THE director of a North Yorkshire natural health products specialist is preparing for two trips to Africa after securing a fellowship to study bee medicine.

Hugo Fearnley of Whitby based Nature’s Laboratory and ARC (Apiceutical Research Centre) can now book his flights for the first of two, three-week trips this year..

Mr Fearnley has been awarded a Churchill Travelling fellowship worth £6,400 to visit founr countries in Africa to study ways in which medicines from the beehive, in particular propolis, may be able to help local people treat some of the major diseases which affect them including malaria, leishmania and sleeping sickness.

Mr Fearnley's father, James Fearnley, chief executive of Natures Laboratory has been researching the medicinal properties of propolis, a natural antibiotic produced by bees, for 25 years and is a world authority on the subject.

Hugo joined his father ten years ago and now heads up the Bee Pharma Africa Project which aims to build a consortium of beekeepers, health professionals and scientists in Africa to look at the potential of local propolis to treat diseases like malaria, leishmania and sleeping sickness.

Mr Fearnley said: "My first trip will be in April and I am heading for West Africa, Cameroon and Nigeria.

"Then in the autumn I will be over in South East Africa visiting Tanzania and Zambia.

"I have spent time in Africa before and I am looking forward to meeting the many contacts we have built up over the years. I'm thrilled that the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust have chosen to support me in this project and I can't wait to get out there."

"I will be presenting the results of my first trip to the inaugural Propolis in Human & Bee Health conference we are co-sponsoring with University of Strathclyde in June this year."