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Why did you adopt? In memory of Johan Swart

In our new “Why did you adopt?” blog column, we’re chatting with some of the honeybee heroes who adopted a hive with us, to find out what their adoption means to them. We are incredibly grateful to all of our hive sponsors, who make it possible for us to keep doing what we love—and keep saving more bees—every single day.

When her husband of 42 years passed away from aspiration pneumonia, Linda Swart wanted to honour him in a way that reflected his energetic, friendly nature—and safeguarded something that they had treasured together for many years: honeybees.

Linda and Johan Swart were always surrounded by honeybees. Whether it was in the garden, where happy honeybees would enjoy their abundant aloes and blooming guava trees, or in the house, where decorative honeybees could be seen on couch pillows and even painted onto door windows—the couple shared a love of bees that was etched into their daily lives. Linda even wears a honeybee pendant around her neck to commemorate her maternal family crest, which includes the signet of a honeybee.

So when Johan died on November 30, 2020 from complications with aspiration pneumonia, Linda contacted Honeybee Heroes to adopt a hive in his memory.

The couple shared a home in Stanford with their beloved Great Dane, Dixie, and Linda has fond memories of her husband enjoying watching the honeybees visit their backyard guava tree. The routine helped them both cope with his Alzheimer’s disease, with which he had been sick for many years.

“When someone is sick with Alzheimer’s, you have to think of these daily things that get them excited,” Linda explains. “We’ve got this amazing guava tree in the garden and when it bloomed, there were always gazillions of bees. He loved eating stewed guavas and watching the bees buzz around the tree.”

The Honeybee Heroes team engraved Johan’s hive with his birthday and day of death to commemorate his life. They even planted a guava tree beside his hive, so that someday, Linda would see it bloom and remember those days in her garden with Johan.

Visiting his hive

Soon after placing Johan’s hive, Reuben, Honeybee Heroes’ farm manager, came to fetch Linda in town so that she could see the new colony that made his hive their home. “Reuben told me that he was outside just two days after they placed Johan’s hive, when a huge colony flew over him and into Johan’s hive,” Linda remembers. “They were a wild colony and they chose his hive to live. That is so special to me.”

Linda says her husband was “very gregarious”, always enjoying being around his friends and family, so his hive’s placement near to the farm’s honey house, where it will be seen by many visitors, would have been just what Johan wanted.

“From Johann’s hive, you can see far over the hills,” Linda says. “The bees are so busy all the time and I think he’d like that. Even when he was sick, he would get up and get dressed each morning. It’s better than a bench, I think,” she says, laughing fondly.

For Linda, adopting a hive was the perfect way to honour her relationship with Johan—and to create something new and beautiful when something so dear had been lost. The world will stop if we don’t look after the bees, and when Johan died, my world did stop,” Linda remembers. “So the bees are to keep the world going.”

A happy thing

Linda and Johan share a daughter in Cape Town as well as a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren in Johannesburg. She intends to move soon to be closer to family, but for now, she’s only 7 minutes away from the farm and Johan’s hive. “The people at Honeybee Heroes say I can go visit Johan’s hive anytime I like, so when our grandchildren next come to Stanford, I’ll take them to see it,” Linda says.

As for the bottles of honey that she was gifted with her adoption, Linda gave most of it away to the people in the village who helped her during Johan’s illness, as a way to say thank you. But she did keep a few jars for herself. “Every morning I have it in my coffee, and it makes me think about Johan.”

“They say that you must always marry your best friend, and he was my best friend,” Linda says, remembering her late husband. “I was very lucky that I had him for so long. He was so funny and took such great care of me.”

“Now, if I walk in my garden and I see a bee, it reminds me of Johan. It’s a happy thing and not a sad thing anymore.”

Adopting a beehive is a unique gift for any occasion, whether it’s to celebrate an anniversary, honour a late loved one, to contribute to a sustainable future or to surprise a friend. Whether you’re sponsoring a hive on behalf of a loved one, or adopting one for yourself, your hive will keep a bee colony safe for years to come, making it a gift that keeps on giving. Not to mention the 6 bottles of raw fynbos honey that every sponsor receives as a thanks from our resident bees!

Ready to adopt a hive? Check out our Adopt page above for more information.

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