Assessing the health status of managed honeybee colonies (HEALTHY-B): a toolbox to facilitate harmonised data collection
Tools are provided to assess the health status of managed honeybee colonies by facilitating further harmonisation of data collection and reporting, design of field surveys across the European Union (EU) and analysis of data on bee health. The toolbox is based on characteristics of a healthy managed honeybee colony: an adequate size, demographic structure and behaviour; an adequate production of bee products (both in relation to the annual life cycle of the colony and the geographical location); and provision of pollination services. The attributes ‘queen presence and performance’, ‘demography of the colony’, ‘in-hive products’ and ‘disease, infection and infestation’ could be directly measured in field conditions across the EU, whereas ‘behaviour and physiology’ is mainly assessed through experimental studies. Analysing the resource providing unit, in particular land cover/use, of a honeybee colony is very important when assessing its health status, but tools are currently lacking that could be used at apiary level in field surveys across the EU. Data on ‘beekeeping management practices’ and ‘environmental drivers’ can be collected via questionnaires and available databases, respectively. The capacity to provide pollination services is regarded as an indication of a healthy colony, but it is assessed only in relation to the provision of honey because technical limitations hamper the assessment of pollination as regulating service (e.g. to pollinate wild plants) in field surveys across the EU. Integrating multiple attributes of honeybee health, for instance, via a Health Status Index, is required to support a holistic assessment. Examples are provided on how the toolbox could be used by different stakeholders. Continued interaction between the Member State organisations, the EU Reference Laboratory and EFSA is required to further validate methods and facilitate the efficient use of precise and accurate bee health data that are collected by many initiatives throughout the EU.