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New indicators and on-farm practices to improve honeybee health in the Aetina tumida era in Europe 

Worldwide pollination service provided by honey bees is between 13.5 and 21.5 billion dollars (FAO, 2006). European beekeeping suffers significant colony losses due to climate and prevalence of diseases (EPILOBEE, 2014). The BPRACTICES project aims to develop new management practices (Good Beekeeping Practices - GBPs) adopting innovative clinical methods and biomechanical and biomolecular techniques respecting the natural behaviour of bees. The research activities focus on developing new biosensors from honey to monitor Aethina tumida (SHB) presence and PCR techniques to diagnose in advance honeybee diseases; to accelerate and to raise efficiency of the clinical inspection of the hives to detect SHB and indicate a proper bee-friendly management to monitor and control the honeybee diseases. Innovations will be validated, thanks to the European Union Reference Laboratory for Bee Health (ANSES) and disseminated in collaboration with the International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations (Apimondia) and project partners from Turkey, Slovenia, Spain, Austria and Italy. During the last 11 months of project activity the economic impact on beekeeping industry will be quantified and beekeepers and consumers will be aware of the project results thanks to a cutting-edge traceability system using the QR-code/RFID technology.

A list of general and specific GBPs for the main honey bee diseases (Varroosis, viruses, American foulbrood - AFB, European foulbrood - EFB, nosemosis and aethinosis) has been published and scored by experts. Protocols and field trials were carried out to test sustainable organic compounds and biotechnical methods (queen caging, trapping comb) for varroa control and probiotics for foulbroods. Laboratory diagnostic methods for AFB and EFB were selected and evaluated and a ring test was completed. Beekeepers were recruited, food store and debris samples collected and analysed to evaluate preclinical methods. A quartz crystal microbalance biosensor exploiting a specific antibody of the Kodamaea ohmeri peptide and the development of a biosensor is in process. Early diagnosis and control methods for Aethina tumida have been published (Rivera et al. 2017). The identification of innovative sampling methods and laboratory analysis by PCR for diagnosis and prevention of SHB are under revision. A specific online methodology for data retrieval to evaluate the economic impact of the project has been set up. A traceability system web-based is in progress and a demo available at www.hivelog.dk. Project website (http://www.izslt.it/bpractices/) and communication materials were published in Apimondia Congresses, World Bee Day and Eurbee.

As examples of the outcomes achieved:

1. a group of beekeepers in Italy started adopting the Qr-Code traceability platform after listening to the BPRACTICES project presentation during a meeting. A similar traceability system has been adopted by a local honey extraction laboratory (https://www.smielatura.it) that is now providing a Qr-Code based traceability system to all clients (https://www.smielatura.it/lotto/), from extraction to jar.

2. we started a collaboration with Austrian and Italian beekeepers to adopt pre-clinical indicators for American Foulbrood (AFB) early diagnosis to prevent outbreaks of this notifiable disease.

Messages to:

A) Actors from private sector (entrepreneurs, traders, investors etc.)

  • The new management practices adopting innovative clinical methods and biomechanical and biomolecular techniques developed with the BPRACTICES project will help you in your daily activity. Follow us and join our traceability system!

B) Civil society and practitioners organisations

  • Honey bees are declining worldwide. A bee-friendly management system is needed. Beekeepers adopting these methods and techniques will provide you high quality and safe products! Follow the Qr-Code!

C) Policy makers

  • Worldwide pollination service provided by honey bees is between 13.5 and 21.5 billion dollars (FAO, 2006). European beekeeping suffers significant colony losses due to climate and prevalence of diseases (EPILOBEE, 2014). Research and innovation should be increased and beekeepers should receive appropriate help in pursuing a cost-effective management of colonies. Joining our efforts we will improve honey bees health that is directly related to environment and social wellbeing.

Knowledge products:

  1. FAO THEMATIC CATALOGUE for SMALLHOLDER FARMERS to PROMOTE INNOVATION. Main bee diseases: Good beekeeping practices - LINK - Target: beekeepers
  2. Dissemination materials LINK - Target: scientists, beekeepers
  3. Rivera-Gomis, J., Gregorc, A., Ponti, A. M., Artese, F., Zowitsky, G., & Formato, G. (2017). Monitoring of Small Hive Beetle (Aethina Tumida Murray) in Calabria (Italy) from 2014 to 2016: Practical Identification Methods. Journal of Apicultural Science, 61(2), 257-262. LINK - Target: scientists, beekeepers
  4. Martín‐Hernández, R., Bartolomé, C., Chejanovsky, N., Le Conte, Y., Dalmon, A., Dussaubat, C., ... & Higes, M. (2018). Nosema ceranae in Apis mellifera: a 12 years postdetection perspective. Environmental microbiology, 20(4), 1302-1329. LINK - Target: scientists
  5. Traceability system on Hivelog - LINK - Target: beekeepers

Knowledge networks:

BPRACTICES outcomes and activities are successfully integrated into different international networks and platforms addressed to beekeepers, farmers, consumers and other stakeholders.

  1. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) TECA: an online platform that gathers successful agricultural technologies and practices to facilitate knowledge exchange and help family farmers in the field;
  2. International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations (Apimondia): promotes scientific, ecological, social and economic apicultural development in all countries and the cooperation of beekeepers` associations, scientific bodies and of individuals involved in apiculture worldwide;

COLOSS (Prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes): an international, non-profit association focussed on improving the well-being of bees at a global level and it is composed of scientific professionals that include researchers, veterinarians, agriculture extension specialists and students.

Coordinated by: Dr. Giovanni Formato - Instituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Lazio e della Toscana M. Aleandri’ (ITALY) - Contact

Funded by: MoH, BMLFUW, MKGP, INIA, TUBITAK and Mississipi State University as part of the ERA-NET Cofund SusAn through a virtual common pot model including EU Top-Up funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no 696231)

6 research partners:

  • AUSTRIA: Austrian Agency for Health & Food Safety
  • ITALY: Instituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie
  • SLOVENIA: Agricultural Institute of Slovenia
  • SPAIN: Centro de Investigación Apícola y Agroambiental de Marchamola
  • TURKEY: University of Namik Kemal
  • USA: Mississippi State University

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