Making European beekeeping healthy and sustainable
The outputs of beekeeping can be private goods (e.g. honey production), public goods and services (e.g. pollination of wild flowers) or in-between (e.g. non-contracted pollination of crops). Many initiatives aim to expand knowledge on honeybee colonies and their environment. However, the lack of a holistic approach makes it difficult to use this knowledge to best effect. Key factors for healthy and sustainable European beekeeping are determined by what happens in or around hives but also by wider socioeconomic and ecological conditions. However, much still needs to be learnt about the interactions of stressors affecting honeybees and their relative contribution to colony losses. The EFSA is developing an integrated risk assessment through the Multiple Stressors in Bees (MUST-B) project. As part of the project, the HEALTHY-B initiative provides a toolbox to assess honey bee colony health in a holistic way. This conceptual framework, the Health Status Index, needs further work to become operational. Little is known about how beekeepers assess and overcome the complexity of their business environment and what and how it influences their health management decisions (e.g. to treat against pathogens or not, to continue keeping bees or to quit, to replace lost colonies or not, to use local or introduced subspecies) and what makes them successful, including whether and how healthy colonies result in sustainable beekeeping and pollination. More information is needed on the role of actors other than beekeepers.
Proposals will develop ready-to-use tools for operationalising the 'Health Status Index' developed by EFSA to enable data collection and return to beekeepers, while exploring the various socio-economic and ecological factors beyond bee health to provide comprehensive blueprints of successful business model(s) of European beekeeping. Proposals should also consider issues related to emerging risks or pathogens (e.g. the small hive beetle and the Asian hornet Vespa velutina). Proposals should aim to create an EU platform to collect and share knowledge of science and practice related to honeybees, their environment and agricultural and beekeeping practices, in order to develop and implement an action plan for a coordinated and harmonised approach to the collection of related data and information and to minimise the impact of biotic and abiotic stressors. The proposals should build on past or ongoing EU-funded research (e.g. Bee Health Workbench), and take into account other relevant EU initiatives (e.g. evaluation of the EU's apiculture measures, Member State bee monitoring projects), and entities (EFSA, EURL, JRC), as appropriate. Funded activities will include organising and coordinating data sets and standards relating to the environment and agricultural and beekeeping practices relevant to the monitoring of honeybee health and giving all relevant stakeholders access to such information. Work will serve to select the most promising and relevant indicators for bee health that could be developed and/or tested, and validate technologies for monitoring colonies and indicators in an automated or semi-automated way to facilitate standardised and accurate data collection and transfer. The selected project should carry out a pilot study in different representative European countries to test, standardise and validate methods for measuring and reporting selected indicators and factors affecting bee health, making it possible to give appropriate feedback to beekeepers both through dissemination and training and perform statistical analyses of the relative importance of relevant biological, chemical and environmental stressors affecting bee health and their pollination services. A multi-actor approach bringing together beekeepers, bee inspectors, other stakeholders (e.g. plant growers) and scientists (including social scientists) is required.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Funded activities will provide the critical knowledge necessary to understand bee colony health and identify important socio-economic components of sustainable beekeeping. The outputs of the project must contribute to:
- an EU platform on science and practice in relation to honeybees, their environment and agricultural and beekeeping practices;
- a pilot toolbox to improve monitoring of honeybee colonies and assessment of the multiple stressors that affect colony health;
- a better understanding of the management decisions made by beekeepers;
- potential and viable business models for EU beekeeping, with and without public interventions;
- support to scientists, risk assessors and policy makers in assessing and managing multiple stressors that affect the sustainability of the EU's apiculture.
More generally, the funded activities will help beekeepers better manage honeybees and contribute to the sustainability of EU beekeeping and related pollination services.
Socio-economic science and humanities