written by Marco Pietropaoli, Giovanni Formato, INSIGNIA Consortium
For the INSIGNIA project (“Environmental monitoring of pesticide use through honey bees” PP-1-1-2018) (https://www.insignia-bee.eu) our laboratory in parallel with other project partners from Denmark (Danish Beekeepers Association), Netherlands (Stichting Wageningen Research) and Latvia (Latvian Beekeepers Association) is carrying out a small field trial to check the relation between colony size and forage activity in order to calculate the exposome.
How to count honey bees flying out of the hive? Thanks to Beecounters!
They are light plastic boxes with a micro-processor powered with a 12V current (Figure 1). Just put them at the hive entrance, power on and that’s it!
The first samples from citizen scientists arrived in the labs of the national coordinators. Their next way is now to be send to the specialist labs for further analysis. It is of great importance that the samples arrive there in a well preserved and labelled manner!
The first official sampling period is right around the corner, so it is time to talk about the sampling procedures in detail. Citizen scientists sample beebread from colony 1 and colony 3. Originally, the idea was to use a specially developed and homemade so-called “beebread collector” to collect the beebread. Nevertheless, in the last few weeks we concluded that simple straws cut in pieces are a better solution. They are even cheaper than the BB-collector, disposable (no exchange of diseases or pesticides) and easier in handling. The aim is to sample in total 3 g of beebread per colony, which is equivalent to 60 cells or about 5 cm of beebread in the straws.
Some blog entries ago we introduced an elegant way of holding the Beehold tubes in colony 3 by inserting 4 holes into a sliding gate. This innovative solution was based on the idea of one of our citizen scientists from Austria. As mentioned in the previous blog posting, bees of colony 1 had or still have issues to get used to the experimental setup but for our citizen scientists this is no reason to throw in the towel. Instead, one of our participants (clever, Roland!) invented a nice, cheap and easy solution to improve the adaption of bees to the new circumstances: firstly, he mounted a landing board to facilitate the traffic of bees; secondly, he installed a mechanism to open and close the pollen trap without disturbing them even if the adapter for Beehold tubes is mounted. Now, that is the magic of citizen science.
Reminder: in colony 1 all of the four sampling matrixes are tested. Thus, bees not only have to get used to the pollen traps but also to the Beehold tubes and the corresponding adapter. This might be “overwhelming” for some of the colonies and in a consequence, several messages from worried citizen scientists arrived us during the last week. They all reported similar problems, observed in colony 1: bees have issues to find the right path into their colonies and they congregate in front of the hive entrance; bees show increased aggressive behavior; bees use the drone entrance to get into the hive and some of them were also observed to fly into the neighboring colonies.
According to the 2019 study setup, colony 1 combines all 4 sampling methods. The combination of the beehold tubes and the pollen trap is not that simple. We have already shown the adapter we build to integrate the tubes.
Now it is needed to apply the adapter to the colony and make it bee-tight, which is tricky, as first of all bees often find an alternative way in and out their colony, and second because bees need to get used to how the hive entrance looks and where they can enter the colony. The way through the beehold tubes and later the pollen trap is not easy…