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Bees at the Pafuri River Camp

Pollination precedes fertilization, which results in seed and fruit production. Pollination is therefore an essential ecosystem service that underpins much of Pafuriís biodiversity. This is because apart from seed growing into new plants that animals eat or nest in, fruit and seeds are also food for many different animal species.

Bees are arguably the most important group of pollinators. This is because they tend to focus on one plant species, at least at any one time. They repeatedly visit the flowers of different individual plants of the same plant species, which results in cross pollination. During these visits they gather nectar and pollen for larval cells in their nests. Other pollinators are also important because plants and their pollinators have co-evolved. Plants pollinated by flies, beetles and any other animal type possibly donít have alternative pollinators and depend on those animals for their future existence.

There are over 1000 bee species in South Africa. Only a few are social, such as the honey bee, but most are solitary. They either make nests of mud or resin, or nest in holes in wood or the ground. Their distribution is determined by the type of vegetation, soil, climate, altitude and many other factors.

Pafuri River Camp is a unique area for bees. Apart from its climate and vegetation, it is in the Limpopo sandveld. Bees that nest in the ground often require specific soil types. This makes Pafuri a very interesting area for bees, because the ground is sandy.

Currently a survey is taking place near the Pafuri River Camp to determine the number of unique bee species in that area. You may see some large black-and-white net traps that are used to trap which all bees .

Here are some of the bees that you may see in the Pafuri River Camp.

Bees broadly fall into six categories:
  1. Social bees live in hives, such as the honey bee.
  2. Dauber bees make their nests out of mud or resin.
  3. Leaf cutter bees mostly nest in pre-existing tunnels in wood and line their nests with small pieces of leaf.
  4. Carpenter bees bore their own tunnels in wood.
  5. Cuckoo bees lay their eggs in other beeís nests.
  6. Miner bees bore their own tunnels in the ground.
This page was prepared by Connal Eardley of the Agricultural Research Council, Plant Protection Research Institute. If you are interested in studying or photographing bees you may contact me at

A leaf cutter bee drinking nectar. A dauber bee with a full pollen load under the abdomen.

A miner bee taking a rest. A small carpenter bee gathering pollen that it carries on its hind legs.

A social bee with a huge pollen load on its hind leg. A cuckoo bee visiting a flower.