In recent years several research projects have been trying to shed light on the principal factors influencing bee health and into the losses in managed honey bee colonies, wild bees and other pollinators in Europe and other countries.
SmartBees, is an ongoing FP7 collaborative project trying to identify crucial facets of honeybee resistance to colony losses, Varroa and viruses. It will characterise the genetic background of the resistance mechanisms in honeybees. It will develop breeding strategies to increase the frequencies of these valuable traits in local populations, considering the variable need of both common and endangered subspecies and local beekeeping practises. SmartBees promotes multiple local breeding efforts, to conserve local resilient populations and will develop molecular tools for describing and safeguarding future populations. SmartBees will commission extension science, and work in cooperation with stakeholders to attain conservation by utilisation. Among others, it will establish a network of apiaries for performance testing, run mainly by beekeepers, thereby improving the local acceptability and dissemination, and support the long-term sustainability of the apicultural sector.
An FP7 project for SMEs, Swarmonitor will develop the first monitoring tool that would detect changes in honey bee activity within the beehive for the effective management of bees. Changes in the activity within the hive will indicate early signs of potential swarming and possible poor health, so the beekeeper can intervene to manage the colony. The tool will allow beekeepers to remotely diagnose colony status without the invasive opening of hives for physical inspection. This will increase the efficiency of beekeeping allowing small and hobby beekeepers to more closely manage their colonies and predict behaviour that requires intervention remotely, and will allow commercial beekeepers to keep more hives over greater geographical distances so increasing their efficiency and profitability.
Super-B Cost Action, a joint research on bees and other pollinators, is bringing together scientific and societal communities involved in the conservation and sustainable management of ecosystem services mediated by pollinators.
In 2010 the Bees in Europe and the Decline Of honeybee Colonies Project (BEE DOC) was launched under Research Framework Programme 7. The BEE DOC comprised a network of eleven partners from honey bee pathology, chemistry, genetics and apicultural extension aiming to improve colony health of honey bees. The BEE DOC worked on empirically and experimentally filling the knowledge gaps in honey bee pests and diseases.
ALARM and STEP
The declines in European wild bees and other insect pollinators were quantified by the ALARM project which also assessed the circumstances responsible for the observed losses including habitat loss, fragmentation, pesticides, invasives and climate change. Based on this work the STEP project has assessed the impacts pollinator declines are having on agriculture, biodiversity and wider society. STEP also developed mitigation strategies to ensure pollinators are protected and managed for sustainable pollination services.
The BEE SHOP research project has addressed specific issues relating to honey contamination by pesticides and treatments used to combat pests and pathogens in the hive. It has produced a manual for beekeepers on the best husbandry practices to preserve the hygiene of the hive and a number of outcomes on the potential to increase bee resistance to viruses and parasites.
The COLOSS COST action has built up a network of researchers and other stakeholders across Europe to follow the evolution of colony losses and to join forces of participants in national research programs to understand and combat the factors responsible for major colony losses.