Written by Konrad Voges
I have kept bees in the Magaliesberg region for more than thirty years. Now at the age of eighty I maintain one apiary only. It is situated on my son's farm in the foot hills of the Berg - halfway between Kroondal and Buffelspoort.
During all the time in the area I had little problems with theft or vandalism; loosing hives only due to veld fires. Nevertheless, the hives are placed on a platform some 1,5 meters above the ground.
Lately, something odd occurred. From the evidence, we ruled out human interference and came to the conclusion that baboons were to be blamed.
Thursday, 2nd of June: I went to the site to check on the colonies prior to the winter aloe flowering. Again I found one hive disturbed - this time rather more severely than before. We puzzled over the identity of the offender and deliberated on methods to stop baboons getting up to the hives and doing more damage.
Later that night, my son, hearing the rustling on the platform, walked up to the site in the dark. He switched on the torch - and found a honey badger gazing at him from atop the damaged hive!
Dashing back home to fetch a camera, my son alerted (a disbelieving!) me to the visitor. I remember reading in Vincent Carruther's book on the Magaliesberg that the honey badger had been extinct in the range for some considerable time.
We returned to the hive, camera and torches at hand. There the badger still was at the hive, its eyes shining brightly in the glare of the torches. It lowered its head as if to carry on with its work, looked up at us again and then slunk off towards the back behind some other hives. For a few moments it stopped there, then plopped down to the ground and in an instant was lost in the undergrowth.
How then did the badger get up onto the platform? Did it jump up? Surely not - it simply isn't built for jumping.
And then we found it. A small tree that had grown and spread somewhat since the platform had been built, now leaning towards it, ...and evidence of two freshly snapped branches.
We immediately set to trimming the tree and other encroaching growth. There the story should have ended - but it didn't.
A few days later my son found another hive on the platform opened and robbed of comb. The four dogs with him sniffed excitedly around till settling at one of the platform poles. And there then on the smooth surface were tell-tale scratch marks.
That night I started keeping vigil at the apiary with camping stool and sleeping bag. Visitors came, and went, without being spotted. On the last night I had placed some lures on the ground and on the platform - some old comb wet with honey. In the morning I found that the bait had been taken. And there was clear evidence that the badger had climbed up the pole - it was sticky with honey!
Later I heard that honey badgers had escaped from the De Wildt Cheetah Sanctuary. Could these be my thieves, or is the distance too great?