A chronicle of the Villiera Bees.

Friday, 31 July, 2020
Villiera Wines
The story of beekeeping on Villiera dates back to 1958 when the Grier family moved to Blue Ridge farm (6km down the road from Villiera). Prior to this the family had a poultry business in Constantia, but thought moving further from the suburbs would be a great idea.

This eventually resulted in the formation of the poultry business, County Fair, which was sold in the late 70’s. Jeff and Cathy’s father, Robin, had a keen interest in bees and put hives on the farm and extracted the honey.

Unfortunately, every time he was stung the reaction became more serious. His days of beekeeping had to come to an end but not the bees as he managed to persuade Simon to take over the hives. Ambitious on his part because the art of beekeeping is a constant affair so proved difficult to do properly due to boarding school, army, gap year and university.

In 1983, the Griers purchased Villiera Wines. Simon realized he did not have enough time for the Bees and persuaded Mike, the mechanic on the farm, to take them over and thus Mike’s honey was sold in the tasting room. However, on his retirement he lost interest in the Bees. Simon’s wife, Rene persuaded him to catch one swarm so that she could again have natural farm honey and the beekeeping bug bit again. Within a year, one hive became 40, and the Tasting room was once again stocked with pure honey (currently R70 per jar).

The Bees are very happy and productive on Villiera. We have moved away from cultivation in the vineyard using natural weeds to form mulch. The cultivation of cover crops can cause compaction and burns up the organic matter in the soil releasing it into the atmosphere. The weeds come up themselves, thus saving costs, and because most flower, they add a good source of food for insects such as bees.

The main source of the honey flow starts with a yellow flower Ramnas (very similar to Canola but wild) then Echium weed, Eucalyptus, Acacia; plus many other veld flowers. There seems to be a correlation between a good honey flow and a good harvest. If we have early autumn rains, a good winter, and good rains in spring we have a long honey flow. These conditions are also good for the vines, especially the dryland vineyards.

The Bees also reflect the health of the environment. They are affected by stress and get sick which in turn affects the hive which is a perfectly organized system, where every bee has a job and they all work for the benefit of the colony. If only we could do the same….. just imagine the possibilities!