Welcome to the home of the Southern African Apiculture Federation.


The S A A Federation’s goals and aims are to achieve a prosperous bee keeping industry for all who are involved, from those who do research to those who bottle honey. One of the aims of S A A Federation  for 2013 is to develop future commercial beekeepers which were previously disadvantaged because of the apartheid system.

A short history of Honey

Mead keg

Honey was mentioned as far back as 2100 BC in Sumerian and Hittite cuniform writings as well as the sacred writings of ancient Egypt, amongst others. Honey is mentioned often in Scripture too, with specific reference to ‘ The land of milk and honey’, that describes the land promised to Moses and his people, after fleeing from the Egyptians.

Blended mead

Honey was frequently used as a form of currency, and as tributes and offerings. German peasants in the 11th century paid their feudal lords with honey and bees wax, and some of the uses of honey was that it was mixed with cement. Today honey is as popular as always and besides the obvious uses in food and beverages, the wax is also found in furniture polish, as well as in medicines. By far the best use for honey is Mead, an alcoholic beverage made by mixing the honey with water and adding yeast to ferment it. Called Ambrosia, nectar of the gods by the Romans, mead was made by many cultures all over the world. Tej, a mead which is a very popular drink in Ethiopia and Eritrea, is a deceptively alcoholic drink, owing to its intense sweetness. Recipes differ and are as individual as the person making them. Often recipes are passed from mother to daughter, and the bitter quality it has is from the Gesho tree (similar to hazel), and complements the spicy food of the Ethiopians. Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, although archaeological evidence is ambiguous, its origins lost in pre-history. Mead can be regarded as the ancestor of all fermented drinks, antedating the cultivation of the soil. It is safe to assume that ever since people discovered the virtues of honey, mead was made.

Bees wax absolute

If stored correctly, honey will last indefinitely, as was discovered by the archaeologists in Egypt when they opened the tombs of the pharaohs and found honey perfectly preserved and eatable. Many people are under the impression that if honey crystalises, it has gone bad. This is not the case, honey should crystalise. Some honey will stay liquid longer, while others like canola, aloe and saligna can crystalise within a very short time, sometimes even in the hive itself. Some honey can take up to 3 years to crystalise. The mark of honey crytalising is not an unnatural process, crystalistion should always be expected. In some honey’s the taste becomes better after crystalisation.

Bees wax candles

Some South African Beekeeping History

South Africa didn’t have a history of formal beekeeping other than the robbing of natural hives for honey. It is surmised that the reason for this is because South Africa doesn’t have indigenous flora that produces reliable nectar flows and no trees for making suitable bark hives.

 [Johannsmeier, 2001: Anderson 1985]

The early European settlers to South Africa had no need for any formal beekeeping as wild honey bee nests were abundant ; the development of the formal beekeeping industry only started once the fruit industry started in the Western Cape of South Africa.

The first bee hives constructed in South Africa were made from the wooden boxes used to transport paraffin and other wooden construction material.

Modern bee keeping only started once Langstroth hives were imported from England and the first formal bee keepers association was started in Johannesburg in 1907.

In 1923 Dr A.E Lundie become the first honey bee specialist for the Department of Agriculture.

Dr Lundie encouraged and promoted the use of the Langstroth hives, as well as the use of standardised bee keeping equipment in South Africa.

From the first beekeepers association in 1907 called the South African Beekeepers Association many new associations were formed; today there are many different beekeeping associations all over South Africa.

Honey Industry

While the nectar loss affected the honey production in South Africa the fruit industry created a need for pollination services which expanded the beekeeping industry.During the 1970’s the honey industry in South Africa boomed, as the main source of the honey was from the imported Eucalyptus species. But as drought set in [common South African condition], nectar flies and immature trees, honey production became a problem and has further declined with the removal of Eucalyptus species under the water programs introduced in South Africa and other forage losses.

Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth    
(1810 – 1895)
“Father of American Beekeeping”

Andover, MA 1836 – 1847

Modern Hive 1851

Lorenzo Langstroth clarifies bee space, the 3/8 inch needed between frames for bees to build comb.

The Langstroth Movable Frame Hive is the first and most important invention in creating a commercial beekeeping industry.

Inventions Fast and Furious

Inventions fed off each other

Pre-formed wax foundation: 1857

Extractor: 1865 Francesco De Hruschka

Smokers: 1873 Moses Quimby

Queen Excluder Improved