Bee Health in Europe

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Bee Health in Europe

January 23, 2013

The first event of the road show “Bee Health in Europe” organized by OPERA Research Centre has taken place on January 23rd 2013 in Berlin. In Germany, the event was organized in partnership with the Julius Kühn-Institute (JKI), the Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants. Renowned speakers and participants gathered to share their point of view on bee health.  The event was hosted by Silke Beckendorf, chief editor of Deutsches Bienen-Journal who also led the round table and the discussion.

The event was opened by Alexandru Marchis who introduced the OPERA Research Center to the participants. OPERA is a young, growing independent research centre and think tank of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Italy) providing simple pragmatic solutions to support EU and national decision making and bridging science and policy through a transparent platform to debate the right approaches for sustainable, intensive agriculture. The initiative on bee health is part of the focus the research center has on the issue of ecosystem services and the role of pollination in agriculture.

Jens Pistorius from the Julius Kühn-Institute introduced the 2013 edition of the “Bee Health in Europe 2013- Facts&Figures”, a compendium of the latest information, with the new facts & figures on the bee health in Europe. Thus, one of the main findings of the report is that the number of beehives has remained fairly constant in the past decade, with a slight increase between from 2000 to 2006. A number of pests and diseases to which honey bees are susceptible, have been demonstrated as being implicated with colony losses. The major pests/diseases are Varroa destructor, American foulbrood, European foulbrood, Nosema spp., honey bee viruses, and Acarine mite (Acarapis woodi).

Also, Jens Pistorius pointed out that in spite of many survey results and figures on bee health being available the decision makers are not aware of them and thus, do not consider them in their policy making process. OPERA is aimed at closing this gap and bringing policy and science together to improve the bee health situation in Europe. The report developed by OPERA gives a comprehensive overview of latest data and provides a number of practical recommendations to policy makers, scientists and bee keepers.

Dr. Annette Schroeder (Landesanstalt für Bienenkunde LAB-Uni-Hohenhei) took over from Jens Pistorius and introduced two monitoring projects – DeBiMO and EUBiMO, a German and European monitoring project. The DeBiMo projects aimed at describing the current situation, monitoring of further developments and collecting data for the next several years in order to create a basis for the retrospective reason analysis. The EUBiMo wants to develop a European wide monitoring system and synchronize various monitoring methods and tools in various European countries to compare the data. The two monitoring projects found out that Varroa is one of the main causes for bee losses during the winter time. There are strong regional differences throughout the country and between individual bee houses and bee colonies. The average Varroa infestation is around 5%.

Dr. Melanie Orlow (NABU) who was giving the next speech focused on the bee-friendly agriculture. She named some further reasons for bee losses which are the loss of green land, diseases, loss of biodiversity, biocides, GMO, extensive monocultures, and the loss of small structures as well as ‘useless’ landscapes“.

Round table conclusions

The presentations were followed by a round table that was attended by Dr. Peter Rosenkranz (Landesanstalt für Bienenkunde LAB Uni-Hohenheim), Dr. Werner von der Ohe (Institut für Bienenkunde in Celle), Mr. Peter Maske (Präsident Deutscher Imkerbund), and Dr. Dieter Stallknecht (Referent DBV), hosted by Silke Beckedorf (Deutsches Bienen-Journal) and devoted to bee health and bee practices. The host invited the participants to share their opinions on various issues such as bee health and Varroa, bee practices and co-operation between farmers and bee keepers.

Dr. Peter Rosenkranz suggested using the term “Bee loss” instead of “Bienensterben” as it describes the situation more precisely.  The participants all agreed on Varroa being one of the main reasons for the bee loss and recognized the need in the medication against it. However, the medication issue proved to be controversial as there is no universal mean against the Varroa, Dr. Peter Rosenkranz said. Dr. Werner von der Ohe stressed that bee keepers are fully aware of medication being dangerous for the bees but said that medication is still absolutely necessary and the demand of medication against Varroa will be rising. Thus, it is essential that bee keepers learn how to correctly apply the medication and be aware of the risks. Also, there is a problem of Varroa becoming resistant against medication which requires development of new means. Peter Maske added that although Varroa is one of the main issues that bee keepers have to deal with but it is not the only one. Further factors that influence the bee health were elaborated during the round table and included alimentation and constant supplying and other bee diseases.

In this context, the round table participants agreed that approval and admission process of the medication is rather complicated in Germany: while some medication is allowed in the neighboring countries the German bee keepers have to wait until the same medication is approved by the German authorities and allowed for usage in Germany.

Also, the participants raised the issue of new bee diseases brought to Europe from Asia or Australia where European bee keepers buy their bees. Dr. Peter Rosenkranz acknowledged the problem but said regulation and control would be useless. Instead, he recommends monitoring the bee situation in those regions closely to help predicting the further development of bee situation in Europe. Peter Maske said his organization regularly reminds their members to be cautious when buying bees from other regions but admitted that they cannot control the imports or undertake any action to stop it. So, better information and education of bee keepers is very important.  Dr. Werner von der Ohe said that although German bee keepers are in general well educated there is still a lot to be done in this field: more training will help bee keepers to better prevent and fight bee diseases which will result in stronger bee population.

According to Peter Maske, the bee keepers do not only need proper education but also more areas to secure bee nutrition, e.g. agricultural areas would be a good solution. This is why the co-operation between farmers and bee keepers is essential and both parties need to work closely together. The participants did not quite agree on how such co-operation should look like. While Dr. Dieter Stallknecht who represented the farmers insisted on the free co-operation Peter Maske who represented the bee keepers supported the co-operation based on EU guidelines and regulation. At the end, no consensus has been found; however, the participants agreed that both parties would definitely benefit from this co-operation whatever form it should be.

After the round table, the event participants were invited to ask their questions which ranged from medication to EU guidelines for agriculture. Thus, the participants came back to the issue of medication and complained about the long approval process in Germany. They also supported the position of Peter Maske as most participants were bee keepers and required a stronger commitment of the farmers.

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January 23, 2013
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