Bee losses, bee colonies losses and the growing concerns about their origin: where are we today ?

On 6 December 2010, the European Commission adopted a Communication providing for a series of specific actions that will help better understand the reasons behind the worldwide issue of high bee mortality and will therefore assist the efforts to find solutions to the problem.

Various EC publications on the subject are grouped on:
incuding the communication and Questions and Answers – Honeybee health in the EU

Recently, several international reports were published on the subject.
1. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published in late 2009 a report on honey bee mortality and the ways that colony losses are monitored in Europe. The study was funded by EFSA and carried out by a consortium of scientific institutes led by the French national food safety agency Afssa (Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des aliments)[1].

The main conclusions were that there is a general weakness of most of the surveillance systems in the 24 countries investigated; and lack of representative data at country level and comparable data at EU level for colony losses; The consensus of the scientific community was that the origin of colony losses is of multifactorial origin in Europe and in the United States and and that there is insufficient knowledge of causative and risk factors for colony losses.

The EFSA report makes recommendations on how to improve bee surveillance systems and calls for further studies to better understand the factors that affect honey bee health.

2. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) published in March 2010 the minutes of a workshop held in December 2009 to discuss a specific aspect concerning bee health – the availability of medicines for bees in Europe, in particular what medicines are needed and what the Agency can do to increase the availability of needed medicines.

It is acknowledged that the problems of the bee keeping sector and the decline in the bee population all over Europe and the world are complex and diverse. One of the concerns raised by interested parties and Member States over the years is the lack of adequate medicines to treat bee diseases.

Among the overall conclusions and recommendations of the workshop were:

  • That the problem of bee health and appropriate treatment of bees is much more complex and diverse than simply identifying some potentially needed medicines ;
  • that the overall strategy regarding medicines for bees should be established. Such a strategy should identify for each bee disease whether medication was appropriate, and if medication is the choice of treatment, which medication should be applied as well as the conditions for the appropriate action or treatment be clarified.

reference: Workshop on medicines for bees – What the Agency can do to increase availability

3. Research networks

A research Group in Switzerland obtained an EU contract (action COST 2008-2012) to create an international collaborative network on domestic bees losses which associate scientists, beekeepers and industries of 27 countries including Europe, USA, China, Egypt, etc.
Short description: Prevention of Honeybee Colony Losses (COLOSS)

In the US, a research committee on bees health is coordinated by multi-State teams develop Sustainable Solutions to Problems Affecting Bee Health. The purpose of this committee is to coordinate research that is relevant to bee colony health. Committee members work closely with other stakeholders to develop and implement mitigative strategies that unravel the causes of CCD and other significant bee health problems.
Reference: Multistate Bee Research 2010

4. More generally, in 2006, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a practical guide which describes the common diseases and pests of honey bees and their importance and provides a practical guide to the basic technology available to beekeepers for their control and prevention.
reference: Honey bee diseases and pests: a practical guide

Note : the content of the shorts reports of the blog are not verified by the Scientific Board

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