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Honeybee, Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Apidae), leaf damage on Alnus species in Uganda: a blessing or curse in agroforestry?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2007

P. Nyeko*
Faculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation, Makerere University, PO Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda
G. Edwards-Jones
School of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, UK
R.K. Day
CAB International, Africa Regional Centre, PO Box 633, Village Market, Nairobi, Kenya
*Fax: 256 41 533574 E-mail:


It is a dictum that Apis mellifera Linnaeus is innocuous in agricultural ecosystems. This study provides the first record of A. mellifera as a significant defoliator of Alnus species. Careful field observations coupled with microscopic examination provided convincing evidence implicating A. mellifera as the cause of leaf perforation on Alnus species in Uganda. Apis mellifera was observed foraging selectively on young Alnus leaves and buds in search of a sticky substance, apparently propolis. In so doing, the bee created wounds that enlarged and caused tattering of Alnus leaves as they matured. Biological surveys indicated that the damage was prevalent and occurred widely, particularly on Alnus acuminata Kunth in Uganda. Incidence of the Apis mellifera damage on Alnus acuminata peaked in the dry season, with up to 90% of leaves emerging per shoot per month damaged, and was lowest in the wet months during peak leaf emergence. Apis mellifera leaf damage was consistently higher on Alnus acuminata than A. nepalensis D. Don., on saplings than mature trees, and on sun exposed than shaded leaves. The activity of honeybees may be detrimental to the productivity of Alnus, yet the substance for which the insect forages on Alnus is a resource with potential economic importance.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2002

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