stress about much, he’s a tough-as-nails character, who just happens to love the art of bee keeping. It was Riaan who got the Oakhurst bees buzzing just over a year ago, when he took beekeeping up as a hobby to supplement his income as a saturation diver. That’s right, if the idea of being stuck in a bee keeping suit looks a little claustrophobic, then think of living in a dive vessel at 160 meters into the belly of the Caspian Sea off Russia…not for the faint hearted. As you can see by Riaan’s day job, he faces a challenge head on.
Building up the swarms
In a remarkably short amount of time, Riaan has built up a collection of near on 50 bee swarms, which are stored in suitable areas on a number of farms in Wilderness Heights. Currently 10 roving swarms are living in catch boxes on Oakhurst Farm.
Bee boxes aren’t new to Oakhurst, in fact the current area on the farm was set up some 30 years ago and back then housed a number of hives. Through Riaan’s research and expertise, this area has been restored and plans are afoot for a relocation of the hives to a warmer area of the farm, which can be fenced in to keep our resident honey badgers from getting to the honey before we do.
What’s inside the box?
Ever wondered what actually goes on inside the bee hive? It’s simple, this is essentially a protected environment for a swarm of bees to live in and produce honeycomb on trays slotted vertivally into the box. The comb in turn gets filled with honey. Roving swarms of bees tend to gather around a queen to protect her, providing a bee box or hive allows a swarm to be located in one area, which assists with pollination of nearby crops and the production of more honey.
The taste of success
With the Oakhurst bees in full swing, it’s time to focus on the honey. Now, as many who’ve tasted it might agree, Oakhurst honey has a distinctly smooth and milder taste than other varieties, due to the remaining bluegum trees on the farm. The bees love blue gums, the eucalyptus flowers in particular, which in turn have them producing honey that literally melts in your mouth. While blue gums are alien trees, we have tightly controlled pockets of them on the farm and intend to keep these in place near to our beekeeping area.
On your toast
With all this honey talk, it’s time for guests to get a taste of the action. The farm shop is well stocked with Oakhurt’s delicious farm honey, bottled and ready to spread onto your toast, drop into into your tea, mix into some plain yoghurt or…an old time favourite, spread thickly onto a freshly baked slice of farm bread. Whichever you choose, you’re guaranteed it’ll hit the spot. Ethically produced right here on the farm, honey doesn’t come purer than this.
A note on buying ethical honey
Many of South Africa’s supermarket shelves are unfortunately stocked with cheaper, imported honey. According to Honeybee Hero’s, a honeybee sanctuary and education centre in the Overberg, an estimated 4000 tons of honey is imported from China into SA annually. The bulk of this honey is a blend containing high levels of processed sugar as well as additives such as corn and rice sweeteners, which are filtered and heated — removing all of the antioxidants, and vitamin-rich benefits of raw honey.
Always be critical of pricing, check the labels and be aware of the detrimental effects on our local honey industry when buying these cheap imported products.