Last Tuesday I managed to get my grubby (and thereafter rather sticky) paws on more of Gerald’s addictive (and splendiferous) honey – lots of it.
He doesn’t have a shop, but sells the honey at markets and from his home in Lansdowne, which is where I ended up going.
Not only does Gerald the Bee Man have several hives around the Western Cape, he’s also on call for the municipality – for emergency bee removals!
And, seeing as he’d just been whisked off to perform precisely such a service, I didn’t get to speak to Gerald himself.
But, his wife was very helpful (and didn’t find it too strange – I hope) when I rattled off questions such as what constitutes an emergency bee removal, where the bee hives are, how it all works…
I hadn’t previously given it much thought, but it’s pretty obvious that there’s going to be trouble when bees create their hive somewhere that brings them into direct conflict with us soft-skinned human beans.
They don’t really want to sting us (not much of a pay-off, really, seeing as they will die if they do so), but will if threatened, for the sake of the hive.
We don’t much like their stinging (especially those who are allergic, naturally), and will likewise retaliate, if stung.
That’s where Gerald comes in. He is the ‘bee whisperer‘ of Cape Town – there to get the bees and their hives out of conflict zones as quickly and as smoothly as possible, moving them to safer (friendlier) places where cans of Doom aren’t quite as prevalent.
Unfortunately, though, it’s not always that simple (if transporting a swarm of rather pissed off bees could ever be termed ‘simple’). Sometimes the crafty bees decide to make their home in an inaccessible spot, such as in the foundations of a building, which Gerald cannot reach. And they have to be exterminated. Ouch.
If he is able to remove the bees, though, Gerald brings them back to his own garden to settle down for a while (!), before moving them out to the countryside, where they get down to the work of producing his glorious honey.
Gerald’s bee-hives are apparently situated on several different farms, moving with the blossoms. Right now, the Eucalyptus trees are in blossom, so all the hives are on farms with those trees, and Eucalyptus honey is what’s available.
When the spring flowers bloom, the hives are moved to farms with plenty of those – orange blossom honey. And so it goes.
Most interesting to me, though, was to hear that the bees are used specifically to pollinate our local canola crops. That’s also the time the bees get to munch on their own golden produce – no one sells canola honey – so fresh honey is harder to get hold of.
So, all in all, a very productive day. Not only did I get me four jars of delectable eucalyptus honey, I also found out where it comes from – a strategy I think we should all apply to what we eat.
*UPDATE 18 June 2010: find Gerald’s honey at the Holistic Market, Observatory, first Sunday of the month, or at the Kalk Bay Fresh Etc Market, third Sunday of every month. Or, call him on 073 243 8431.*
Gerald the Bee Man sells his honey at the Constantia Country Living Market (next one coming up on the third Saturday of April). He can also be contacted on 073 243 8431. A tub the size of the ones in the photo costs R30.
*UPDATE*: The Constantia Country Living Market no longer exists, but you can find Gerald’s honey at the Constantia Valley Farmers Market at the 3Arts Complex on Main Road, Plumstead (on every Saturday, rain or shine).