Aculeate wasps and bees

Aculeate wasps and bees and their roles in the semi-arid to arid areas of southern Africa – funded by the South African National Research Foundation

The long term (1970 - ) and ongoing research project of the Department of Entomology and Arachnology of the Albany Museum has been the study of aculeate wasps and bees. Throughout funding has been received from CSIR then FRD and now NRF. The presently engaged researchers are Dr Friedrich Gess (NRF C rated) and Dr Sarah Gess (NRF B rated) who have current research contracts with the Albany Museum for the coming five years.

The project seeks for aculeate wasps and bees to answer the questions:

  • What species are represented?
  • What are the distributions of these species?
  • What degree of endemism is there?
  • What faunal groupings can be recognised?
  • What community structures can be recognised?
  • Where applicable, what are the prey preferences of the wasps?
  • Of what importance are the wasps as predators?
  • What are the flower visiting preferences?
  • Of what importance are they as pollinators?
  • What is the nature of their nests?
  • What are their nesting requirements?
  • What are their roles in the ecological system?
  • What are the requirements for maintaining essential populations in areas used for farming, conservation and ecotourism?
  • How can an awareness and appreciation of the diversity and value of aculeate wasps and bees be generated at all levels of society?

This project is of importance because aculeate wasps and bees, many of which have restricted distributions, are essential components of the natural system and due to their sensitivity to ecological disturbances may through lack of knowledge be easily lost, resulting in a cascade effect.

The project addresses South Africa’s stated aims of conservation and management of ecosystems and biodiversity in that:

  • It contributes to the development of a more comprehensive understanding of the way that ecosystems are structured and  function in southern Africa;
  • Describes and contributes to the understanding and conservation of the biodiversity resources in southern Africa at ecosystem, habitat, community, population, and species levels and can therefore contribute to developing appropriate practices, strategies, and policies for the sustainable use and conservation of southern Africa’s biodiversity and assessing and adding value to southern Africa’s biological diversity;
  • It can contribute to the monitoring, interpretation and prediction of environmental change;
  • It seeks to expand and make more representative South Africa’s human capacity to conserve biological diversity through environmental awareness and education, as well as to develop skills, expertise and research infrastructure;
  • It contributes, through fundamental research, to the objectives set out in the Convention on Biological Diversity of which South Africa is a signatory and to the African Pollinator Initiative.