Johannesburg-born Robin Crewe is Professor of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria (UP) and a NRF-rated scientist. The thirteenth recipient of the Award (and the first from UP), he is a founder member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, the Royal Entomological Society of London and the World Academy of Science and also serves as a council member of the Academy of Science of the Developing World and chairs the Board of the Network of African Science Academies. Crewe is currently the acting Senior Vice-Principal of the University of Pretoria and will retire at the end of June 2013 to return to work on honeybee research and direct the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at UP.
Professor Crewe intends to produce a monograph on the life history of the honeybee Apis mellifera in collaboration with Professor Robin Moritz of the University of Halle-Wittenberg. He comments “Honeybee colonies get by remarkably well in spite of many seemingly odd biological features that are often regarded as aberrations and it is these “aberrations” that we would like to address in our monograph. Since both of us have worked for more than two decades on the chemical ecology, the genetics and the evolution of parasitic honeybee workers, we feel it is now overdue to report on plasticity of social organisation in the honeybee colony with a view to achieving a more nuanced understanding of honeybee social organisation. The work that we are proposing is not designed to suggest that the work of our colleagues and our previous work requires revision or reconsideration, but will provide a richer understanding of the real life of a honeybee in the colony. Our work will thus focus on the role of the individual within the colony rather than studying the colony as a biological entity (superorganism). We will try to dissect the various careers a male and a female honeybee can have and their roles in colony organisation.
“In addition, the Social Insect Research Group at the University of Pretoria will continue with its research on social parasitism in southern African honeybees with a view to resolving a persistent problem in the apicultural industry. This very generous award provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to document the importance of understanding the biology of African honeybee populations to the conception of honeybee sociality globally and provide potential solutions to the threat of the loss of honeybee populations. International collaboration will allow us to achieve this objective.”