Is there a need for conservation of honeybees in Africa?Vincent Dietemann1, 2, Christian Walter Werner Pirk2 and Robin Crewe2
1 Swiss Bee Research Centre, Agroscope Liebefeld-Posieux Research Station ALP, 3003 Bern, Switzerland
2 Social Insect Research Group, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, 0002 Pretoria, South Africa
Received 11 November 2008 – Revised 5 December 2008 – Accepted 17 December 2008 - Published online 7 July 2009
Abstract - Honeybees are native to Africa and Europe but have been spread worldwide as the basis for an apicultural industry. To date, large and diverse wild populations only remain in Africa. On this continent the beekeeping industry is relatively undeveloped and relies on trapping swarms from wild populations to constitute the managed stocks. Bee breeding is seldom practiced. The situation is therefore different from that of Europe or North America where wild or feral honeybees have almost disappeared and this distinction is important when assessing the conservation status of African honeybees. While African honeybees appear to be more resistant to major diseases, the history of honeybee populations worldwide suggests that their conservation is a necessity. After analyzing the threats to which honeybees are exposed in Africa, we argue that preventive conservation measures are required to maintain the present favorable situation and avoid the declines in populations experienced elsewhere.
Key words: conservation / honeybee / Apis / Africa / diseases / beekeeping
© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2009