Have you seen a ‘Badger Friendly’ label on your honey jar and simply wondered:
What do badgers have to do with honey?
We’re here to answer your questions. In this article we’ll learn exactly what is badger friendly honey as well as the role it plays in honey badger conservation efforts across South Africa (and how you can help).
What is badger friendly honey?
The Badger Friendly Labeling Project was started by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) as an incentive for beekeepers to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace for being certified as using badger friendly beekeeping practices, such as raising beehives above the reach of the badgers. Beekeepers who successfully implement these practices may display the official ‘Badger Friendly Honey’ label on their products.
Honey Badgers often come into conflict with beekeepers when they destroy beehives in order to feed on honey and bee larvae. This causes significant financial damage to beekeepers, who sometimes resort to cruel and lethal methods against honey badgers.
How exactly do some beekeepers harm Honey Badgers?
The primary cause are harmful trapping devices. This includes leg-hold traps, gin traps, and cage traps. Depending on the strength and the design of the individual trap, these are associated with severe, sometimes fatal injury, such as bone breakage and limb amputation.
And because beehives are not visited regularly, weeks or months may pass until traps are checked. This can leave trapped honey badgers to slowly die from blood loss, starvation or dehydration.
There are also reports of poison and hunting.
What are the badger friendly methods of protecting hives?
- Raise beehives above the reach of the honey badger. Honey badgers are not the best climbers. Beehives are raised with poles or hung from trees to keep them high and out of reach. This is inexpensive yet highly effective.
- Use metal or concrete beehives. Standard wooden and plastic beehives are an easy target for the long claws and scary teeth of the honey badger. Metal and lightweight concrete beehives offer added resistance, sturdiness, weight, and structural reinforcement. Reinforcing existing wooden beehives with metal plating and sheeting (such as steel) is also helpful.
- Encaging beehives. Beehives are encased and encaged in a full wire mesh cage that fully surrounds the hive. The cage can be designed to simply slot over the hive for easy access for humans. This can be combined with the raising method for extra protection.
- Motion-activated lights. A research study in Kenya found 400-Lumen motion-activated LED lights extremely effective at deterring honey badgers at night. However, these lights are costly.
Buying Badger Friendly Honey in South Africa
Fortunately, there’s a growing number of local beekeepers that are officially certified as badger friendly by the EWT. As of 2017, over 320 beekeepers in South Africa produce badger friendly products. This includes both retail raw honey and non-raw honey types.
Some popular brands that are certified as badger friendly include:
- Simply Bee
- Mac’s Honey
- Honeywood Farm
- Cape Mountain Oils
- Red Espresso
(Last updated: September 2020. Non-exhaustive. Please let us know of any other certified brands you come across. Once verified, we can add it this to the list.)
Overall, how popular is Badger Friendly Honey?
As of 2009, sales of Badger Friendly honey accounted for approximately 5-6% of South Africa’s total honey production.
This is an average of 100 tonnes sold annually, compared to South Africa’s total honey production of 1,500 to 2,000 tonnes. It should be noted that these total production figures include industrial grade honey.
At the same time, it does not imply that the remaining 95% of South Africa’s honey are produced in ways that are harmful or detrimental to honey badgers. These figures refer to honey labeled as officially badger friendly by the EWT. Researcher indicate that many beekeepers do adopt badger friendly methods in their apiaries, although they have not undergone the process of formal certification.
Additionally, honey badgers are concentrated in the Northern and Western Cape, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo compared to other provinces. Because of low population, bee farmers in other regions, such as the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, may never experience honey badgers. Thus making protection methods and certification unnecessary for their apiaries.
(Unfortunately, we are unable to source updated statistics on Badger Friendly honey sales figures in South Africa. If you have more information, we would appreciate it if you let us know. Thank you.)
How can I help the cause of honey badgers?
Purchase Badger Friendly Honey
To help, the obvious choice is by purchasing Badger Friendly honey. There are several brands available in South Africa, such as Simply Bee and Mac’s Honey which are commonly readily as raw honey for purchase online. In stores, Woolworths has sold only Badger Friendly honey since circa 2003.
Report Honey Badger Sightings to SANParks & EWT
The EWT recommends that the public report honey badger sightings. This helps in identifying areas for monitoring and conservation efforts. Your sighting of a honey badger in or around a South African National Park should be emailed to SANParks at firstname.lastname@example.org. For sightings elsewhere in South Africa, contact the Endangered Wildlife Trust. If possible, note the GPS coordinates at the place of sighting and submit this information with your report.
Hire Accredited Beekeepers for Pollination
For fruit and crop farmers, the EWT encouraged hiring certified Badger Friendly beekeepers for commercial pollination services.
As a beekeeper, how can I get my honey certified as Badger Friendly?
Beekeepers should contact the Endangered Wildlife Trust directly to begin the application process.
This involves submitting an affidavit and various information on your apiaries, their specific location (GPS/map demarcation), and quantities of honey produced. As well as a report on any honey badger activity at your sites, methods used to counteract badger intrusions, declarations, and similar information. Physical, in-person audits by the EWT at your hives may follow as appropriate.