Insignia bumblebee colony sampling round 1

Today, the first APIStrips were removed after a 14-days exposure period. Curious to see if the APIStrips absorbed pesticides in detectable amounts. Also, the first pollen was taken from the pollen pots. Relying on the purple pollen color, I think the bees foraged among others on the horse chestnut (Aesculus spp.) and/or red deadnettle (Lamium purpureum). Alice and her team in Bragança will tell after the metabarcoding analysis. The APIStrips and pollen are labeled and stored in the freezer until shipping to the labs.

Sjef van der Steen

Get to know the Austrian citizen scientists

Today, the Austrian beekeepers, the national coordinators and the study coordinator met virtually to get to know each other and to see how everybody looks like. Jozef van der Steen gave a short presentation to explain the main objectives of INSIGNIA and to present last year’s pesticides and pollen results.

Austrian citizen scientists were very interested and some open questions could be answered by the NatCos Robert Brodschneider and Kristina Gratzer as well as by Jozef van der Steen, who by the way. speaks extraordinary good German.

Today, also the first sampling period started. Within the next four days the APIStrips will be exchanged and pollen will be sampled in nine European countries simultaneously.

Almost all Austrian citizen scientist, the national coordinators Robert Brodschneider and Kristina Gratzer and the study coordinator Jozef van der Steen met face to face (the digital way).

Kristina Gratzer

INSIGNIA Year 2 in Greece has been launched!

This is the weekend of the preparation/ initiation for the INSIGNIA year 2 study, in 9 countries in Europre, meaning fitting the pollen traps and, most importantly, introducing the 1st set of ApiStrips in the 2 colonies.

But you know, it is EASTER time in Greece and in all Orthodox countries, and beekeeping tasks these days are even more difficult with the COVID-19 restrictions! So, what is more important, preparing the colonies one day before Easter or just forget about it and  celebrate Easter! Lets see then!


Ouaou! it is incredible, but they did it! At least 3 of the Citizen Scientists in Greece they install the material in the colonies , on Easter Friday and Saturday!,  I am sure the rest did it as well, but I have here the proof of the 3 first ones only. What can I say! A big bravo and look farward to collaborate with you guys! Don’t you love the Nature in Spring?

Fani Hatjina,  National Coordinator for Greece

First APIStrips now inserted in Denmark

Got nice pictures from our Citizen Scientist from the Northern part of Denmark on inserting APIStrips yesterday. Even Denmark is a small country, we see differences between different parts of Denmark in the development of bee colonies. The same for the starting of flowering of the important pollen and nectar sources. The colonies are on the special Danish frame size we call 12×10 inches. Is a relative high frame type. Good for storage of winter food and does give a good overwintering. The size of the sampling colonies is one box, or you could say 9 and 8 frames of bees. These colonies have a nice size this time of the year and will soon explode along with the springtime here in Denmark. Weather is changing a loot this day, meaning this morning we had to scrape ice from our car windows. Denmark is started.

APIStrip in a bumblebee colony

Next to the honeybees, the bumblebees are part of the Insignia study. This year we are testing the pesticides, collected by bumblebees in the field along with pollen and nectar, with the APIStrip. I will work this year with two colonies at the Sinderhoeve, the experimental station of Wageningen University, Environmental Science in Heelsum. Bumblebees are blind for the longer wavelength light spectrum, therefore, manipulation of the colony is done in red light. This keeps them rather calm. Bumblebees do not have beelanes, actually, compared to honeybees their brood nest is a mess. But, as honeybees, they are very curious. To prevent disturbance of the colony during changing the APIStrip, I inserted the strip via the top- grid near the entrance of the bumblebee box positioned in the very proximity of the brood cells. On the reddish photo you see them crawling over the APIStrip (with the black tyrap). Box entering and box- leaving bumblebees will be in contact with the strip as will the in-box bees. Time will learn whether the APIStrip will be incorporated in the brood nest or left apart in the 2-weeks exposure period. In two weeks the first APIStrips will go out and the second will go in, simultaneously to the honeybee colony sampling. Therefore, two photos of reddish. The APIStrip is prevented from falling into the box by a tyrap. Let’s follow how it will go in the next six weeks.


Sjef van der Steen

Austrian results were sent to the Austrian citizen scientists

The participating citizen scientists in Austria were very curious about their results from INSIGNIA year 1. As we were curious too, we attempted to provide the results of the metabarcoding and pesticides analyses as quick as possible to them – right after receiving the raw data from the labs and after submitting them to the EU. Further, it was also important to us, to ensure anonymity for the participants. Therefore, each citizen scientist only got his/her individual results.

We decided to not only send out the raw data files, as they are rather difficult to interpret for non-scientists. Instead we performed individual and basic data analysis for all of the 5 participants of year 1 and we arranged them in an excel file with several tables.

The main page (see figure below) explains some basics of how to handle the document and links to all of the result-tables.

Figure: Main page of the results file. The Austrian citizen scientists got their individual results, packed in an excel document.


Kristina Gratzer

How Covid-19 has affected the INSIGNIA project

The global Covid-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of life. As well as ceasing one-to-one teaching, many universities have closed down their laboratory research programmes and fieldwork for the foreseeable future. As an international research project, INSIGNIA, which is using honey bees to sample their environment for pollution, has also been affected.

This weekend is the setup weekend for the INSIGNIA 2020 sampling, which is being carried out in nine European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia and the UK). Beekeepers will be inserting the first ApiStrips (special plastic strips coated with a substance designed to absorb chemical residues) into their hives for the start of this year’s sampling. With movement restrictions in all countries, this has, however, led to some changes.

Fig. 1. GoTo Meeting between International Coordinator Sjef van der Steen, National Coordinator Fani Hatjina, and Greek beekeeper citizen scientists.

Continue reading “How Covid-19 has affected the INSIGNIA project”

Video conferencing and telemeetings are not that dificult after all!

Nine Citizen Scientists, plus one extra, the National Coordinator and of course our Project Leader, Jozef Van Der Steen , gathered together but experiencing social distancing, to discuss everything related to the start of the INSIGNIA study 2020 in Greece! So, how we did it? Like everybody else! Video conferencing! Technology in hand!

Amazing how easy people can come close, even if they are sitting in their living room, late in the evening thousands and thousands KM away! Well, we had some technical problems, not everybody managed to join in , but we talked about what we had in our agenda.

After all, it was not that difficult, or bad, It was successful! Thank you Jozef for your patience in our Greek discussions! We promised to do it again sometime in early summer, now that we know how to do it!

In the picture, Jozef is also showing his new T shirt wiht INSIGNIA logo on it! A product from Flemming and Jozef! We definately going to get some of those for everybody!

Written by Fani Hatjina

National Coordinator for Greece!

New ways to meet!

The worldwide situation is in all aspect difficult and problematic at the moment. We wish the best for everybody out there to stay safe and take care. INSIGNIA keeps going and that does challenges us in some ways. We have started to meet in different way. At the moment we do test different types of online tools to meet.
Continue reading “New ways to meet!”