Saturday, February 27, 2010

Garden Club News

- Colin Bower –

A taste of honey

As a school boy at Rondebosch Boys’ High, Peter Lawson would spend his break time down at the edge of the sports fields where someone had erected a few bee hives. And he watched in fascination as all of those thousands of little insects worked industriously every day to produce food. And he said to himself: “You know what? They do all that work for no pay. I want bees to work for me”. And so began a lifelong vocation of working with bees, and collecting and bottling honey.

Members of the Prince Albert Garden Club heard this anecdote from Peter at a talk he gave in the Jans Rautenbach Schouwburg on a hot afternoon in February. Peter and his wife Elizabeth farm in the Leeu-Gamka area, and are well-known in Prince Albert for their Karoo Gold branded honeys. On the afternoon in question, Peter suffered a flat tyre on his way through to Prince Albert, but Elizabeth was on hand to introduce the delightful subject of bees, bee-keeping and honey prior to Peter’s delayed arrival. She told the audience of the difference between monofloral honey and polyfloral honey, and explained how difficult it was to find sufficient flowering plants of a single species at just the right moment of their flowering cycle - in other words when they are producing nectar - to create a big enough harvest for bees to make the monofloral honey that the Lawsons specialise in.

Peter arrived in due course, and in his presentation he explained to the audience that there is something like an east-west line across South Africa, passing through Beaufort West. North of that line we have the black scuttelata bee, also known as the African bee, feared world-wide as a killer, and south of it the yellow capensis. I detected a distinct sense of pride in the audience that we in Prince Albert should be the home of the far superior capensis, which is not infamous for its murderous qualities, but instead well-regarded for the unique ability of its unfertilized workers to lay fertilized eggs, without having been mated, and thus reproduce a queen bee. You just have to admit it, the Cape just always comes out on top.

A property of honey which is not generally known is its tremendous efficiency as an antibiotic as it kills virtually allandbeen used as a first aid treatment for burns, where it has the virtue of providing a non-stick dressing. It finds a most appropriate application should you have a small cut on the tongue, for instance. We also learned that pollen provides protein to feed the larvae, while nectar, which turns into honey after being partially digested by the bees, is a carbohydrate. Eat some, advised Peter, when you have an energy lapse, and it will hit your blood stream within five minutes.

The presentation was finished off with a honey tasting. Oh well, much sweeter than wine anyway.

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