Bee health: EFSA outlines data collection needs

EFSA’s MUST-B working group has finalised its requirements for the collection of field data needed to support its risk assessment model for bees. The model is currently being developed using published data and expert knowledge, but realistic field data will be required to further evaluate the model. The new report sets out the type of data that is required and how and where it should be collected.

Professor Simon More, Chair of the MUST-B working group, said: “This work presented several challenges. In particular, we had to address the need for accurate, validated methods that will ensure the data collected in the field is of sufficient quality to feed the model. We need standardised, reproducible protocols with automated tools to reduce variability in results.

“The working group has made several recommendations in this area, and recent studies presented at this year’s SETAC conference show promising advances in the development of such tools.

“Those efforts need to be further supported to increase data quality and harmonisation for better risk assessment and ultimately for better bee health.”

The MUST-B working group has selected study sites in four Member States – representing the different climatic and environmental conditions found across Europe – and three honeybee subspecies on which the data should be collected.

The report also specifies requirements for the duration of the data collection, the quality of the data and the aspects of the colony – such as behaviour and the status of in-hive products – that should be evaluated.

Prof More added: “We have suggested four initial collection sites but, considering the diversity of landscapes, climates, subspecies, farming and beekeeping practices in EU, data from other EU countries would be extremely useful. The more data we can collect, the stronger the model will be.

“There are already several bee health monitoring initiatives in Europe and we need to build on those in cooperation with all involved stakeholders.”

The scientific colloquium Collecting and Sharing Data on Bee Health: Towards a European Bee Partnership, to be held in Brussels in June, will be an opportunity to further discuss issues related to availability, collection and analysis of data, and communication on bee health. The ultimate goal is to address the problem of colony losses in Europe and beyond through better collection and sharing of data.

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