Significant declines in bee populations over the last two decades have raised concerns in Europe and North America. While such a phenomenon has not yet been reported in Africa, devastating bee pathogens such as mites and viruses are being increasingly found in the continent. As a result, bee health is now a priority of national governments, development agencies as well as farmers and beekeepers.
icipe, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KARLO) and the University of Liverpool, UK, have received a grant from the Newton Fund to develop microbe-based strategies for improved bee health. The research will involve characterising the gut microbiota of African honey bees, the ‘friendly bacteria’ that aid insect defence against pathogens. Overall, these studies will contribute towards food security in Kenya by reinforcing bee pollination services, and also enhance rural incomes by bolstering the quality and quantity of bee derived products.
In addition, the research is envisioned to elevate icipe’s ongoing bee gut microbiota studies to world-class status, connecting it to European and USA networks. Further, this research project will contribute to the understanding of the causes of global bee population declines and develop a potential bee health diagnoses technique based of bee gut microbiota characterisation.
A panel library of bee gut microbiota will also be established, forming an invaluable tool for future icipe research and for the scienti c community.