The APIStrip is an efficient matrix for bio-monitoring of pesticides using honey bee colonies and most pollen entering bee hives is collected from wild plants rather than crops. Results of the statistical analysis of the 2019 INSIGNIA sampling. By the international INSIGNIA group To find the best matrix for bio-monitoring for pesticides with honey bee colonies, in terms of the most reliable and most practical tool, in the INSIGNIA study of 2019, using the four matrices studied, 310 APIStrips, 207 Beehold tubes, 197 beebread samples and 182 trapped pollen samples collected in Austria, Denmark and Greece were analysed. Note that the interpretation of the data is qualitative (i.e. a pesticide is present or not). The trapped pollen was also analysed quantitatively for botanical origin with metabarcoding, the molecular identification method based on DNA. The pollen diversity per sample ranged from abundant to rare. Trapped pollen and beebread are biological (bee) matrices and the Beehold tube and APIStrip are passive non-biological matrices. The Beehold tube is a plastic tube, lined with polyethylene glycol (PEG) that collects particles from the bodies of bees entering the hive, whilst the APIStrip is a plastic strip containing the substance Tenax, placed between the bee combs in the middle of the colony. The Tenax binds to pesticide molecules.
The data analysis demonstrated that the APIStrip is the most effective and least variable matrix in terms of number of pesticides detected. Beebread is more variable but can occasionally be as effective as the APIStrip. The Beehold tube is less effective, and in trapped pollen only a proportion of the pesticides present in the hive could be detected. Different numbers of pesticides were found in different participating apiaries and at different sampling dates, showing the importance of location and sampling date for pesticide monitoring. Although not tested in this study, it is most likely that the same principle applies to other contaminants in the environment. Over 80 different pesticides were picked up in the environment by the bees during food collection in the studied period May – September 2019. Substances used by beekeepers to treat the parasitic mite varroa, although present in most colonies, formed only a very small proportion of the total number of pesticides. Pollen diversity is significant. The data confirm the results of many previous studies about pollen origin, that bees prefer mass flowering pollen if these are present. There was a top 15 list of pollens when considering pollen diversity in the samples analysed. This list differed between countries, but overall, most pollen was collected from non-agricultural crops, except for the Rosacea (rose family) and Fabaceae (bean family), examples of which are present both in agriculture and in “nature”. The results of the statistical analysis and modelling of the results from 2019 will be published in two scientific papers and then more details will be shared with the stakeholders and beekeepers.