Did you know that bees are a widely used weapon in the conservation arsenal? In fact, these underestimated little miracle workers are being deployed at Samara Private Game Reserve, where they are playing a vital role in protecting the key tree species.
How exactly does a bee stop a hungry elephant from tearing down a tree? It’s simple, really: many animal species are known to avoid beehives because of the danger of being stung. This concept has been put to the test many times and with great success. In Kenya, for example, Dr Lucy King erected a 400m beehive fence in Gazini, the first of its kind. That was in 2016, and as a result, the community has been kept safe from elephant invasions. It’s a strange concept because a bee’s sting can’t do much to an elephant’s thick hide, but if those stings go into sensitive parts like the elephant’s trunk, eyes and mouth – well, that’s a different story, especially if there are hundreds of bees in a swarm; a fact that scientists are using to their advantage.
At Samara, the practice is going to be used to protect the reserve’s iconic tree species with the first two beehives being planted at Wolwekloof, where they will protect two beautiful witgat (Boscia Oleiodes) trees. One of these trees is a magnificent specimen that is estimated to be around 800 years old.
The Karoo isn’t a naturally high honey-producing region, although bees in the area usually collect nectar from species like acacia and spekboom. Samara expects swarms to number between 33 000 and 40 000 bees in each swarm, with a population comprising the queen, the male drones which are responsible for breeding, and the workers, who guard the hive. As each hive grows too big, a new queen will emerge after fighting the reigning monarch, taking part of the swarm with her to establish a new hive. This is how Samara’s bee population will grow – important because bee populations around the world are under threat. The team at Samara is pleased to be playing a part in helping them to recover their numbers, with Reserve Manager Alan Feldon (pictured above), and his extensive experience in beekeeping, responsible for overseeing how this project progresses.
As an added benefit, they are looking forward to seeing their own local honey produced from flora indigenous to the Karoo region, like spekboom. Samara can expect to see around 10kg of honey produced from each hive – a treat they will share with guests both in the food they serve and for sale in the curio shop.
About Samara Private Game Reserve
An award-winning, Big 5 reserve – Samara Private Game Reserve is located on 70,000 acres of wilderness in the Great Karoo, offering breathtaking views over the Plains of Camdeboo. Situated approximately 270km from Port Elizabeth and 53km from the nearest town of Graaff Reinet, Samara offers easy access to visitors on excellent roads.
Samara Private Game Reserve is a passionate conservation undertaking – the leader in its area and a catalyst for change in the Great Karoo region of South Africa. The abundant land – which has been allowed to rest over a period of 20 years – preserves a complex and diverse ecosystem. Four vegetation biomes provide habitat for over 60 mammal species, including lion, elephant, cheetah, black and white rhino, buffalo, Cape mountain zebra, giraffe, eland, gemsbok and aardvark to name but a few. Samara forms part of a greater vision – to create South Africa’s third largest protected area in a global biodiversity hotspot. The driving force behind this vision is the desire to preserve this irreplaceable part of South Africa’s natural heritage.
A maximum of 26 guests stay in two, five-star luxury lodges: Karoo Lodge – a renovated farmstead overlooking an amphitheatre of mountains and The Manor – a luxury villa with private pool, chef, butler and ranger that can be booked exclusively or by private individuals.
Activities on offer at Samara include game drives, guided walks, a luxury star bed experience, wilderness picnics, birding, mountain hikes, indoor and outdoor dining, mountain biking and conservation activities. Children of all ages are welcome and a dedicated children’s programme is available.