CAPE TOWN, Beekeepers in the Southern Cape region of South Africa's Western Cape Province have begun to rebuild their colonies after hundreds of hives were destroyed by recent fires.

With little foliage left, they are now attracting bees with a sugar-syrup solution and pollen substitute.

The humanitarian aid organization, Gift of the Givers, has also come on board and donated 250,000 Rand to assist local beekeepers. A spokesperson for the Hope for the Honeybees group of beekeeper, Owen Williams, says the sugar-syrup solution is not the most nutritious food, but is helping to attract new colonies.

He says a pollen substitute is also being distributed to beekeepers to make up for the lack of foliage.

These beekeepers are currently distribution points for other beekeepers to come and get feed -- the sugar syrup and we now have the pollen substitute. The aim is not to strengthen the bees but to help them recover and maintain till such time that the vegetation restores. There's also a planting programme which people can get hold of through the Facebook page of Hope for the Honeybees, he said.

A beekeeper at Rheenendal near Knysna, Stephanus Ludtz, lost seven beehives in the fires. He says with the assistance of Hope for the Honeybees he is now able to ensure the survival of his remaining hives. They are giving me the sugar-syrup and pollen substitute to help the bees. We are planning to plant flowers so the bees can thrive again.

Williams says that they are urging the public not to donate any bees, honey or hives from other regions in order to prevent the spread of American Foulbrood (AFB) Disease to the area.

He says the Southern Cape is currently free from the disease, which can wipe out whole colonies. If we throw one more curveball at the Cape Honeybee at this time, like AFB, it could cause a major and long-term catastrophe for the Cape Honeybees in this area," he adds.

"The best way people can help, because there's a structured plan in place and run by experienced beekeepers and by no means are we just winging it along, we have scientists behind us giving input based on research as to do what, where and how. So the best place is join the team of Hope for the Honeybees."

Apart from the fires destroying foliage, the current drought in Western cape Province is also making it difficult for nature to recover. Williams says they are hoping for rain soon, to ensure the bees can forage on their own again.