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World Bee Day: Research, Communities, Beekeeping and Bee Colony Survival in Ghana

Creado por Christian Opoku-Kwarteng | 20 de Mayo de 2024  | Researcher Experience Research impact

The 20th of May is designated as World Bee Day. Bees are pollinators, and "nearly 90% of the world's wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world's food crops and 35% of global agricultural land." Human activities are directly impacting bee species survival, with the extinction rate of current bee species "100 to 1,000 time higher than normal". To celebrate, and highlight the importance of, World Bee Day 2024, we invited AuthorAID member Christian Opoku-Kwarteng, to tell us about his research and experience with bees, and his journey with AuthorAID.

 

I served as Officer-In-Charge of the Bobiri Forest Reserve and Research Centre under CSIR-FORIG from January, 2019 to June, 2023. During this period, I facilitated several research projects, supervised students to collect data for their Undergraduate and Post-graduate research, trained National Service Personnel and Internship students. Also, conservation of indigenous threatened plants and animals such as Aubregrinia taiensis (now found in Ghana only while search is on-going in Ivory Coast), Khaya species (population reduced severely), Pericopsis elata (population reduced severely) and Talbotiella gentii (found in Ghana only) were prioritized to sustain their population. Furthermore, I am a member of the schools’ environmental education and outreach team. Therefore, I have educated a lot of students and tourists on nature conservation at the Bobiri Forest during their academic, nature and recreational tours as well as in schools and churches. 

A large group of people stand or kneel, facing the camera, in a wooded area. Two small tables are in the foreground.
Group picture during bee keeping training
at Bobiri Research Centre on Friday, 13th March, 2020.

I am the Team leader of a Beekeeping project captioned Community Capacity Development Initiative for 10 fringe communities around the Bobiri Forest Reserve. The goal is to reduce dependence on Forest resources via illegal extraction. The objectives of the research component are to establish:

  1. the causes of bee hive abandonment and abscondment. 
  2. attitude of locals towards illegal forest resources extraction before and after the programme.

Addressing this knowledge gap will increase adoption of Beekeeping as an alternative livelihood intervention. On Friday, 13th March, 2020 I facilitated a training workshop in Beekeeping Technology at the Bobiri Research Centre. Subsequently, 60 bee hives were distributed to the 54 trainees. The hives were mounted with technical assistance from CSIR-FORIG Entomologists and Technicians. Technical backstopping was provided to the trainees routinely to ensure success. The trainees were guided to harvest and sell the honey, wax, propolis and other hive products.

A person in white beekeeping overalls, protective hat and face covering, and red gloves, holds up a honeycomb to the camera. A wooden bee hive is behind to the left of the person. Another person is partially visible to the left of the image. The people are in a wooded area.
Pure honey in comb produced by a healthy bee colony.

 

Data collection was from March, 2020 to March 2024 on a quarterly basis (3 months interval). The preliminary results showed that wax moth infestation is the leading cause of bee hive abandonment and abscondment. It accounted for 8 out of 16 bee hive abandonments and abscondments. A bushy apiary and low hive hygiene were the major drivers of wax moth infestation. The second major cause was ant invasion which accounted for 4 out of 16. The drivers were arboreal ants gliding onto hives mounted under trees and ground dwelling ants climbing into hives in the absence of barriers such as lubricants along hive stands. Hive dislodge due to windstorm, falling tree trunks and branches accounted for 2 out of 16. The least frequent causes were insecticide application (1 out of 16) and death of entire bee colony (1 out of 16). Disease outbreak is a suspected cause of observed bee colony death.

Regarding attitude of locals towards illegal forest resources extraction, it was recorded to have reduced by 25% over the 4 years period since the programme started.

In order to ensure strong and healthy bee colonies to sustain production of honey, wax, propolis and hive products in the target area, it is recommended to mount bee hives in open areas with sufficient exposure to sunlight, weed apiary regularly, maintain optimum hive and apiary hygiene. Also, to inspect hives and apiary routinely to identify and isolate wax moth, ants, other insects and pests/ predators. Additionally, mount baited moth trap nets in areas with above 50% canopy cover to trap and isolate wax moth. Furthermore, pruning of over-grown tree branches is recommended to eliminate branches near hives and application of grease to vantage points on hive stands. The base of hive stands must be permanently inserted in lubricant such as vehicle engine oil to deter ants from climbing up to the hives.   

Six people in white beekeeping protective clothing stand around a wooden hive. One person is holding up a section of the hive with several bees on it.
Observed bee population decline in a colony.
Attributed to ant invasion.
A wooden bee hive open, showing within a grey mass of material. The hive is on the grassy ground.
Observed bee colony abscond/ hive abandonment.
Attributed to wax moth invasion.

The expected outcomes are to increase the profitability of beekeeping and enhance crop production through provision of pollination services by bees. This will increase farmers’ resilience to changing climatic conditions through beekeeping as an alternative livelihood intervention and improved crop yield. The short-term impact will be to increase household income and improve standard of living of locals in fringe communities. Ultimately, infractions such as illegal logging, poaching, illegal farming etc. in the Bobiri Forest will reduce by eliminating over-reliance on the forest for wood, food and non-timber forest products. The desired long-term impact is to use Beekeeping as a Nature Conservation tool.

Insects play key roles to maintain the balance of nature through provision of services such as pollination, seed dispersal, decomposition, waste recycling, ecosystem health indicators, recycle nutrients, biological pest and disease control. Some insects have aesthetic and recreational value. Others are key specimens in scientific research, source of pharmaceutical chemicals and medicine (Entomotherapy). Some yield commercial products such as silk, honey, bee wax, food and feed. Hence, there is an urgent need to keep them safe, healthy and thriving by protecting their habitats and maintain/ increase their food sources.  My love for social insects guided me to study bees and ants which are both in the order Hymenoptera. I am a PhD Entomology candidate at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi-Ghana. My research project is titled "Diversity and abundance of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of leaf litter along the eco-climatic gradient in Ghana".  The ultimate goal of my PhD study is to assess ecosystem health and stability. This will be achieved through the establishment of biodiversity monitoring sites in the ecological zones and dominant land uses in Ghana. The data will serve as a baseline information for using ants as bioindicators.

 

My journey with AuthorAID

Training courses by AuthorAID is supporting a wide range of early career scientists, tertiary students and researchers in the global south and Ghana in particular. My journey with AuthorAID began by participating in Basics of Grant Proposal Writing in July, 2022. This was followed by Getting Started with Writing and Publishing Your Research in July 2023, Basics of Grant Proposal Writing in October, 2023, Search Strategies in 2024 and currently Getting Started with Writing and Publishing Your Research which started on Tuesday, 16th April 2024.

These priceless training opportunities have enhanced my scientific writing capacity. Evidenced by being a lead author in 2 research articles, co-authored 3 research articles, one manual, one brochure and a National Conservation Action Plan for Ghana’s threatened tree species. These training avenues have enhanced my capacity to attract funding from international and local agencies for research and biodiversity conservation as well as secure scholarships for sponsored training programmes. These key competence-based training avenues have improved my research skills, advanced the quality of my PhD research proposal, fostered my ability to secure funds for data collection and publish research findings.

Picture of Mr. Christian Opoku-Kwarteng, the author.  I seek to contribute meaningfully towards nature conservation by restoring threatened plants and animals while promoting environmentally friendly alternative livelihood initiatives. This will be pursued in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders. Therefore, inter disciplinary research on biodiversity conservation via regional collaboration is needed now than ever. Finally, research findings must be communicated better to the general public. In simple but exciting ways using modern tools and channels, such as infographics and blogs via social media.

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