icipe designated OIE Collaborating Centre for Bee Health in Africa

Centre now recognised as a global hub of bee health expertise

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) has been designated an OIE Collaborating Centre for Bee Health in Africa by OIE – World Organisation for Animal Health (the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide). The OIE has prepared a video on this recognition, which is available on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kMpguF84Ok

African Reference Laboratory for Bee Health

“This designation is significant as it formally recognises icipe’s role as a hub of bee health expertise in Africa and globally. Over the past decade, the Centre has been implementing a range of initiatives in this area, primarily through the establishment of the African Reference Laboratory for Bee Health headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, with satellite stations in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Liberia, and a training site in Madagascar. This state-of-the-art facility, a partnership with the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) provides a platform for monitoring and preventing bee diseases and pests in Africa, with the financial support of the European Union and icipe’s core donors. We believe the recognition of icipe as an OIE Collaborating Centre for Bee Health in Africa will elevate our continent-wide basis and mandate, and provide further confidence for stakeholders in Africa to collaborate with us,” noted icipe Director General, Dr Segenet Kelemu.

Dr Kelemu added: “icipe will also be expected to provide bee health expertise internationally. It is our belief that we will be able to extend and strengthen our collaborations to many of OIE’s 181 Member countries, reinforcing our knowledge generation, exchange and dissemination towards global sustainability of bees,” Dr Kelemu added.

icipe Director of Research and Partnerships, Dr Sunday Ekesi observed: “This recognition by OIE re-energises our commitment to bee health research. Bees are one of the most important insects to mankind. In Africa, as icipe has shown over the past several decades, honeybees are extremely critical in improving the lives of millions of people, especially those living in marginalised areas. For such communities, beekeeping often provides one of the few viable livelihood options. Beyond this, bees provide a critical, though often unrecognised and undervalued free service, through the pollination of many food and non-food crops. Indeed, more than 70% of the production of the world’s major crops relies on bee pollination. Bees also pollinate grasses and forage plants, therefore contributing indirectly to meat and milk production.”

As an OIE Collaborating Centre for Bee Health in Africa, icipe will advance its bee health research activities that currently revolve around three thrusts. First, icipe is addressing the rising threats to bees in Africa resulting from factors such as climate change and habitat loss due to deforestation caused by population pressures, among others. The Centre aims to complete gaps in knowledge and to rectify the absence of systematic procedures and capacity to monitor, analyse and safeguard bees.

Second, icipe shares with the global community rising anxieties surrounding bee health against the background of the colony collapse disorder (CCD). This is a phenomenon that has become a serious problem since 2006 and a major threat to commercial beekeeping and pollination operations in Europe and USA. The most likely contributors to CCD include Varroa mites, diseases (particularly viruses vectored by Varroa mites), pesticide exposure, stresses associated with modern beekeeping practices and poor nutrition. icipe aims to contribute knowledge on CCD, and in collaboration with partners, the Centre is mapping bee health risk factors, while investigating mitigating strategies in Africa and globally.

icipe’s ongoing surveys have revealed the presence of Varroa mites in many African countries, and also detected a range of agrochemicals, including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and acaricides at low levels, indicating potential threats for bee colonies in Africa. However, the Centre’s research has shown that African honeybees are less vulnerable to brood diseases, parasites such as Varroa mites, and pests like the small hive beetle. In addition, the researchers have also found that Africanised honeybees in the USA, many of which are hybridised crosses with European species, tolerate these maladies better. Therefore, by understanding this inherent resilience of African honeybees, icipe could contribute towards alleviating global honeybee threats.

Towards this goal, icipe recently commenced its third research thrust on bee health. The Centre’s researchers are characterising the gut microbiota of African honeybees, the ‘friendly bacteria’ that aid insect defence against pathogens. It is hoped that this increased understanding of how gut mircobiota influences the health of bees will lay a foundation for microbe-based strategies for bee health management.

Notes for Editors

Technical and financial support: Over the years, icipe’s bee research activities have been supported by: Australian Aid; Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Switzerland; British High Commissioner’s Fund; Catholic Organisation for Relief & Development Aid (Cordaid); German Development Service (DED); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); Islamic Development Bank (IDB); Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID); United Nations Development Programme’s work under the Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF); US Ambassador’s Fund; World Trade Organization’s Enhanced Integrated Framework (WTO-EIF) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The African Reference Laboratory for Bee Health, headquartered at icipe, Nairobi, Kenya, was constructed with financial support from the European Union (EU), and icipe’s core donors: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany; Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Kenya; Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and UK Aid from the UK government.

icipe’s mission is to help alleviate poverty, ensure food security, and improve the overall health status of peoples of the tropics, by developing and extending management tools and strategies for harmful and useful arthropods, while preserving the natural resource base through research and capacity building. For further information, visit: www.icipe.org

The OIE is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide. It is recognised as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in 2017 has a total of 181 Member Countries. The OIE maintains permanent relations with 71 other international and regional organisations and has Regional and sub-regional Offices on every continent. For further information visit: http://www.oie.int/