A hearty congratulations to Yosef Hamba Tola on successfully completing all requirements for his PhD degree. His thesis “Characterization of the honeybee and stingless bee gut microbiota: A hidden diversity and host-specific microbiomes from the sub-Saharan African region” was completed under the supervision of FABI Director Prof. Bernard Slippers and Dr Juan Paredes of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE). Yosef presented his Prestige Seminar on 3 August before successfully defending his thesis. His external examiners were Prof. Martin Kaltenpoth of the Institute of Molecular Biology at the Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, in Germany and Prof. Michael Lattorff of ICIPE and Dr Yusuf Ahmed from the University of Pretoria.

The honeybee, Apis millifera is one of the most important and widely-used managed pollinators while stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponini) are becoming important alternative pollinators of horticulture crops, particularly with the recent honeybee colony losses worldwide. Attention has been drawn to the microbiota communities associated with bee gut and their potential impact on the host physiology and health. No comprehensive study has been done on this subject to date in Africa, where important native diversity of these bees is found. Yosef’s study characterized the gut microbiota of honeybee and stingless bee species/sub-species from sub-Saharan Africa using 16S rRNA amplicon sequence. He also established protocols in the laboratory for newly emerged microbe-deprived worker bee rearing, and bee mono-inoculation, and used these to test the effect of individual bacterial species on bee fitness. The data and protocols develop in this thesis represent an important step towards the development of state-of-the-art bee gut microbiota research in Africa. The results from Yosef’s study will guide future strategies to improve bee health in the continent, the development of potential probiotics to increase bee resistance against pest and pathogens, to improve bee nutrition, and increase resilience against climate change.