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…

Pollen sample transportation ensuring cool chain!

Maybe you have not realized that is already 2 full months since we collected the 1st INSIGNIA 2020 sample of pollen and Apistrips! Yes! indeed! and the samples were stored to Citizen Scientists’ freezers  till now!

However,  the time has come for the first set of samples to be sent to National Coordinators labs, for little processing, checking, homogenizing, and then shipped to laboratories for  analysis,

But let’s take in from the beginning. Once the sample of pollen or an Apistrip is collected, it is placed in its own labeled plastic bag , and all samples together from each sampling round in one big labeled bag and stored in -20! See below the pre labeled bags which were sent to Citizen Scientists.

So far so good. Second and very important step is the transfer of the filed bags of pollen  to the National Coordinators laboratories in each country. How on earth, can we retain the cool chain required for the pollen to keep its DNA properties intact?

Well, we have a simple answer! Keep the pollen as frozen or cold as possible. Below we show you how we did it in Greece!

Styrofoam boxes with 4 freezing blocs were sent to each CSs, who packed the pollen between the newly frozen blocks and returned them via courier company to the National Coordinator’s laboratory. That way, the samples travelled secure, quickly and retain the cool chain for max 2 days of travel. Furthermore, the courier service was offered by the National Coordinator’s lab, in this case by the Department of Apiculture.

Now we do hope for excellent results!

Written by Fani Hatjina, National Coordinator, Greece

Varroa – the never-ending story

Why talk about a parasite? Because only bee colonies in balance are good bioindicators.
All the INSIGNIA colonies are taken care of by our Citizens Scientist. They run the colonies as they use to. The aim is to supply a pollination service og create a honey production. The, probably, biggest treat against the honeybee colonies is the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. The mite is from 1-1,5 mm. Rather small. Varroa is living on the honeybees and does multiply in the sealed brood of the honeybees. It only bread on honeybees.

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Insignia is more than strips and pollen. Our colonies do also produce the most delicious honey. In Denmark, this year’s honey harvest seems until now to become good. The INSIGNIA 1 colonies gave a harvest of spring honey of around 20 kg each. The honey was harvested around the 12th of June. That is in the blooming time of the oilseed rape. Give a very creamy and tasteful honey. Other exciting flowers are expected to be in as well. The fruit trees this year looks very nice and productive a well. Dandelion was flowering very intense and hawthorn is very smelly and dominating at the end of the spring flow. Anyway, love this honey. And now we made a special edition for our colleagues around europe. By the way, the metabar coding of the pollen sampling will confirm above later in the season.

Some of the team from the University of Almaria presenting creamed honey from Denmark.


INSIGNIA on Spanish TV!

The INSIGNIA project has drawn the attention of the Spanish TV channel Canal Sur! Two of their reporters visited the lab in Almería and asked some questions about the APIStrips and the project progress. Two days later, a short description of the work performed by the INSIGNIA group was broadcast on the news with a small part of the interviews to the Almería team.

Sample pick-up and delivery in Austria

We try to maintain cool chain of samples collected by citizen scientists – which means we do visit citizen scientists’ locations with a cool bag. The first big tour 2020 brought me to three participating beekeepers. Always a good option to see apiaries in the city or in the woods. Johann on the other hand benefitted of the nice weather and brought his samples 60 km by motorbike to the university in Graz!

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!

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