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Result 2: Validated bee disease and pest management modules with efficient field based diagnostic tools developed

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Activity 2.1. Mapping of bee biodiversity and health factors using species distribution model and dynamic vegetation modelling

In this project, different explanatory spatial variables such as changes in floral species and abundance across different altitudinal gradients, and physical variables such as landscape, temperature, rainfall, etc. are recorded and used as explanatory variables to assess the Apis mellifera races and vegetation data. The main objective is to explore abundances of Apis mellifera races to physical variables and spatial environmental information from different African countries to provide a more realistic map of suitable vegetation habitat of honeybee races in the East, Central and Western regions of Africa.

The following ecological issues will be addressed:

  1. Relationships between physical and spatial environmental variables in the distribution of African honeybee races;
  2. Habitat characteristics associated with African Apis mellifera races in different African countries;
  3. Comparison of physical and spatial variables as predictors of African Apis mellifera abundance; and
  4. Plant–pollinator interphase.

Activity 2.2. Mapping of bee diseases and pests distribution in modern, traditional and feral bee colonies, pollen source and spatial analysis of land use and other environmental factors

This activity is intended to describe the distribution of diseases and pests in bee colonies across the landscape gradients in the participating countries, based on the surveillance results. It also portrays the pollen and propolis sources, the nature of land use/land cover (LULC) dynamics in frontier settings to investigate the causes and consequences of bee diseases and pests, and LULC by mapping and landscape patterns and dynamics and evaluating these in the context of bees–humans–environment interactions. Details of every apiary inspection and laboratory diagnosis carried out by the icipe reference laboratory and satellite stations will be held on the secure pages of the icipe website. This will enable the production of accurate and up-to-date information on the distribution of notifiable bee disease and pest data. These are generated with reference to the 10 km Ordnance Grid System, details of which can be found in any atlas or Ordnance Survey map. The image gallery will also have many useful pictures that should help the users to identify pests and diseases in the participating countries.

Activity 2.3. Investigating behavioural mechanisms of African honeybees' tolerance against the invasion of Varroa mite, and other pests and brood diseases

This study is being conducted on the existing breeding stock in the participating countries—Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Liberia. In the breeding stock, each generation is verified to select the quality queens that have a progeny of workers with useful traits such as gentle behaviour, less swarming tendency and high honey production. The selected queens are used for propagation of daughters through artificial insemination using healthy drone semen. Hygienic behaviour of the breeding stock is used as a criterion of disease resistance in this stock.

The following behavioral traits and their mechanisms will be investigated in the bee colonies:

  • Evaluation for hygienic behaviour;
  • Adult bee population in the breeder stock;
  • Mating and oviposition behaviour;
  • Swarming behaviour;
  • Endocrine behaviour of the disease- and pest-infested colonies;
  • Defensive behaviour of the honeybee.

Activity 2.4. Developing effective methods to detect pesticide hazards in the beehive products and identify and standardize mites-related volatile components

Semio-chemicals research: In this activity, we are identifying volatile components that act as synergists; comparing volatiles from host and non-host brood; checking the response of various compounds; and verifying the attractant and arrestant behaviours at various volatile levels. We are testing the selected semiochemicals on mites to disrupt their behaviour. The project will create a slow release formulation for sustained flooding/attracticide activity over different periods of time. This research will lead to the development and deployment of in-hive devices, and ultimately to field-testing these devices on phoretic mites inside full size colonies. Eventually, we will release a package of practices for the beekeepers to control varroasis in the apiaries.

Pesticide hazards: In this activity, we are developing effective methods to examine chemical poisoning in bees that is caused by poisons affecting the nervous system, leading to lack of co-ordination of the body functions, and death. The poisoning affects the alimentary system, the consequences of which are starvation and infestation by pests and diseases. Poisoning can originate from naturally occurring sugar sources (such as pollen and nectar) and manmade supplemental sugar preparations that inadvertently become toxic. The results of natural substance poisoning are presence of disabled or dead bees under the offending plant, or bees behaving strangely outside the hive.

The project is applying several techniques (HPLC, GC-MS, LC-MS, etc.) to measure pesticide hazard and risk assessment in bee and bee products. Some substances are difficult to analyze in gas chromatography (GC) due to thermal instability or chemical polarity. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is a good method for analyzing a broad variety of different pesticides in plant extract, water and foodstuff samples. Pesticide traces will be investigated in honey, pollen and bee cuticles. Pesticide traces in honey will be isolated with liquid/liquid extraction after homogenization. Pesticide concentrations in pollen will be extracted after mechanical crushing. Pesticide traces in cuticles will be recovered following a solvent-immersion of the bee. Ethyl acetate seems to be sufficiently miscible with water to allow good penetration into the plant cells and its polarity is sufficient to extract the more polar pesticides. But it is not completely miscible with water, hence after extraction no extra partition step is required, and the water is simply removed by excess sodium sulfate (Van der Hoff and van Zoonen, 1999).

Activity 2.5. Evaluating bee health hazard and risk through effective technologies such as morphometrics and DNA finger printing and vitellogenin levels

In this activity, we are undertaking a hazard identification process by assembling a list of organisms associated with honeybees. The hazard list used in this risk analysis will employ the OIE 2003 bee genetic material risk analysis list as a starting point. Currently, six bee diseases/pests and parasites are present on this list: acarapisosis, American foulbrood (AFB), European foulbrood (EFB), varroasis, and small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) and Tropilaelaps mite infestations. The project will collect samples from the five countries to monitor the diseases and pests in the apiaries.

Activity 2.6. Developing of plant based bio-pesticide for bee diseases and pests and production of over 200,000 pieces of bee pest and disease control products for Farmers' Federations/beekeepers in 5 countries in Africa

In this activity, we are evaluating plants through random screening to develop bio-pesticides using hydro-distillation and solvent extraction methods. The plant extracts will be evaluated for effectiveness against selected honeybee pests and diseases. The safety of the effective plant extracts will be determined by testing their toxicity against adult bees. The effective and non-toxic plant extracts will be formulated and tested for control and prevention of the respective bee pests and diseases under semi-field and field conditions. The effective plant-derived bee pest and disease control products will be protected by patent and registered with relevant bodies.

We shall undertake the production of at least 3 effective plant-derived bee pest and disease control products. Over 200,000 packaged pieces of bee pest and disease control products will be produced and provided to beekeepers/farmers in the 5 countries in Africa. Commercialization of the plant-derived bee pest and disease control products will be initiated in partnership with the private sector and rural communities will undertake commercial cultivation and processing of the pest control plants.