The third African Regional Apimondia Symposium (ARAS 2023), hosted by the SA Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO), took place at the International Convention Centre in Durban from 22 to 24 March. Apimondia is the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations and other organisations working within the apiculture sector since 1895.

The first African regional symposium was held in Arusha, Tanzania, in November 2014, and the second in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in December 2018, and stakeholders in Africa once again embraced the opportunity to come together and engage in information-sharing in Durban.

“Apimondia symposia are meant to bring stakeholders, from beekeepers, equipment manufacturers, scientists and academia, policymakers, and development partners, to honey processors and traders under one roof to exchange information, ideas, and experiences on how to develop the apiculture sector within the respective regions,” said David Mukomana, President of the Apimondia Regional Commission for Africa.

The symposium was attended by 322 bee enthusiasts, of which 30% were from outside South Africa. Besides the 229 South Africans, visitors from outside the country’s borders included apiculturists from Argentina (1), Belgium (1), Botswana (2), Burkina Faso (6), Democratic Republic of the Congo (1), Eswatini (2), Germany (1), Greece(1), Kenya (3), Lesotho (14), Malawi (9), Mozambique (13), Namibia (1), Tanzania (15), Togo (1), Turkey (2), United Arab Emirates (2), United States (2), and Zimbabwe (16).

“The Durban symposium was designed to generate a beekeeping revolution that will create a vibrant and sustainable apicultural economy on the continent,” said Kai Hichert, who co-chaired the symposium with Tumi Mobi. “The aim was to develop a value chain that ranges over the whole spectrum of beekeeping activities from subsistence beekeeping to commercial pollination of agricultural crops.”

The symposium offered an opportunity for apiculturists to share research, challenges, and commercial opportunities at workshops and roundtable discussions. In addition, the first-ever continental honey, mead, and bee products competition was held. It showed that there is ample scope for marketing these products, thereby further developing a viable industry. Seven themes were discussed, including bee biology, bee conservation, bee products, beekeeping technology, policy development, and pollination. Bee products and beekeeping in rural areas will be discussed in separate articles.

The Africa Regional Apimondia Symposium, which was presented by the South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO) in Durban from 22 to 24 March, was attended by 322 people, 30% of which hailed from elsewhere.

Bee biology

Under this theme, the ‘language’ of drones, killer pesticides, the genetics of Ethiopian bees, and the value of honeyguides were discussed.

Drone talk

Eloise Butcher of the Social Insects Research Group at the University of Pretoria discussed her research into the chemical signals in the communication of drones of Apis Mellifera Scutellata with each other and the rest of the hive. “I am interested in the role drones play within the hive as they are often overlooked or misunderstood. Investigating their communication could lead us to ask fascinating new questions involving drones,” said Eloise.

Pesky pesticides

The long and short-term effects of neonicotinoid pesticides were discussed by Gamze Ertem of the Ege Üniversitesi in Izmir, Turkey. Gamze is researching the negative effects of these pesticides on the nervous system of bees. Since the early 1990s, they have become the most widely used class of insecticide and are presently used in at least 140 products in more than 120 countries. As a result of the pesticide’s negative effect on bee colonies, prohibitions and restrictions have been imposed on their use in European Union countries.

Mead is honey wine, an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey mixed with water.

Highland bees

A presentation on the genetic diversity of Apis mellifera and beekeeping development in Ethiopia was offered by Dr Teweldemedhn Gebretinsae Hailu, whose PhD research focused on the classification and characterisation of Ethiopian honeybees. Dr Hailu and his co-researchers used integrated methods to classify and characterise the highly debated Ethiopian honeybee lineages and subspecies.

Feathered honey-hunters

David Lloyd-Jones of the University of Cape Town discussed honeyguides and honey-hunting which provides insight into wild honeybee ecology. David lives in Tanzania and is a beekeeper and ornithologist who is completing a PhD on greater honey guides and their cooperative behaviour with human honey-hunters. He spent six years doing research in Niassa Special Reserve in northern Mozambique where he collected data on thousands of wild bee colonies.

Bee products

Two papers were presented on this topic. Dr Lynne Hepplestone, a full-time small animal veterinarian at Ikhala Veterinary Clinic in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape, presented a paper on the use of honey in wound management. A series of case studies of multiple trauma patients comprising, among others, wounds from vehicle accidents, bite wounds, toxic tick and spider bites, tissue necrolysis, injuries caused by wire snares, and domestic accidents, were successfully treated with honey.

Makhosi Lepheana of the National University of Lesotho in Maseru, Lesotho, presented a paper on the physiochemical elements of honey from the three agroecological zones, namely lowlands, foothills, and the mountains of the country, as well as a comparison to international honey standards. These elements influence the honey’s storage, granulation, texture, flavour, nutritional, and medicinal values.

An experienced panel of judges also tasted different types of honey.

Beekeeping technology

Ripeness sensing

The development of an automated system for monitoring and optimising beehive parameters for honey quality improvement was presented by Antoni Bairo, a researcher at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania, who is working on electrochemical sensing technology and developing monitoring software for chemical analysis.

HivePulse smart beehive

Albert Mutangiri of Blue Bean Software in Johannesburg, South Africa, presented a paper on the HivePulse smart beehive monitoring device that has been designed to fight vandalism and theft while increasing hive health awareness through intuitive technology.

Policy development

Shingirirayi Mugabe, a student at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, Zimbabwe presented an overview of post colonial beekeeping in Zimbabwe from 1980 to 2022.

His study explored the development of apiculture in Zimbabwe from 1980 when the country gained independence and offered an interesting view of how political independency shaped apiculture and how it contributed to economic growth.


Heroes and villains

Dr Robin Crewe, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at the University of Pretoria, presented a paper on “Heroes

Villains: honeybees and pollination”. He described the Cape honeybee (Apis mellifera capensis), the indigenous honeybee subspecies, which is the only managed pollinator in Cape floristic region. One of the unique properties of this bee is the ability of the workers to lay eggs without fertilisation, and hence their ability to produce laying workers that act as social parasites in other honeybee colonies.

Kenamelang Mooketsi from Northwest Province, judging the honey on merit as no names were displayed, only numbers.

Water, bees, and onion flowers

Charles Salmon, a postgraduate student at CPUT, discussed the influence of water application rates on visitation by the South African honeybee (Apis mellifera capensis) and the seed yield of Texas Grano onions. A separate article is dedicated to this subject.

Blueberry pollination

Dr Hannelie Human, an extraordinary lecturer in the Department of Zoology and Entomology in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria, said pollination by honeybees played a crucial role in ensuring an increased yield, better shelf-life, and flavour of blueberries. Albeit costly, pollination is crucial. She discussed the many challenges facing the pollination of blueberries under netting. The results of new technology for appraisal of hive quality to ensure that growers get what they are paying for, is showing promise.

Sebonta Desbo Mohono, the MEC of Agriculture of North West Province, Kai Hichert of Sabio, one of the organisers, Dr Jeff Pettis, Apimondia President, David Mukomana, Regional Apimondia President, Dr Adriaan du Toit, SABIO board member, Louis van Zyl, SABIO Chairman, and Inge Austin, SABIO
board member listening to the Minister of Agriculture, Thoko Didiza, who opened the symposium.

The bumblebee alternative

Dr Keanu Martin, a pollination biologist, is one of the primary researchers of blueberry pollination in South Africa. In the absence of their native pollinator, bumblebees, blueberry pollination in Africa is performed primarily by honeybees. He said there was increasing pressure to import bumblebees in many African countries as honeybees are seen as inefficient blueberry pollinators.

For more information, contact Kai Hichert at 082-561-0346 or send an e-mail to Some of the presentations are available for reading at this link: