INSIGNIA 2019 – Austrian results published in popular article

Austrian results of last year’s INSIGNIA samplings were made public in the beekeeping journal “Bienen aktuell”.
In 2019, 5 citizen scientists with 3 hives each participated.
We found that APIStrips together with beebread are the most promising matrices for detecting pesticides in beehives.
Further, we’ve chosen APIStrips for 2020, as they turned out to be more user-friendly.
For metarbarcoding, pollen sampling was the most suitable method.
The pollen analysis revealed 61 plant families with Fabaceae, Rosaceae, Plantaginaceae, Ranunculaceae and Asteraceae showing the highest occurence, respectively.
A total of 84 different substances were found in Austrian samples with an average of 2.4 in APIStrip samples, 2.9 in beebread, 1.7 in pollen and 1.4 substances in Beehold tubes.
Let’s see what 2020 samples from 9 beekeepers with 2 hives each will reveal.
Austrian INSIGNIA 2019 results in Bienen aktuell, 9, S 17-20, 2020.

Kristina Gratzer

Collecting plants for science!

All INSIGNIA  samples are analysed for pesticides residues and pollen diversity.

Last year, it was only possible to assign latter to the taxonomic family level, as the reference DNA database was not reliable enough to draw conclusions on botanical genus or species level. To complete the database, the colleagues from the Instituto Politécnico de Bragança in Portugal asked us to collect fresh plants, known to be important for bees.

No sooner said than done! The University of Graz sampled more than 60 plant species, herbarized them and will send it to Alice Pinto and her team in Portugal this week for ITS 2 metabarcoding. The figure below shows Papaver rhoeas, Cotoneaster horizontalis, Allium schoenoprasum, Tilia cordata, Rosa multiflora, Trifolium pratense, Sambucus nigra, Aruncus dioicus and Robinia pseudoacacia. All important melliferious plants for bees.

Hopefully, this enables the assignment of pollen to lower taxonomic levels in year two of INSIGNIA.

Example of important bee plants.

Kristina Gratzer

Simple INSIGNIA estimation of colony size through beelanes

To estimate the colony strength, citizen scientists count the occupied beelanes in each hive for every sampling round.

How an occupied beelane looks from above. This example shows 4 occupied beelanes!
When the colony has more than one box, each occupied beelane is counted and a sum of beelanes from all boxes is made.


Robert Brodschneider & Kristina Gratzer

Get to know Austrian citizen scientists #3

Austrian citizen scientist Matthias is proud to keep bees in all 23 city disctricts of Vienna! For INSIGNIA he has chosen an apiary at the eastend of the city. His beekeeping operation indeed offers different honeys from all boroughs. During sampling round 2, he filmed himself taking samples on one of the INSIGNIA hives!

Continue reading “Get to know Austrian citizen scientists #3”

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

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

Tool boxes 2020

The study start for INSIGNIA 2020 is one month away, but we already shipped the tool boxes to the nine Austrian citizen scientists. The tool boxes include the majority of the materials needed for the INSIGNIA 2020 study. The materials are sufficient for 2 bee hives, 1 installation round (=study start) and 10 sampling rounds. The pictures below show the content.

Packed tool box for one citizen scientist.

Continue reading “Tool boxes 2020”

INSIGNIA sampling scheme

Accompanying the scheme for the study set up, we also worked on an illustration for the detailed sampling scheme.  The scheme will also be translated and send to the citizen scientists. Within the scheme, one sampling period of each sampling method is illustrated and the crucial steps are shown. Additionally, the phenology list with 30 plants identified to be very important bee plants across Europe and the sampling dates are shown.

INSIGNIA sample scheme for 2020.


Kristina Gratzer

The APIStrip has a new packaging

Within year one of INSIGNIA, the ApiStrips were proven to be an excellent pesticide-sampling matrix. Therefore they will also be used in year two of the study.

As there is always room for improvement, the pesticides experts from the University of Almeria developed a new packaging for the strips. From now on, the strips will be wrapped in aluminum foil prior to pack them in a special plastic envelope. The citizen scientist has to remove the yellow strip  and close the envelope like a letter-the envelope is tightly sealed. With this way, the contamination risk decreases and analyses will be improved. Furthermore, the strips are thinner than last year.

The ApiStrip will be wrapped in aluminum foil and afterwards be placed in the plastic envelope. The citizen scientist needs do remove the yellow strip and close the envelope, similar to a letter.


ApiStrips ready to be send.

Kristina Gratzer and Maria Murcia Morales

INSIGNIA study design for 2020

To facilitate the understanding of our study design, we created an illustration describing the crucial points of the INSIGNIA 2020 study. The scheme will be translated into a total of 7 other languages and will be send to the participating citizen scientists.

INSIGNIA 2020 study design


Kristina Gratzer