Pollinator biodiversity research

Bee taxonomy is essential for pollination biology, pollination management and biodiversity conservation. Because pollination is often an intricate interaction between the plant and the pollinator, it is essential to correctly identify the organisms involved. There are 2755 bee species in sub-Saharan Africa, about a third of which occur in South Africa.

Pollination mostly precedes fruit and seed production and many plants, including many crops, are insect pollinated. Bees are the most important group of pollinators.

Around the World bee abundance and diversity is diminishing. This affects agriculture and biodiversity conservation and we cannot understand and rectify the problem if we don’t know the organisms involved.

Almost all bees are pollinators, but only a few species make honey. The honey makers are the honey bee (one species) and the mocca or mopani bees (10 species), and even these honey producers are very important pollinators. Pollination precedes fruit and seed production and therefore it is an ecosystem service, the cost of which is the maintenance of pollinator healthy ecosystems.

Pollination is a difficult subject because different crops and wild plants need different pollinators. The pollinators may differ in different areas and periods of the season. Further, most plants have a complex of pollinators, and similarly many pollinators visit several plant species. Both pollinator and plant biodiversity together maintain pollinator healthy ecosystems. This complex situation is, in essence, biodiversity a biodiversity is in itself an ecosystem service.

Research activities

  • Systematic revisions of Afrotropical bees
  • Bee identification services
  • Production of electronic bee identification tools
  • Production of a database of Afrotropical bees
  • Development of the African Pollinator Initiative
  • Recording bee host plants
  • Bee biogeography
  • Behaviour, ecology and pollination biology of bees

National and International Affiliation

  • IPI (International Pollinator Initiative)
  • BioNET-International
  • SAFRINET, SADC (Southern African Development Community) network of BioNET
  • EAFRINET, the East African network of BioNET, and its large network of collaborating organisations)
  • FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation)
  • ICIPE (International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology)
  • University of Natal
  • University of Pretoria
  • University of Cape Town
  • Rhodes University, Grahamstown
  • University of Stellenbosch
  • Transvaal Museum, Pretoria
  • South African Museum, Cape Town
  • Albany Museum, Grahamstown

The Aculeate Hymenoptera collections

The bee collection of the S.A. National Collection of Insects comprises about 50 000 bee specimens. Material belonging to genera that have been revised are identified. Currently the Megachilidae are being studied.

The aculeate wasp collection comprises about 40 000 specimens. They have not been databased. Specimens in genera that have been revised are mostly identified.

Material is made available to researchers interested in studying Afrotropical bees and aculeate wasps.

Selected publications

EARDLEY, C.D. & V.B. WHITEHEAD. 2003. The Afrotropical Fideliidea. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 76(2): 250-276

EARDLEY, C.D. 2004. Afrotropical Ctenoplectrini (Hymenoptera: Apidae). African Plant Protection 9(1): 1-18

EARDLEY, C.D. 2004. Afrotropical Stingless Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae). African Plant Protection 10(2): 63-96

DAVIES, G.B.P., EARDLEY, C.D. & BROTHERS, D.J. 2005. Eight new species of Scrapter (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Colletidae) with descriptions of S. albifumus and S. amplispinatus females and a major range extension of the genus. African Invertebrates 46: 141-179

EARDLEY, C.D. 2005. Pollinator biodiversity conservation in Africa stimulates interest in bee taxonomy. [In] CBD Technical Series No. 21. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, p. 120-121

EARDLEY, C.D. 2006. Afrotropical Bees now: what next? [In] Kevan, Peter G. & Vera L. Imperatriz-Fonseca [Eds.] Pollinating Bees. The Conservation Link Between Agriculture and Nature (2nd Ed.) Ministry of Environment, Brazil : 105-114

EARDLEY, C.D. & URBAN R.P. 2006. Taxonomic name changes in Afrotropical bees (Hymenoptera:Apoidae). African Entomology 14(1): 161-174

EARDLEY, C.D. 2006. Southern and East African Melitta Kirby (Apoidea: Melittidae). African Entomology 14(2): 293-300

EARDLEY, C., ROTH, D., CLARKE, J., BUCHMANN, S., AND GEMMILL, B. [Eds] 2006. Pollinators and Pollination: A resource book for policy and practice. API. Pretoria. 77pp

EARDLEY, C.D., 2006. The southern Africa species of Andrena Fabricius (Apoidea: Andrenidae). African Plant Protection 12: 51-57

EARDLEY, C.D., 2007. Three new species of Sphecodopsis Bischoff (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Nomadinae). African Entomology 15:193-196

CORTOPASSI-LAURINO, M., Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L., Roubik, D.W., Dollin, A., Heard, T., Aguilar, I., Venturieri, G.C., Eardley, C. and Nogueira-Neto, P. 2006. Global meliponiculture: challenges and opportunities. Apidologie 37: 275-292

EARDLEY, C.D. and DALY H.V. 2007. Bees of the genus Ceratina Latreille in southern Africa (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). Entomofauna 13: 1-96

MICHEZ, D., EARDLEY, C.D., KUHLMANN, M. and PATINY, S. 2007. Revision of the bee genus Capicola (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Melittidae) distributed in the Southwest of Africa. European Journal of Entomology 104: 311-340

GEMMILL-HERREN, B., EARDLEY, C., MBURU, J., KINUTHIA, W. AND MARTINS, D. 2007. Chapter 9. Pollinators [In] Scherr, Sara J. and McNeely, Jeffrey.A. [Eds.] 2007. Farming with Nature. The Science and Practice of Ecoagriculture. Island Press, Washington, 445pp

MICHEZ, D. and EARDLEY, C.D. 2008. Monographic revision of the bee genus Melitta Kirby 1802 (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Melittidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of France 43(4): 379-440

MISSA, O., BASSET, Y., ALONSO, A., MILLER, S.E., CURLETTI, G., DE MEYER, M., EARDLEY, C., MANSELL, M.W., WAGNER, T. 2008. Monitoring arthropods in a tropical landscape: relative effects of sampling methods and habitat types on trap catches. Journal of Insect Conservation DOI 10.1007/s10841-0 07-9130-5. pp.1-16

DANFORTH, B.N., C. EARDLEYC, L. PACKER, K.WALKER, A PAULY, AND F.J. RANDRIANANMBININTSOA. 2008. Phylogeny of Halictidae with an emphasis on endemic African Halictinae. Apidologie 39: 86-101.

BASSET, Y., O. MISSA, A. ALONSO, S.E., MILLER, G. CURLETTI, M. DE MEYER, C. EARDLEY, M.W. MANSELL, V. NOVOTNY AND T. WAGNER 2008. Faunal turnover of arthropod assemblages along a wide gradient of disturbances in Gabon. African Entomology 16(1): 47-59.

WHITEHEAD, V.B., K. STEINER AND C. EARDLEY. 2008. Oil collecting bees mostly of the summer rainfall area of southern Africa (Melittidae, Rediviva Friese). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 81: 122-141.

BASSET, Y., O. MISSA, A. ALONSO, S.E., MILLER, G. CURLETTI, M. DE MEYER, C. EARDLEY, O.T. Lewis, M.W. MANSELL, V. NOVOTNY AND T. WAGNER 2008. Changes in arthropod assemblages along a wide gradient of disturbances in Gabon. Conservation Biology 10: 1552-1563.

EARDLEY, CD, M. GIKUNGU AND M. SCHWARZ. 2009. Bee Conservation in Sub_Saharan Africa and Madagascar: diversity, status and threats. Apidology 40(3): 355-366.

EARDLEY, C. 2009. A revision of the Southern African species of Meliturgula Friese (Hymenoptera: Andrenidae: Panurginae). Zootaxa 2261: 39-51.

EARDLEY, C. 2009. First record of the tribe Biastini from the Afrotropical Region (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Zootaxa 2264: 65-68.

SUNG, I-H., A. DUBITZKY, C. EARDLEY AND S. YAMANE. 2009. Description and biological notes of Ctenoplectra bees from Southeast Asia and Taiwan (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Ctenoplectrini) with a new species from North Borneo. Entomological Science 12: 324-340.

EARDLEY, C,. F. KOCH AND A. WOODS. 2009. Polistes dominulus (Christ, 1791) (Hymenoptera: Polistinae: Vespidae) newly recorded from South Africa. African Entomology 17(2): 226-227.

PACKER, L., C.S. SHEFFIELD, J. GIBBS, N. DE SILVA, L.R. BEST, J. ASCHER, R. AYALA, D. MARTINS, S.P.M. ROBERTS, O. TADAUCHI, M. KUHLMANN, P.H. WILLIAMS, C. EARDLEY, S. DROEGE, T.V. LEVCHENKO. 2009. The Campaign to Barcode the Bees of the World: Progress, Problems, Prognosis. Pp.178-180 In: Yurrita, C.L. (Ed.) Memorias: VI Congreso Mesoamericano Sobre Abejas Nativas. Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala – Centro de Estudios Conservacionistas. 368pp.

EARDLEY, C.D. AND R. URBAN. 2010. Catalogue of Afrotropical Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Apiformes). Zootaxa 2455:1-548.

EARDLEY, C., M. KUHLMANN, A. PAULY. 2010A. The Bee Genera and Subgenera of sub-Saharan Africa. ABC Taxa 7: 1-138.

EARDLEY, C., M. KUHLMANN AND A. PAULY. 2010B. Les genres et sous-genres d’abeilles de l’Afrique subsaharienne. ABC Taxa 9: 1-143.

MICHEZ, D., C.D. EARDLEY, K. TIMMERMANN AND B.N. DANFORTH. 2010. Unexpected Polylecty in the Bee Genus Meganomia (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Melittidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 83(3): 221-230.

MICHEZ, D., C.D. EARDLEY, M. KUHLMANN, K. TIMMERMANN AND S. PATINY. 2010. The bee genera Haplomelitta and Samba (Hymenoptera: Anthophila: Melittidae): phylogeny, biogeography and host plants. Invertebrate Systematics 24: 327-347.

Contributing author:

Plan of Action of the African Pollinator Initiative, 2003. African Pollinator Initiative, Nairobi. pp.36

DIAZ, S., D. Tilman and J. Fargione 2005. Biodiversity Regulation of Ecosystem Services. [In] Ecosystem Services and Human Well-Being. R. Hassan, R. Scoles and N. Ash. (editors) Island Press, Washington. Chapter 11, 917pp

IMPERATRIZ-FONSECA, V.L., A.M. SARAIVA, D. DEJONG 2006. Bees as pollinators in Brazil, assessing the status and suggesting best practices. Conservation International, Brazil. 11pp.