Meet the Queens of INSIGNIA-EU from Poland

Poland joined the INSIGNIA-EU project with 20 citizen-scientist beekeepers, of which as many as five were ladies, which, project-wise, was a rarity.

Each of them is of course a beekeeper, but other than that they also have other cool jobs and interests.

The national coordinator for Poland, as well as a citizen scientist, was Dr Anna Gajda. On a daily basis she is a head of the Laboratory of Bee Diseases at the Institute of Veterinary Medicine, Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Warsaw. She runs a diagnostic lab, both for beekeepers and their sick colonies, and for science, researching long standing and emerging pathogens in both managed and wild bees. She does a lot of extension work for beekeepers and veterinarians, giving talks and practical courses on bee disease control and prevention. In her free time she enjoys photography, travel and birdwatching.

DVM Ewa Mazur is a young scientist. She works as an assistant in the Laboratory of Bee Diseases at Warsaw University of Life Sciences. Her main research topic is the problem of winter bee colony losses in Poland. She also works as an advisor for beekeepers, as she has veterinary specialization in bee diseases. Bees are her great passion – she takes care of a small apiary and loves to observe wild bees. In her free time, Ewa practices yoga and cooks vegetarian dishes. Continue reading “Meet the Queens of INSIGNIA-EU from Poland”

National Coordinators Cafe and the start of sampling

Today’s regular National Coordinators’ Cafe was the first since the start of the 2023 sampling in all 27 EU Member States. This was an opportunity for National Coordinators to meet informally online with members of the consortium to sort out any problems that might occur. There were some questions about different hive designs needing slight modifications to what is being done, but overall it seems that all is running smoothly with much enthusiasm from the citizen scientist beekeepers involved.

INSIGNIA-EU meets with European Commission in Brussels…

A successful meeting has been held at the European Commission DG Environment, funders of INSIGNIA-EU, in Brussels, Belgium, attended by consortium members from 11 different countries, together with representatives of other European Commission bodies and the European Parliament. The results of the pilot studies carried out in three European countries during 2022, together with other preliminary investigations, were reported. These studies compared a range of different matrices to sample a wide range of different environmental pollutants. The most effective combination of matrices which have now been selected for implementation, together comprise an integrated, non-destructive sampling regime, which will in 2023 be carried out by citizen scientist beekeepers in their bee hives in all 27 EU countries throughout the season. In a few weeks a practical meeting will be held in Wageningen, Netherlands attended by the INSIGNIA-EU National Coordinators of each country to receive training in the sampling techniques to be used by their citizen scientists.

Thanks for the hospitality!

The INSIGNIA-EU consortium meeting at Nea Moudania, Greece. Most members of the consortium were able to attend in person, with others joining virtually. Thanks to Fani Hatjina and colleagues for making us so welcome!

The first National Coordinators café

Today we held the first INSIGNIA-EU “National Coordinators café”. This was attended by most of the National Coordinators who will be organising the sampling programme in all 27 EU countries in 2023. It was an opportunity for them to meet each other informally, and to discuss practical questions about the programme with members of the core INSIGNIA-EU team. Selection of participating citizen scientist beekeepers for 2023 is currently underway, and many volunteers have come forward. The selection process is important to ensure that large countries like Spain and Germany have an even geographical distribution of beekeepers, whilst also taking account of different land uses such as cities, agricultural and semi natural areas, to provide contrasts in the likely levels of the various types of pollution experienced. Matters discussed include the practicalities of sampling in northern parts of Finland and Sweden where hives may be covered in snow for long periods, and how to arrange a sampling programme to take account of the vacation plans of the citizen scientists. All agreed that it was a useful meeting and that there will be regular follow up meetings in the future.

David G Biron

We were all very sad to hear of the recent death after a short illness of David G Biron, who was our French partner in the original INSIGNIA project. David worked as a Senior Research Scientist at the Ecology and Environment Institute of CNRS at Clermont-Ferrand, France. He was well known in the field of interactions between hosts, parasites and pollutants in ecosystems. He was the director of the Zone Atelier Territoire Uranifères using and developing remote observation sensors to assess the risks of natural radioactivity enhanced by natural or man-made factors in ecosystems such as springs or a disused uranium mine. He was the manager of the “EcoHealth” working group of the CNRS Zones Ateliers Network. His work on interactions between parasites and their hosts, especially deciphering and understanding host-parasite cross-talk by using “parasito-proteomics” led to the idea of “population proteomics”, a new emerging field in proteomics. He published many scientific papers, on a range of topics and organisms. His work on bees included studies on the gut parasite Nosema ceranae and its interactions with pesticides such as fipronil and thiacloprid. He contributed to the chapter on toxicology in the COLOSS BEEBOOK. Our condolences go out to his family.

Kick-Off Meeting for INSIGNIA-EU

The new project INSIGNIA-EU got underway today with the virtual Kick Off Meeting, which was attended by members of the consortium, representatives of the European Commission Directorate Generals for the Environment and Health and Food Safety, members of the European Parliament, and representatives of several EU agencies including the European Food Safety Authority. Hosted by Vujadin Kovacevic of DG Environment, the meeting was introduced by Martin Hojsik MEP, of the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety who outlined the support of the Parliament for this wide ranging environmental study. Continue reading “Kick-Off Meeting for INSIGNIA-EU”

More popular articles published…

With samples of pollen in alcohol, and ApiStrips from the first four sampling rounds of 2020 having arrived at the laboratories in Portugal, Spain and Greece for analysis, and with beekeepers in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia and the UK preparing for the sixth sampling round this weekend, it is a busy time for the INSIGNIA project. The process of disseminating information about the project also continues, with articles about the progress of the project in popular beekeeping journals having recently been published in Austria, Germany, Greece, Latvia, the Netherlands and the UK. Further articles will be published soon in other participating countries…

What are APIStrips?

Many people have been asking about the APIStrips, which are a key feature of the INSIGNIA project. A paper describing the strips has now been published in the journal: “Science of the Total Environment” written by María Murcia-Morales and Amadeo Fernández-Alba from the University of Almeria, Spain, and colleagues from Denmark and the Netherlands.

Honey bee colonies have been shown to be effective bio-samplers of contamination within their foraging area, as organic compounds such as pesticides will be continuously deposited in their hives. The use of honey bee colonies for the biomonitoring of contaminants usually requires the sampling of biological materials from the hives such as bees, pollen, honey or beeswax. “Active” sampling in this way will inevitably affect the colonies, especially if the sampling is at regular intervals. As an alternative, the team at the University of Almeria devised the APIStrip (Adsorb Pesticide In-hive Strip). This a non-biological sampler which consists of a plastic strip coated with Tenax TA, a stable material which is exceptionally effective at adsorbing pesticide residues. A process of dissolving the Tenax in a solvent before coating the strips ensures that the bees cannot remove it. The pesticides and related contaminants adsorbed onto its surface can then be extracted and analyzed by chromatography and mass spectroscopy. It has been found that a 14 day exposure of the strips is optimal, and that the pesticides collected on the strip are stable. In the first year of the INSIGNIA Project, 2019, the APIStrips were compared with another passive device, the Beehold Tube, and two hive products, pollen and beebread. The APIStrip was found to be the most effective in collectring pesticide residues. Field studies in Denmark, over a six month period demonstrated their value and applicability by detecting 40 different pesticides.

In the 2020 study, APIStrips are being used in two honey bee colonies at nine sites in each of nine countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia and the UK, and in bumble bee colonies in the Netherlands. The results for pesticide residues will be combined with information about the crops and wild plants on which the bees have been foraging using trapped pollen analysed using a DNA metabarcoding technique. Pollen samples and APIStrips were collected from the bee colonies last weekend, the first of ten scheduled sampling periods in 2020.

The paper: “APIStrip, a new tool for environmental contaminant sampling through honey bee colonies” is available here:  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969720324657

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