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

The presentation of INSIGNIA to Austria’s beekeepers

Among other EU countries, Austria will also participate in next year’s INSIGNIA ring-testing. Therefore, we are looking for suitable citizen scientists to accompany us through this process. For this purpose, and to introduce the INSIGNIA project to Austria’s beekeepers, we published an article in “Bienenaktuell”-Austria’s biggest beekeeping magazine. We presented our main project goals and the tested active and passive sampling matrices to the readers and draw attention on Austria’s role in the INSIGNIA project in 2019 and the upcoming year 2020.

Brodschneider & Gratzer (2019) INSIGNIA – Ein EU gefördertes Projekt zur Untersuchung von Pollendiversität und Pestizidrückständen. Bienenaktuell Dezember 2019, 13-15.



INSIGNIA: Applied science with impact

The INSIGNIA study aims to be applied science with impact. The prerequisite of impact is sharing knowledge with stakeholders. The INSIGNIA stakeholders are on one hand the European beekeepers and on the other hand the beekeepers’ organizations and the lobby/pressure groups on bees-bees welfare-pesticide-environmental-interaction-pollination-conservation. The latter stakeholders are informed by regular notes about the achievements and progress we are making in the INSIGNIA pilot study. The beekeepers will be informed via the European beekeepers’ magazines.

Today the first note to the beekeepers’ organizations and lobby/pressure groups have been sent. The notes to the beekeepers magazines will follow soon.

Sjef van der Steen

Sample checking and processing

All samples collected by our citizen scientists have to go through the hands of each country’s national coordinator prior to shipping them to the corresponding labs in Greece, Spain and Portugal. The national coordinator checks the information on the sample bags (sample ID, the sample date and the bee colony from which the sample stems from) and compares it to our backup system (LimeSurvey answers). Afterwards, the sample processing takes place as it was described in a previous post:

Part of the pollen samples from Austria ready to be analysed for botanical origin by the Portuguese lab.

Part of the pollen samples from Austria ready to be analysed for pesticide residues by the Greek lab.

Kristina Gratzer

Honey and wax samples to compare results

Our citizen scientists were asked to sample some honey of their last honey harvest to compare the results to those of the pollen analyses. An alternative option was to cut out about 5 x 5 cm pieces of the honey combs. Latter has the advantage of not only honey, but also beeswax samples. Analyzing beeswax and honey are also common matrices to learn more about pesticide residues or pollen sources. Let’s see, what we will find out.

Three honey samples from an Austrian INSIGNIA beekeeping site (photo used with permission by Gruber J.).

Kristina Gratzer

Choosing the right pen is everything

The samples on the picture came from a very reliable and motivated citizen scientist (CS) but during the checking process of samples through the national coordinator, we recognized that the used pen got blurred during sample transportation. Miss-matching samples are a catastrophe for the labs and the future results! This is the reason, why it is so important to have a backup system and to stay in close contact with the citizen scientists. Within the INSIGNIA project, every CS  answers an online LimeSurvey questionnaire after each sampling date dealing with sample IDs, the date of the sample collection, phenology, possible problems, colony strength etc… With the help of this system, it was possible to assign each sample the right sample ID, bee colony and the right sample date.

Nevertheless: CHOOSE THE RIGHT PEN- which is always a PENCIL!! 🙂

Illegible sample bags

Kristina Gratzer

INSIGNIA and Murphy’s law

According to Murphy’s law “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” or in this case, “whatever can break down, will break down”. Last week we had some thunderstorms in Graz (Austria). The stormy weather was the reason, why we were surprised by an adapter, that was ripped in several pieces, the next morning.  As the “outside tubes” were also gone, we had to insert new ones.  Luckily and thanks to Duck tape, the broken adapter could be fixed and mounted very quickly.

Broken adapter: a storm was the reason why the “outside tubes” disappeared and why the adapter broke down.

Broken Adapter

Kristina Gratzer