Global Pollination and Honeybee Forage Projects

SANBI’s Ecosystem Services Programme under the Biodiversity Research, Information and Monitoring Division is implementing very interesting projects on pollination in crop agriculture and the honeybee.

Background and reason for our projects

Animal pollination is required for approximately one third of human food consumed on the planet (many fruits and vegetables), and for the production of many fodder, seed, flower and oilseed crops. Insects, birds, bats, and other animals serve as pollinators while they forage for their own survival, consequently providing a free ecosystem service upon which we depend. Honeybees are a pivotal species in Africa as the most important generalist pollinator on the continent. Honeybees pollinate 40-70% of indigenous flowering plants and are the most useful pollinator for commercial pollination. About 50 crops in SA are insect-pollinated, with much of the service provided by beekeepers and their managed honeybees.

There is mounting evidence of a global 'pollination crisis' with the mysterious disappearance in Europe and North America of hundreds of thousands of managed honeybee colonies, as well as declines in populations of other wild pollinators. In a word, global honeybee populations are ‘stressed’ making them vulnerable to any new perturbation. Thus far South African honeybee populations have not exhibited significant losses, but the recent advent of ‘new’ bee diseases in South Africa suggests that our bees are now more vulnerable and stressed than was previously the case. One of the most important factors contributing to the sustainability of the pollination service for South African crops is the conservation and sustainable management of forage resources for managed honeybees. While crops provide forage for honeybee colonies during the pollination season, beekeepers are reliant on other forage sources to ensure the survival of their colonies at times when crops are not flowering.

To prevent losses in agricultural production, pollinators (including honeybees) in agro-ecosystems and associated natural systems need to be conserved and managed as part of sustainable agriculture. This means that we need to understand the pollination systems, what pollinators need to survive, the causes of decline in pollinators or the pollination service, and the effects on crop production. Farmers also need access to information on what constitutes good agricultural and land management practice to sustain pollination services and to conserve pollinators in associated natural systems.

More information on the projects can be found under:

Click on the links to download more information:

Last updated on 26 November 2014
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