Colleagues meet at the Insignia plenary meeting in Almeria

Meetings as the annual plenary meeting are about more than data exchange and scientific discussion; they are also about meeting colleagues, social interaction, interests in colleague’s family life and relaxation in eating and drinking together. The early birds that arrived already on Sunday 12th January were invited for a tapas experience in Almeria city and both meeting evenings were great experiences with Spanish fish meals, regional culinary highlights, Spanish wine, and Portuguese port. In the coffee- and lunch breaks there was time for chats in the sun. This socializing, chatting and having a good time is the basis for mutual respect which, together with full commitment to the well-being of the honeybee and the interests in the environment and its interaction with the bees, form the fundament for a good functioning team; and a good functioning team we are!

Sjef van der Steen


The plenary meeting in Almeria, group at work

At the University of Almeria, Amadeo Fernandez-Alba and his team hosted 24 scientists from 10 countries for the plenary Insignia meeting on 14th and 15th January 2020. In a great ambiance, the results of the 2019 study were presented, discussed and comprised into the 2020 protocol, to be tested in 9 countries in 81 apiaries. The results presented clearly showed a difference between the four (4) pesticide residue matrices, the two biological matrices: trapped pollen, beebread, and the two non-biological non-invasive passive sampling matrices: Beehold tube and the in-hive APIStrip. The latter proved to have the best binding capacities for the number of pesticides. Trapped pollen proved to be a very poor matrix for this purpose. Beebread and the Beehold tube functioned in between. For pollen diversity, three matrices were tested: trapped pollen, beebread, and the Beehold tube. Comparison between classic microscope palynology and ITS2 pollen metabarcoding revealed that ITS2 pollen metabarcoding results are comparable outcomes on family level. For pollen diversity, the three (3) matrices gave similar results. Based on the 2019 results it was decided to apply in the 2020 study the best pesticide residue matrix APIStrip and the most practical pollen matrix: trapped pollen for ITS2 metabarcoding. Insignia is about protocol development for citizen science study. The interaction between scientist and apiculturist has been studied in a sociological study. Non surprisingly it can be concluded that citizen scientist involvement is based on personal interests like participating in a scientific study or interest in the environment primarily on mutual respect between the scientist and beekeeper and mutual concern for the well-being of the honeybee.

All the aspects, from the interaction between scientist and beekeeper and instruction workshops to practical issues as best exposure location, matrix storage, and transport were point by point discussed and agreed. This will result in an updated instruction/ picture manual for all participating beekeepers.

Sjef van der Steen


T-shirt born on the backseat!

Born on the backseat!

After an exciting and successful annual meeting in Almeria a small group went to Granada to have a look on this very beautiful and historical city. Especially the historic Alhambra is very recommendable. We continued to evaluate our meeting. And suddenly one said: “We should make a citizen’s science t-shirt”. “Yeah, we want a t-shirt”. A t-shirt to show we are a team and a t-shirt to promote INSIGNIA and even maybe a t-shirt for our citizens science apiculturist.

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Keeping the Nordic Baltic countries updated

At the end of January 2020, the annual Nordic-Baltic Apicultural research symposium took place in Oslo, Norway. It is a special meeting, where beekeeping organization people, extensionist and scientist from the Nordic Baltic countries meet to update each other and to create common projects. INSIGNIA made a presentation on the INSIGNIA project, explaining the background and the aim and perspectives of INSIGINA. The very first results from the Danish apiaries were presented. Very exciting results and very good response the audience. Especially presenting the citizen science set up for 2020 showing a simpler setup and easier than in 2019. Several countries express the hope that the project will continue after the pilot project will finish and are ready to join as well if possibly. Conclusion, the project is well received and accepted by society.

INSIGNIA project meeting in Almeria

More than 20 INSIGNIA researchers from ten countries recently held a successful meeting at the University of Almeria, Spain to discuss the progress of the Insignia project. Full discussions took place on the results, experiences and lessons learned from 2019 when sampling took place in Austria, Denmark, Greece and the UK. The citizen science programme for 2020 has now been planned, and will be expanded to nine countries, introducing sampling in Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy and Latvia. An opportunity was taken to visit the EU Reference Laboratory for pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables at the University of Almeria, where many of the analyses for INSIGNIA are taking place. Our grateful thanks go to Amadeo Fernandez-Alba and his team for the excellent organisation and hospitality during our stay in Spain.

Christmas Varroa treatment again

It is important to understand the influence of the parasitic varroa mites that we have in nearly all colonies all over Europe.

INSIGNIA uses the honeybees as bioindicators of our surroundings, of the environment. We want to understand what is going on in our environment, about the pollution, the farmers spraying, etc. But then we also need to understand the beekeepers. What are they doing in the colonies ? They need to treat against the varroa mites, otherwise the colonies will die within a few years.

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Pollen as food

Bees pollen is a very important part of the INSIGNIA project. It is collected by the bees as a pallets of pollen made by bees when they land on a flower. It’s a mixture of pollen, saliva, and nectar. It is the very advanced way of the sexual life of the flower plants. The bees bring it from flower to flower. Pollinating. The honeybees are rewarded with nectar and pollen. Pollen is a very important part of the honeybee’s diet as proteins. But for humans it is very interesting as well. One tablespoon of pollen contains  approximately 16 calories 0.3 grams of fat, 1.2 grams of protein, 2.2 grams of carbohydrates, 250 types of nutrients, including vitamins and flavonoids. The last is very interesting. Humans are using it as api-nutrition, means nutrition from the bees’ products. You could say food-supplement. Pollen is also used in the Apitherapy.
Below we show how humans are using pollen in food as the finest and healthy spices you can imaging.

Mixed into homemade chocolate

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Follow your scientist – The INSIGNIA project

Last week note nr 2. “Follow your scientist – the INSIGNIA project”  by Flemming Vejsnæs was sent out to the stakeholders. it draws the attention to our social media and website to inform and to enhance the cooperation and commitment of the stakeholders to the INSIGNIA project. Soon similar notes will be sent to the beekeeper’s journals in the INSIGNIA countries. More notes will follow

Flemming Vejsnæs,  Sjef van der Steen 


Our social media
our website

Like a crime scene!

Now the laboratories are working. Hard working. Analyzing all our samples. And is a lot. And they do an amazing job. They analyze, the give results, they question if that and that substance really is to find in the vicinity of the colonies. We give our best answers. They go back, re-analyze and do it even in another laboratory to exclude mistakes. They are very accurate and careful. They came back, telling that the findings are confirmed. We discus, we wonder, we get surprised and we get very excited on this project. It is like a crime case, where now the forensics are working. And they ask for new samples, to conform a suspicion.

This happens today. They wanted to validate or invalidate some findings. They want to be total sure. So, they asked for honey samples and control samples. So, we did. And nice to visit the colonies, confirming if they are alive. And they are and they look good. But for sure now they are in the wintercluster, so we do not want to disturb them to most and stress them. So, we opened the colonies, gentle and took out a frame with feed, scaping a sampling.

All this for the forensics, to confirm the hypothesis.

This project is so exciting and will bring a lot of new results to the surface.

Flemming Vejsnæs