Honeybees and mushrooms


Until now, honey bees in the Western Cape have not been affected by the woes affecting honeybees worldwide. But now, an outbreak of foulbrood disease, the first in 150 years, has affected local honeybees. This is not the same as the colony collapses experienced in North America and Europe, and now Japan too, but is also very serious. While the disease has no effect on humans, it has a devastating effect on honey bee hives. The only treatment being applied is burning infected hives, so it’s likely there’s shortly going to be an increase in the price of honey, a reduction in quality, as well as significant shortages.

The disease is extremely infectious, and spores can remain active for 40 years. It was probably brought to South Africa in imported honey, or bee-keeping equipment.

Bees, just like humans, also have a natural immunity to disease, and commercial forms of beekeeping weaken the honeybee. Artificial breeding, and artificial feeding all have an impact on bee immunity, and coupled with pesticides, GMO’s and wireless technologies, the poor old honeybee is having a hard time.

The impact is not just on honey – bees are vital to agriculture, which is highly dependant on pollination by bees. No bees, no fruit. Honeybees on organic and biodynamic farms are in a much healthier state than their counterparts on chemical farms, supplemented with a diet of white sugar, and artificially bred.

We’re lucky enough to have a wide range of honeys available, including honey and honeycomb from Bloublommetjies biodynamic farm, rare certified organic honey from Fizantakraal, as well as honey from Honeywood, Cedarfruit and Docke farms. Docke, Fizantakraal and Honeywood all offer raw honey too. Hopefully our suppliers will be unaffected, but if you’re a honey fan it may be wise to stock up!


It’s autumn, and with the recent rains, mushroom picking time in the forest. At a dinner I attended this evening, someone had brought a whole lot of delicious mushrooms she had found in the forest. There was also one suspected poisonous one she was trying to identify.

While nothing beats harvesting your own wild food, it’s not recommended if you don’t know what you’re doing! A less risky way is to simply order some from us. This week we’re offering shiitake, black lar, oyster and button mushrooms.

Mushrooms have been used medicinally for thousands of years, and there’s heaps of evidence as to their benefits. In this week’s video, David Wolfe looks at candida and the “noble” mushrooms, which include shiitake.

Oyster mushrooms are one of the few carnivorous mushrooms. But fear not, it’s not people they’re after. The microscopic roundworm is their favoured delicacy. The mushroom’s rings constrict and grow through the nematodes, and start to digest them. Oyster mushrooms contain a natural form of statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol for those at risk from cardiovascular disease. They’re sometimes associated with a pleasant anise smell, but unfortunately this is due to the presence of benzaldehyde when grown chemically!

There’s been even more research on shiitake, given it’s long medicinal history, and the shiitake mushroom has strong anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, hence its beneficial effect on candida. They’re a rare vegan food source of Vitamin D, and recent studies have shown promise in their effects on HIV (human immunodeficiency virus-1).

Supply shortages

There were some teething problems (not least some suppliers getting lost) in our first week in our new warehouse, so many of you who ordered this week would have had a disappointing number of products not available. Apologies to everyone affected – this week will be back to normal.

To order, head on over to www.ethical.org.za.

Have a fantastic autumn week,
the Ethical Co-op team

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