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Anthophora fulvitarsis. Photo by Ferran Turmo Gort (CC BY-NC-ND)
Anthophora plumipes female. Photo by Ombrosoparacloucycle (CC BY-NC-SA)
Anthophora plumipes. Photo by Ombrosoparacloucycle (CC BY-NC-SA)
Anthophora plumipes. Photo by Nigel Jones (CC BY-NC-ND)
Anthophora vestita (female) - pinned specimen. Photo: Connal Eardley
Anthophora vestita (male) - pinned specimen. Photo: Connal Eardley
Honey bees are not the only bee species that are significant for human wellbeing. Anthophora bees are a group of native bee species that do not produce honey but are important pollinators of crops and wild plants. Anthophora bees are not aggressive but can sting for defence. Individuals are large often with yellow facial markings and some Anthophora species have distinctive bands. Individuals make nests in the soil and live independently of others (i.e. they are solitary), although nests can be close together. This fact sheet provides information about these bees to encourage farmers to understand and protect them to help ensure that their crops are effectively pollinated.
From a conservation and agricultural standpoint it is not necessary to recognise all the different bee genera. However, it is important to know that there is a large bee biodiversity. Different bee genera pollinate different plant species, although there is some overlap that acts as a buffer as bee populations wax and wane. For healthy ecosystems, including agro-ecosystems both diversity and abundance in the bee fauna is important.
Genus: Anthophora Latreille, 1802
Anthophora is one of the largest genera in the bee family Apidae, with over 450 known species worldwide. They are most abundant and diverse in the northern temperate and African regions.
The bee species belonging to the genus Anthophora are widespread in sub-Saharan
In East Africa Anthophora bees are not well known by local people (including farmers) in East Africa, where the name bee is generally thought only to apply to honey bees. However, many local people who see Anthophora bees at flowers will possibly know that they are bees but think that they are honeybees. These large, heavy and beautiful bees can be easily identified by their size and colour characteristics. Most Anthophora species have yellow facial markings though some have black faces. The bodies of commonly encountered bees in the field are yellow-white or blue-white in colour.
Some other bee groups look like Anthophora bees: These are large Amegilla, Xylocopa, Megachile, Tetraloniella, Tetralonia, and Melitta bees. While foraging on various plant species, males of Xylocopa can sometimes look like Anthophora bees. Anthophora individuals can be distinguished from the very similar genus Amegilla by the possession of arolia (sticky pads) between their claws.
Anthophora bees are found in most districts/regions of
Anthophora bees can be found in various habitats (land-uses) in East Africa such as grasslands, natural forests, wetlands, marshlands, open habitats, protected areas, farmlands, rangelands, woodlands, woodlots (forest plantations), riparian areas.
All Anthophora species are solitary, though nests may be found close together. Many species make nests in the soil (Michener 2007).
Most Anthophora species in appear to collect nectar and pollen from a wide range of flowering crop species belonging to different plant families although a few species appear to be specialised, mostly visiting plant species from one family. These bees are efficient pollinators of crops such, water melon, coffee, beans, cowpeas, Bambara nuts, simsim (sesame), passion fruits, and apples.
Little information exists on the usefulness of these bees to the lives of the people in
There are now concerted research efforts in the region to develop best practices for conservation and management of bees to enhance crop production. Theoretically, bee conservation and management is inexpensive and adopted activities can also improve the aesthetic value of the landscape. Such practices involve setting land aside (e.g. a 1-metre strip) in the farmland to host all year round food resources for the bees, as well as safer sites for nesting, mating, resting and hiding from natural enemies. During flowering, farmers should manage pesticide usage carefully to avoid poisoning flower-visiting bees. Farmers should also minimise pesticide drift from the field to adjacent areas. Laws governing registration and use of plant protection products also indirectly play a major role in the protection of pollinators. Wood collection should be managed to conserve the nesting sites wood-nesting species and trampling by people and livestock and tilling should be managed to conserve the nesting sites of soil-nesting species. KARI (the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute) is developing protocols for mass rearing of different species of solitary bees. Any successful results from this research will be freely communicated to the public. In addition, KARI is collaborating with other stakeholders to ensure in situ conservation and management of bees for pollination purposes. Much of the work of conserving native bees will be underpinned by raising public awareness of the importance of these species.
There is not yet any legislation in
1. Eardley CD, Gikungu MW and Schwarz MP (2009) Bee conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa and
2. Eardley CD, Kuhlmann M and Pauly A. (2010) The Bee Genera and Subgenera of sub-Saharan
3. Eardley CD and Urban R (2010) Catalogue of Afrotropical bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Apiformes). Zootaxa, 2455: 1–548.
4. Michener CD (2007) The Bees of the world, the John Hopkins University Press,
5. Eardley, CD and Brooks RW (1989) The genus Anthophora Latreille in southern
Théodore Munyuli, Busitema University - Uganda; Muo Kasina, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) - Kenya; Juma Lossini, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) – Tanzania; John Mauremootoo, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL Secretariat – UK; Connal Eardley, Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI) – South Africa.
We recognise the support from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Tropical Pesticide Research Institute (TPRI) –
BioNET-EAFRINET regional coordinator: [email protected]