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

Aim of the project:

To identify and harmonize in EU Good Beekeeping Practices. A special focus was attributed to develop the application of new preclinical indicators based on biomechanical and innovative bio-molecular techniques, in respect of the natural behaviour of bees and sustainability.

Introduction

European beekeeping suffers significant regional differences in colony losses due to the external impacts on beekeeping, including climate change and the prevalence of honey bee diseases: Varroa destructor and associated viruses, American Foulbrood (AFB), European Foulbrood (EFB), and Nosema spp.

What: The European Union project: “New indicators and on-farm practices to improve honey bee health in the A. tumida era in Europe” (BPRACTICES), aims to support European beekeeping in the above-mentioned framework, in the context of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program ERA-NET SusAn – European Research Area on Sustainable Animal Production Systems enhancing honey bee health and beekeeping sector competitiveness.

Why: Today, good beekeeping management at the apiary level is a crucial point to maintain a healthy bee population, playing an important role in reducing colony losses and increasing beekeeping economy and quality of hive products.

Where: The research has been carried out in European Union thanks to the involvement of project partners (Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Spain), in collaboration with EU beekeepers and extra-EU contributors like Turkey partner, Appalachian State University (USA) and Apimondia.

Main project activities:

Research activities were focused on:

  • defining, identifying and listing Good Beekeeping Practices (GBPs) and Biosecurity Measures in Beekeeping (BMBs) harmonized within partner countries involved in the project (including beekeepers’ Associations: EPBA and Apimondia), providing a cross-EU stakeholders debate on it;
  • international surveys have been implemented in order to assess the compliance and feasibility of identified GBPs and BMBs for hobbyist and professional beekeepers;
  • developing a new approach for the management of honey bee diseases based on prevention and “preclinical” diagnosis. New biosensors from honey have been developed to monitor SHB presence and PCR techniques to diagnose, in advance, honey bee diseases (AFB, EFB, SHB) from hive debris, powder sugar and other matrices taken from beehives;
  • creating guidelines on innovative laboratory diagnostic methods, harmonized among project partners, with the collaboration of the European Union Reference Laboratory for Bee Health (ANSES);
  • identifying sustainable honey bee diseases control guidelines that respect bee welfare and hive products’ quality;
  • producing an economic study concerning the impact of the innovative GBPs system application;
  • disseminating results and technical assistance/training, with the transnational participation of Apimondia (http://apimondia.com/) and FAO TECA platform (http://teca.fao.org/) and the release of a web-application as an innovative traceability system (QR Code/RFID based)

Interim research findings:

A list of general and specific GBPs and BMBs for the main honey bee diseases (varroosis, viruses, American foulbrood - AFB, European foulbrood - EFB, nosemosis and aethinosis) identified in collaboration between beekeepers’ Associations and researchers, has been published and scored. 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.

 

We developed a set of “pre-clinical Good Beekeeping Practices” at the apiary level. Successful diagnosis of many new bee diseases is now possible even before they appear in the colony, using biosensors and PCR techniques.  For the beekeepers, these practices can help to prevent, monitor, control and certify the health status of their colonies, as well as to improve their overall management.

Three international surveys concerning Varroa management, infectious disease management and proper use of veterinary medicines in beekeeping were developed in order to assess the application and compliance of beekeepers to the identified GBPs and BMBs.

A specific online methodology for data retrieval to evaluate the economic impact of the project has been set up. An innovative traceability system using QRCode technology and a user-friendly web application has been developed.

Project consortium:

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

  • 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