Firewalls in bee nests—survival value of propolis walls of wild Cape honeybee (Apis mellifera capensis)
- 303 Downloads
The Cape bee is endemic to the winter rainfall region of South Africa where fires are an integral part of the ecology of the fynbos (heathland) vegetation. Of the 37 wild nests in pristine Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos in the Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park that have been analyzed so far, only 22 could be accessed sufficiently to determine the existence of a propolis wall of which 68% had propolis walls which entirely enclosed their openings. The analysis of the 37 wild nests revealed that 78% occurred under boulders or in clefts within rocks, 11% in the ground, 8% in tree cavities, and 3% within shrubs. The analysis of 17 of these nests following a fire within the park revealed that the propolis walls materially protected the nests and retarded the fire with all the colonies surviving. The bees responded to the smoke by imbibing honey and retreating to the furthest recess of their nest cavity. The bees were required to utilize this honey for about 3 weeks after which fire-loving plants appeared and began flowering. Considerable resources were utilized in the construction of the propolis walls, which ranged in thickness from 1.5 to 40 mm (mean 5 mm). Its physical environment determines the nesting behavior of the Cape bee. The prolific use of propolis serves to insulate the nest from extremes of temperature and humidity, restricts entry, camouflages the nest, and acts as an effective fire barrier protecting nests established mostly under rocks in vegetation subjected to periodic fires.
KeywordsBee nest Firewall Propolis Apis mellifera capensis
The permission granted by SANParks to locate and analyze the nesting sites of honeybees in the Table Mountain National Park is gratefully acknowledged.
- Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (2000) A review of the Veld Fires in the Western Cape during 15–25 January 2000. Report to the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry and Premier of the Western Cape by the task team: Towards improved Veld fire Management in South Africa. pp 143Google Scholar
- Ellis JD, Hepburn HR (2003) A note on mapping propolis deposits in Cape honey bee (Apis mellifera capensis) colonies. African Entomology 11(1):122–124Google Scholar
- Hepburn HR (1993) Swarming, absconding and migration in southern African bees. South African Bee Journal 65:61–66Google Scholar
- Hepburn HR, Crewe RM (1990) Defining the Cape honeybee: reproductive traits of queenless workers. S Afr J Sci 86:524–527Google Scholar
- Hepburn HR, Crewe RM (1991a) Geography of Cape honeybee based on laying worker performance. South African Bee Journal 63(3):51–59Google Scholar
- Hepburn HR, Guillarmod AJ (1991) The Cape honeybee and the fynbos biome. S Afr J Sci 87:70–73Google Scholar
- Jaffé R, Dietemann V, Allsopp MH, Costa C, Crewe RM, Dall’olio R, De La Rúa P, El-Niweiri MAA, Fries I, Kezic N, Meusel MS, Paxton RJ, Shaibi T, Stolle E, Moritz RFA (2009) Estimating the density of honeybee colonies across their natural range to fill the gap in pollinator decline censuses. Conserv Biol 24:583–593CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Jarman M (1982) A look at the littlest floral kingdom. Scientiae 23(3):9–19Google Scholar
- Mucina L, Rutherford MC (eds) (2006) The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria 808ppGoogle Scholar
- Otis GW (1991) Population biology of the Africanized honey bee. In: Spivak M, Fletcher DJC, Breed MD (eds) The “African” honey bee. Boulder, Westview, pp 213–234Google Scholar
- Pooley S (2014) Burning Table Mountain: an environmental history of fire on the Cape Peninsula. Palgrave MacMillan, UK, p 315Google Scholar
- Pradhan R (2015) How does smoke affect honey bees? https://www.scienceabc.com/nature/how-does-smoke-affect-honey-bees.html.
- Tribe GD (1983) What is the Cape bee? South African Bee Journal 55(4):77–87Google Scholar
- Van Wilgen, B.W, Le Maitre, D.C. & Kruger, F.J. (1985) Fire behaviour in South African fynbos (macchia) vegetation and predictions from Rothermel's fire model. J.appl. Ecol. 22:207–216Google Scholar
- Wenner AM, Alcock JE, Meade DE (1992) Efficient hunting of feral colonies. Beesource Beekeeping. https://beesource.com/point-of-view/adrian-wenner/efficient-hunting-of-feral-colonies/