THE INTERNATIONAL Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) announced Monday in Kenya it will soon start offering bee health expertise across the globe.
Icipe director general Segenet Kelemu said the research centre has over the past decade been implementing a range of initiatives in bee research, primarily through the establishment of the African Reference Laboratory for Bee Health based in Nairobi.
“With the help of 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 diseases affecting bees and pests in Africa and the rest of the world,” Dr Kelemu said in a statement.
Dr Kelemu revealed that through the collaboration with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Icipe will extend its services to many of OIE’s 181 member countries to help reinforce knowledge generation, exchange and dissemination towards global sustainability of bees.
Icipe has to date satellite stations in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Liberia, and a training site in Madagascar where bee health is given priority as an economic income generating activity for communities.
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.
Icipe director of research and partnerships Sunday Ekesi told Xinhua in an interview that bees provide a critical, though often unrecognised and undervalued free service, through the pollination of numerous food and non-food crops.
“Bees also pollinate grasses and forage plants, therefore contributing indirectly to meat and milk production besides offering 70 per cent of the production of the world’s major crops,” he added.
LESS VULNERABLE TO BROOD DISEASES
Ekesi said that Icipe is advancing its bee health research activities in 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 also aims to complete gaps in knowledge and to rectify the absence of systematic procedures and capacity to monitor, analyse and safeguard bees.
He said that Icipe in collaboration with other collaborators is helping manage the global community’s rising anxieties surrounding bee health against the backdrop of the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
CCD is a phenomenon that has become a serious problem since 2006 and a major threat to commercial beekeeping and pollination operations in Europe and the United States.
It is caused by varroa mites’ diseases, pesticide exposure, stresses associated with modern beekeeping practices and poor nutrition.
“We are offering knowledge on CCD and mapping bee health risk factors, while investigating mitigating strategies in Africa and globally with the help of partners,” Mr Ekesi added.
He said that a survey by scientists at the institution has 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, hence potential threats for bee colonies in Africa.
Mr Ekesi noted that African honeybees are less vulnerable to brood diseases, parasites such as Varroa mites, and pests like the small hive beetle.
Currently, the bees sector is manned by different departments depending on their different responsibilities.