Winter time is red louse time: Red lice (also known as Red-headed lice, or Bovicola ovis, or biting lice), a permanent parasite on sheep, is active during the winter months.

These lice are host specific and target sheep when their condition and general reistance are under pressure. Older, sick and underfed sheep, high stock density and animals with thick wool are more susceptible to the lice. The lice do not suck blood but feeds on epidermal tissue, scales on the skin or dandruff, hair, wool and dry blood clots from old wounds on the skin surface. Red lice cause severe irritation, itchiness, biting and scratching. When one discovers red lice for the first time, the sheep had already been infected six to seven months before. Most infections result from direct transmission. The lice can only survive three to four days if not on a sheep. The parasite also comes into a flock of sheep when infected animals are purchased or can be spread by shearers from farm to farm.(ProAgri, no 197, July 2016).

Heavenly honey: SA’s apiculture industry is threatened by too many beekeepers and too few suitable plant sources. As reported in previous newsletters, the SA Beekeeping industry has now been forced to turn to foreign plant sources to meet the ever-increasing demand for bee forage, hence the various eucalypt species found across the country. However, the continued existence of eucalypt species in South Africa has been under threat since 1996, mainly because invader plants such as some eucalypt species need to be controlled in eco-sensitive areas. Kidney beans, sunflower and lucerne crops are also important forage crop for honey production in South Africa.
Honeybees need access to a variety of flowering plants to provide food for their coloniesat different times of the year. Eucalyptus trees, certain crop species such as sunflowers, canola, citrus and lucerne, as well as indigenous trees and shrubs, flowering plants and wild flowers are critically important for honeybees to build strong solonies. As current natural habitat and forage resources dwindle, there is an urgent need to protect and maintain existing bee-friendly vegetation by planting more bee-friendly plants (as long as they are appropriate to the specific localities to prevent hybridisation or invasions). Gardeners should consider planting complementary crops (such as lavender and basil) or rotate land with legume crops that are important bee-forage resources. Kidney beans, sunflower and lucerne crops are also important forage crop for honey production in South Africa. One can also find out which weeds are attractive to bees (e.g. wild raddish, cosmos, etc.), so that some can be left for the bees (Gauteng Smallholder, September 2015).
Did you know?
A hive of bees will fly the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect 1kg of honey, but it’s well worth the trip! According to Ferdie du Preez (Farmer’s Weekly, 5 September & 3 October 2014).All natural honey will granulate (go sugary) over time due to the formation of dextrose crystals. This natural process does not imply spoilage in any way. Honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil. The granulate process can be reversed by heating or by standing honey in the sun or in hot water. Large bottling plants filter liquid honey to retard granulation. Fynbos honey is known for its variety of flavours and wonderful aroma. It has also won awards on the global stage.
Scientists across the world are attempting to find the “Super bee” that can resist pests and diseases, habitat loss and poisonous chemical substances. According to prof Keith Delaplane, director of the American University of Georgia’s honey bee programme, some scientists are of the opinion that the answer could be genetic modification, while others maintain that bees should be allowed to develop the necessary resistance naturally. “Unfortunately, a productive bee species that is mite resistant has not been found yet” (Marleen Smith, Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015).
Note: American Foulbrood disease (AFB), which causes destruction in bee populations, has now also spread to South Africa. An American Foulbrood guide has been launced for the SA bee industry. To read or print the Western Cape Bee Industry Association’s (WCBIA) A guide for Beekeepers: How to manage AFB, visit www.farmersweekly.co.za, click on the News tab and then on the Useful documents tab).