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EIP-AGRI Focus Group: Bee health and sustainable beekeeping

MINIPAPER 05: Monitoring

Date: September 2020
Authors: Robert Chlebo, Simone Tosi, Fabio Sgolastra, Zeid Nabulsi, José Antonio Ruiz-Martínez, Frens Pries

Source: fg34_mp5_mini_paper_5_monitoring_final_v2_1.pdf (382.6 KB)
Original: fg34_mp5_mini_paper_5_monitoring_final_v2_1.pdf

1. Introduction

Honeybees are highly influenced by environmental conditions and quality, beekeepers’ management practices, socio-economic conditions and policies adopted for cropping and land use. The beekeeping sector lacks suitable tools for risk assessment and decisionmaking which can be used by relevant stakeholders (e.g. beekeepers, risk assessors, policymakers). To support management decisions for the beekeeping sector multiple types of variables must be monitored.

The aim of this minipaper is to summarise which variables can be collected

(i) by beekeepers or other personnel manually,
(ii) by remote sensors automatically, and
(iii) using GIS or existing/proposed networking systems.

We described the relevance of monitoring each variable in terms of bee health and beekeeping success. The main goal is to propose apath towards the identification and validation of best management practices, to subsequently integrate into a novel system supporting right decisions of beekeepers and relevant stakeholders.

2. Dissertation

Emerging and existing apiary management strategies called precision beekeeping (PB) are based on the monitoring of individual bee colonies to minimize resource consumption and maximize the productivity of bees. Tools used in PB are called also "smart hive”-a hive that can tell you about itself (usually hive weight, temperature, humidity, sounds, images). Smart hive is a progressive step towards building an “intelligent hive“.

Rather than just transmitting data about the current state of the hive, the intelligent hive would be able to tell you what the hive needs to perform better than it does today. It would take all of the data collected from a smart hive, combine it with knowledge of best management practices and data from thousands of other hives, risk maps using GIS and use machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to optimize colony health, production, and pollination performance.


2.1 Relevant EU projects


2.2 Other on-going initiatives

Global list of scientific/educational projects, open source and commercial projects on beehive monitoring is listed at the www.hiveeyes.org and www.colonymonitoring.com web pages.

EIP-AGRI Focus Group: Bee health and sustainable beekeeping


Date: September 2020

Source: eip-agri_fg_bee_health_sustainable_beekeeping_final_report_2020_en.pdf (2.4 MB)
Original: eip-agri_fg_bee_health_sustainable_beekeeping_final_report_2020_en.pdf

Annex 3: List of honeybee research projects and initiatives and Operational Groups


LIFE 4 Pollinators (Involving people to protect wild bees and other pollinators in the Mediterranean)–(LIFE18 GIE/IT/000755)LIFE4Pollinators wants to improve the conservation of pollinator insects and entomophilous plants by creating a virtuous circle leading to a progressive change in the anthropogenic practices that are currently threatening wild pollinators across the Mediterranean region. Events, citizen science activities, training to key stakeholders are planned to fulfil this objective by increasing awareness in four European countries: Italy, Greece, Spain and Slovenia. – https://www.life4pollinators.eu


Smarthives (part of FRACTAL) is an online support system that will help beekeepers in their everyday beekeeping activities and duties. The basis of the concept is an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system customised for beekeepers to facilitate better handling and management of honeybees (sites and families), equipment, expenditures and revenues. The software is operational on itself, but, for automatisation reasons, beekeepers can connect sensors to the system as well. – http://www.r-key.eu/


PoshBee (Pan-european assessment, monitoring, and mitigation Of Stressors on the Health of BEEs) (Jun 2018 - May 2023) addresses the issue of agrochemicals to ensure the sustainability of bees. It will assess the exposure to chemicals and their co-occurrence with pathogens and nutritional stress for solitary, bumble, and honey bees. The info will be integrated with the MUST-B project to develop a dynamic landscape model for risk assessment of bees.


APENET (Monitoraggio e ricerca in apicoltura) (2009-2011) was a project funded by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture. The aim of this project was to monitor and study the possible causes of honey bee mortality and colony losses in Italy. The project was organised in six pillars: Bees and agrochemicals; Bees and dressed seeds; Bees and Diseases; Bees and Environment; Interaction between stressors; Monitoring. – Api - Progetto APENET


BEENET (Apicoltura ed ambiente in rete) (2012-2014) was a project funded by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture within the European Network for Rural Development (Action 1.2.2 “Interregional Laboratories for the Development”) to support the Rural Development Programme in Italy. The aim of this project was to monitor the health status of honey bees and to assess the main causes of bee mortality in Italy.Recently, BEENET (now called “BEENET: api e biodiversità al servizio dell’ambiente”) (2019-2023) has been re-funded by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture within the European Network for Rural Development (2013-2020) (Action 1.1.3) with the aim to evaluate the quality of the agro-environment using honey bees and wild bees as bioindicators. – Progetto BeeNet


PolBEES (Risk assessment for honeybees and osmiebees of exposure to systemic pesticides and nutritional stresses via pollen, bee bread and osmie bread) studies the presence of systemic pesticide residues (neonicotinoids, fungicides) and the limited diversity of food resources in Wallonia. An exposure assessment will be carried out in different landscape contexts (field crop, arboriculture, grassland, urban areas) by collecting trap pollen and bee bread from hives and nests of osmias. – https://www.cra.wallonie.be/fr/polbees


BEESYN (Identification of the impact of chemical products on honey bee mortality in Belgium, bearing in mind the interactions of these products with other plausible causes of mortality) aims to answer the following questions:

  • What are the colonies’ chemical contamination levels and what is the origin of this contamination?
  • To what extent may such a contamination determine the colony’s fate when put in its context: its genetic, pathogen/parasite load, nutritional status, climate conditions and land use around it?
  • Which recommendations could be proposed to mitigate the problem of colony mortality at several levels: decision making, scientific, and practice?
  • Can we propose a tool box, including indicators of bee health and pesticide exposure, methods for pesticide surveillance carried out by honey bees or cost-effective surveillance programmes for colony mortality?.

DNA marker for VSH genes

(Sustainable control of the Varroa mite in the Dutch beekeeping business). It would be ideal if bee colonies fight the Varroa mite themselves and this Varroa mite control (VSH: Varroa Sensitive Hygiene) behaviour occurs sporadically in existing bee colonies. This research project aims at a rapid cultivation of populations with this VSH behaviour. The partner Arista Bee Research breeds Varroa-resistant honeybees (buckfast, carnica, black bee) by challenging potential colonies and measuring reproducing mites in the brood. Hogeschool Van Hall Larenstein observes VSH (Varroa Sensitive Hygiene) behaviour in individual bees. Hogeschool Inholland isolates DNA from honeybees and has the DNA sequenced. With Bejo Zaden the DNA bioinformatics will be done and a marker for VSH behaviour will be established. Goal is to use the DNA marker for breeders to make apiculture possible without chemical control of Varroa. If all beekeepers will waive chemical control, in the long run all honeybee populations will be Varroa resistant, even without testing with the DNA marker. – Projectenbank Regieorgaan SIA


Conservation and genetics improvement of selected populations of Macedonian and Cecropian beesbased on performance and resistance to Varroa


BEE PATH – Good Practice logic is very simple: bees are the best indicatorsof a healthy environment! The BeePathNet Transfer network aims to upgrade and transfer the BEE PATH concept, solutions and results from Ljubljana to 5 other EU cities. It will address urban environmental, biodiversity and food self-sufficiency challenges linked to urban beekeepingthrough integrated and participative approaches, build key stakeholders’ capacity to influence relevant policies, develop and implement efficient solutions. – BeePathNet | URBACT


The RESCUE B (Risk and Exposure Surveyon Chemical Use in the Environment) research project aims atbetter understanding the risk that environmental stressors, especially pesticides, cause to bees. First, it aims at developing methods to estimate pesticide risk in bees, including lethal and sublethal effects of single and multiple stressors. Second, it uses several multi-year national and international honey bee health surveys that measure pesticide contamination in the environment and in bee food to identify the pesticides that pose a greater threat to bees, nationally and internationally. This work aims at laying the foundation of future integrations of bee health surveillance initiatives, guiding policy makers through refined risk assessment methods,towards a greater protection of bee health and environmental sustainability. This project is hosted by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES), and was developed in the framework of the “Make Our Planet Great Again” research initiative, publicly funded by the President of the French Republic. – make our planet great again | Campus France


INSIGNIA (Environmental monitoring of pesticide use through honeybees) is an innovative project which will build on the wide range of expertise of the applicants developed during previous projects such as the COLOSS “CSI Pollen project”. INSIGNIA involves the development of a protocol for a citizen science monitoring programme using beekeepers to collect biweekly pollen samples from honeybee colonies for analysis for pesticide residues and botanical origin. In the first year, in four EU member states representing all authorisation zones, monitoring using the well-established technique for collecting pollen samples using pollen traps, will be compared with two innovative techniques: the collection of beebread using a novel sampling device, and the use of passive in-hive sampling devices. – https://www.insignia-bee.eu


EurBeSt network (European honey Bee breeding and Selection Team). Selective breeding is a powerful tool to improve the economic basis of beekeeping and to cope with challenges to honey bees due to parasites, diseases, climatic and environmental changes. We know that the selection progress in productivity, gentleness and resistance to the parasitic Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) that can be achieved by modern selection methods, and also about the development of high levels of Varroa resistance under natural infestation pressure. The establishment of mite resistance in commercial populations depends on selective breeding supported by an adaptation of colony management and treatment procedures. EurBeST would like to demonstrate how these ideas can work in practice and which technical and economical consequences derive from these. – https://eurbest.eu


Beewood studies the influence of wood material for building beehivefrom physical (insulation) and chemical (wood odours) influence on bees health with a link to personal experience knowledge of beekeepers. – BeeWood research projet - Les bois utilisés pour la construction des ruches


NOPROBLEMS “Nourishing PRObiotics to Bees to Mitigate Stressors” is a project funded by the EU under the MSCA-RISE - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) with the aim to define a strategy to improve honey bee health based on the use of beneficial bacteria and plant extracts. The projectaims also to evaluate the impact of the developed formulation on the bee gut.


BEE-RER is a research project of the University of Bologna funded by the Emilia Romagna Region within the Apiculture supporting work programme. The full title is “Analysis of honey DNA and of honey contaminants to support the apiculture sector and monitor hive pathogens in Emilia Romagna region - (BEE-RER)". BEE-RER aims to face the problems of the beekeepers by applying genomics to the apiculture sector. The project is focused on the application of honey DNA analysis to obtain several information that could be useful to authenticate the honey, identify the Apis mellifera subspecies from this matrix and to identify pathogens – BEE-RER Research Project


The SURVapi Project (MONITORING environmental contamination with phytosanitary products via beekeeping matrices to improve and reduce their uses) is part of the Ecophyto plan. It is a multi-year project which aims to set up a collaborative work between farmers and beekeepers, to improve the field practices practices taking into account the issue of protecting bees. On each site, joint facilitation by advisers from the Chamber of Agriculture and the Beekeeping Development Association will facilitate joint work. Scientific support is provided by ITSAP - Institut de l’Abeille. – SURVapi - Chambre d'agriculture Nouvelle-Aquitaine


BeeWallonie defines itself as the “showcase for Walloon beekeeping and the skills developed by beekeepers”. It aims to support Walloon beekeepers and the initiative counts with the support of research organizations and the regional government. – https://www.beewallonie.be


B-GOOD (Giving Beekeeping Guidance by cOmputatiOnal assisted Decision making) is an EU wide bee health and management data platform. It consist on a digital bee data logbook, a database for automated data acquisition and a web portal. The EU-funded B-GOOD project aims to create a health status index (HSI) that will be linked to apiarists, and will collect and process data from a wide range of sources. – https://www.b-good-project.eu/


Hiveopolis (Futuristic beehives for a smart metropolis) (2019-2024) will implement a variety of traits into this modern honey bee hive. For example, every honey bee colony will be equipped with an inbuilt dance robot. These dance robots will be able to direct forager bees to certain nectar or pollen sources. Vibrating plates built into combs will prevent colonies from foraging at harmful food sources, such as flowers treated with pesticides or dying colonies which are heavily infested by Varroa mites.


BPRACTICES byERA-NET SUSAN (New indicators and on-farm practices to improve honeybee health in the Aethina Tumida ERA in Europe) will develop new management practices (Good Beekeeping Practices – GBPs) adopting new clinical methods, biomechanical and innovative biomolecular techniques respecting the natural behaviour of honeybees. 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. – BPRACTICES | EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA ON SUSTAINABLE ANIMAL PRODUCTION


SAMS (International Partnership on Innovation in Smart Apiculture Management Services) (Jan2018- Dec 2020) SAMS is a multi-national, interdisciplinary project, with the goal to promote beekeeping in tropical regions by applying Internet of Things (IoT) systems and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The solutions created by the project are accessible open source. The three-year project enhances international cooperation on ICT technology and sustainable agriculture between the SAMS partners from Ethiopia, Indonesia, Latvia, Austria and Germany. – https://sams-project.eu/


IoBee (Beehive health IoT application to fight Honey Bee Colony Mortality)(2017-2020). The IoBee project concluded in April 2020 with the development of in-hive and in-field monitoring, as well as the implementation of satellite imagery and Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS). IoBee also initiated the first steps in the construction of a platform to integrate and communicate on pollinator-related data from various sources, The Bee Hub


WarmHive (SMART thermotherapy solution for Varroa mite treatment) (Jan-Jun2019) – CORDIS | European Commission


BeeHome (Automated beekeeping platform powered by AI that increases honey production by 50%, reduces labour use by 90%, and reduces colony loss by 80%). (Jan – Apr 2019) BeeHome is a patent-protected modular commercial apiary that automates beekeeping powered by Artificial Intelligence. The BeeHome platform consists of a hardware and software solution that fully automates beekeeping and honey production and that optimises pollination. The platform will house up to 40 colonies (hives) and streamline their activities. – CORDIS | European Commission


FOG (Frequency protector generator for honeybees) (Jan-June2019) – CORDIS | European Commission


BeeXML (Collaboration platform for the standardisation of the exchange of data about bees and beekeepers). Governmental institutions, academic research projects as well as breeding programmes of beekeeping associations inevitably gather data about bees and beekeepers. Unfortunately these databases become data islands and the information is of limited value for the beekeeping community as a whole. beeXML is intended to be the answer to this problem. The project is not about creating a central database. Rather, XML is a self-describing data format that can allow the exchange of data. – http://beexml.org/


Hostabee has developed B-Keep and B-Swarm. These connected units enable professional and amateur beekeepers to monitor hives and their inhabitants remotely. The data, collected each hour by sensors, can be consulted via a dedicated application. This information (humidity, temperature, etc.) provides fast answers on the state of health of the bee colony.


MUST-B is an initiative by the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA). The MUST-B project draws on EFSA’s expertise in areas such as animal and plant health, data collection and analysis, modelling, pesticides and environmental risk, but will also involve a range of experts and stakeholders from beyond EFSA. It comprises a number of interlinked activities that are being carried out either in-house or in collaboration with external experts, researchers and bodies such as EU Member States, the European Commission, EU sister agencies, and the European Reference Laboratory for Bee Health. – http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/bee-health


*AGROAPIS is a project to raise the value of apiculture production by using agricultural crops beneficial to bees and pollinators in compliance with the agri-environmental conditions. The target is to test in-field conditions melliferous vegetal species that may be cultivated both for the benefit of bees and other pollinators and farmers. The testing will provide an objective assessment of the value of various plants both from the apicultural point of view and for the vegetal farming sector. The project is in its final stage of approval and will be, hopefully, financed via the Romanian National Program for Rural Development, measure 16.1.


*APISANAis about a mobile laboratory for sampling and conservation of the samples collected for assessment of the toxicity of agricultural cultures on honeybees. This project will explore the best methods for sampling, preservation and transport in safety conditions of the samples of bees and bee products collected from hives as well as parts of plants, soil or water in order to ensure relevant results of the lab analyses for assessment of the toxicity of agricultural crops and environment that harm the bees and other pollinators. The project is in its final stage of approval and will be, hopefully, financed via the Romanian National Program for Rural Development, measure 16.1.


*The project PUROWAXis abouthelping beekeepers to obtain residue-free beeswax for sustainable agriculture and for improving bees’ health. The project aims to develop a method for purification of beeswax of contaminants that impact the health of honeybees and to create a scalable production process for purifying beeswax at industrial level. The project is in its final stage of approval and will be, hopefully, financed via the Romanian National Program for Rural Development, measure 16.1.

Annex 5: EIP-AGRI Operational Groups working on bee health

The table below compiles the Operational Group (OG) projects currently listed at the EIP-AGRI database (EIP-AGRI Projects - European Commission). Date of consultation is July 2020. This is not an exhaustive list and more projects can be found at the national and regional databases of Operational Groups. See here the list of other available sources: Links to available Operational Groups databases - European Commission

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