MSc. Thesis SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE AWARD OF THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI
ABSTRACT Honeybees are globally recognized for products such as honey and wax, and as valuable pollinators of both natural ecosystems and agricultural crops. However, studies have shown that climate variability and human - driven environmental changes are affecting the population dynamics of the bees and their preferred fodder plants and subsequently, the socio-economic benefits of the honey bees. Although the decline in the honey bee and their associated plants may be attributed to all these factors combined, which rarely acts in isolation, previous studies in honey bee pollinator and pollination interactions have rarely considered they together decline. This study therefore aimed to investigate the effects of the combined and interactive factors of climate and anthropogenic environmental change on the bee forage diversity, plant-honey bee pollinators’ interactions and bee keeping activity. The project interviewed 25 respondents of smallholder farmer/beekeeper households using a semi-structured questionnaire. The beekeepers and other key informants in the study site were asked to report on important constrains and opportunities for beekeeping. Transect walks were conducted during the wet and dry season to determine the diversity of bee forage plants in twelve (12) randomly selected farms lined while bee population was determined by observing the beehive fences. Rainfall data collected in the same period were subsequently built into a statistical model to predict relationship between diversity of bee forage plants and bee population using precipitation data. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze quantitative data and percentages for the qualitative data. The major findings of the study indicated that there was a positive relationship between the warmer and drier weather conditions experienced during dry season and the lower diversity of bee forage plants [Bee forage plants (FP) (at confidence range) = 12.425 + 0.8757M, p-value; R2 = 0.8]. Similarly, there was also a positive correlation between the honey bee (B) population size and the availability of bee forage plants [(FB) = 17.116 + 0.6365 P, R2 = 0.55]. The findings indicated that warmer and drier conditions in dry season were accompanied with about 57% decline in the diversity of the honey bee fodder (floral resources) and about 36% decline in honeybee population. The most important plant families observed to be used by honey bee as fodder included Acanthaceae, Labiatae, Rubiaceae and Compositae. Among the plant species in the understory community, Tridax procumbens, Digera muricata and Justicia flava were found to be among the most important to honey bees. Hence, this study show clear evidence of a link between climate variability, diversity of honey bee fodder plants and honey bee population. The findings of this study recommends that beekeeping farmers in the study site should give consideration to the season long fodder resources needed by bees in dry season and ensure connectivity of natural habitats in farming areas, so that bees’ can more easily disperse and easily collect floral resources essential in response to changing climates.