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Welcome to the Social Insects Research Group

Newly emerged worker bees

Newly emerged worker bees

Honeybee worker foraging

Honeybee worker  foraging

Bees on a frame close up

Bees on a frame close up

Welcome to the Social Insects Research Group (SIRG) University of Pretoria

The Social Insects Research Group (SIRG) also known as the Bee group is a Research Group in the Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria. Our group studies fundamental and applied aspects of sociality in ants, bees, termites and wasps with a particular focus on honeybees, hence we are teaching and building capacity for bee research in Africa.

The main topic of our research is the analysis of pheromonal communication between colony members, using behavioural observation, analysis of the relatedness of the individuals involved, bioassays of their responses to pheromonal compounds and gas chromatographic analysis of chemical signals produced. This work allows us to explore the regulation of reproductive conflicts in honeybee colonies. We also study other aspects of social organisation, such as the diet of workers that reproduce and the regulation of nest homeostasis.

With the threats to the survival of managed honeybee colonies, we are conducting research into bee diseases and the potential harm these can do. To address the problem of global honeybee health and colony losses, our group has joined COLOSS (Prevention of honeybee Colony LOSSes) and SUPER-B networks that focuss on improving the well-being of bees and pollinators at the global level. In 2015, we were selected unto the Executive Council (EC) of the Africa Apiculture Platform (AAP) for honey production, bee health and pollination services of the African Union.

From a more local perspective, we are investigating the population genetics of wild honeybees in South Africa with a view to making recommendations about the conservation of local populations. Honeybees are major pollinators of both native flora and agriculturally important crops. The bees have recently been threatened by several parasites that affect the colonies of commercial beekeepers, and whose effect on the wild population is poorly understood. We are monitoring the population densities of honeybee colonies in undisturbed habitat to establish a benchmark against which we will be able to assess the effect of parasites on wild populations in the future.

The group is collaborating with other groups and institutes within Africa in countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, as well as in Thailand, China, USA, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Germany.

Please contact us if you want to work on bees, ants or termites in South Africa.

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