Page 100 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
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PLANT PRODUCTION and food security
Honeybees are major pollinators of both native flora and agriculturally important crops and therefore significantly contribute to conserving natural habitats and biodiversity.
The work of the Social Insects Research Group (SIRG) on honeybees has been prescient in that there has been a growing appreciation for the dependence
of human populations on the food provided by the fruits and crops pollinated by honeybees.
Honeybees and other pollinators are threatened
by several factors. These include parasites such
as mites, pathogens (for example, American foulbrood), landscape and climate change. These factors have an impact on the wild population of honeybees and affect the agricultural sector and threaten food security and biodiversity. Even worse, the effects on the wild population of honeybee
and other pollinators are poorly understood. In order to address the concerns about honeybee population welfare, researchers at UP are studying the epidemiology of bee diseases and parasites and are monitoring the population densities of honeybee
colonies in undisturbed habitats to establish what fluctuations are occurring in the wild population of colonies. Central questions are: what is a healthy and balanced diet for bees, and how are pesticides undermining the health of bees?
Understanding the dynamics of wild populations will provide an answer regarding declining honeybee populations, at least on the African continent. It
will also show the contribution of honeybees to biodiversity, food security and the pollination services they render to the agricultural sector.
The work undertaken by members of the group ranges from investigating bee diseases and parasites; exploring the chemical ecology of relationships between queens and workers through the use
of pheromones in populations of honeybees throughout the African continent; analysing the
  98 | UP Research Review 2016
Botterblomme – Adriaan Oosthuizen

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