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Insect pollinator health

Insect pollinators are critically important in the environment, sustaining biodiversity A term used to describe the variety of living organisms existing in a specific environment. by providing essential pollination for a wide range of crops and wild plants. In view of the important ecological and economic value of bees, there is a need to monitor and maintain healthy bee stocks, not just locally or nationally, but globally.

As part of its mandate to provide scientific advice on risks along the food chain that may affect people, animals, plants or the environment, EFSA takes account of insect pollinator health in many areas across its remit. In addition, the Agency works together with partners and stakeholders on forward-looking initiatives that aim to further improve modelling and monitoring systems as well as the collection, sharing and analysis of relevant data to inform future regulatory risk assessments of multiple stressors in bees and other insect pollinators.


In December 2023, EFSA published a Technical Report on environmental scenarios for ApisRAM version 3, the honey bee colony model that simulates effects on individual bees and the colony from their  exposure Concentration or amount of a particular substance that is taken in by an individual, population or ecosystem in a specific frequency over a certain amount of time. to multiple stressors. In particular, ApisRAM assesses either single or multiple pesticides in interaction with other stressors and factors. Still under development, the model will make it possible to assess effects from exposure to more complex chemical mixtures, moving beyond the single crop/single  pesticide Substance used to kill or control pests, including disease-carrying organisms and undesirable insects, animals and plants. assessment approach to reflect the complexity of the environment in which bees live. This includes scenarios that represent the diversity of European environments in terms of risks for honey bees.


  1. 2024


    Planned go-live of the EU Pollinator Hub gathering all relevant information, knowledge and data collected by, and exchanged among, stakeholders on pollinator health and beekeeping.

  2. 2023


    EFSA publishes its revised guidance on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp. and solitary bees).

  3. 2022


    EFSA and BeeLife organise a workshop on harmonised data, and members of the European Bee Partnership (EUBP) meet to provide feedback on the implementation of the EU Pollinator Hub. Third meeting of the MUST-B Working Group (WG), and update of the timeline for the development of ApisRAM.

  4. November

    EFSA establishes a framework partnership agreement with Aarhus University, Denmark, and signs the first contract for the implementation of ApisRAM (versions 2 and 3). Second meeting of the MUST-B WG.

  5. October

    First meeting of the newly composed MUST-B WG with the new mandate to specifically support the implementation of ApisRAM through the selection of environment scenarios and the testing of the model.

  6. May

    Presentation of the EU Pollinator Hub project to the EU Bee Partnership at the occasion of the 8th EUBP meeting.

  7. April

    EFSA evaluates the risks to honey bee health related to the presence of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) in feed. HMF is a compound naturally formed by the degradation of simple sugars, especially fructose. It occurs in food and feed containing  carbohydrates A family of nutritional substances that includes sugars, starches and fibres., e.g. in sugars used to feed honey bees during winter.

  8. February

    Finalisation of ApisRAM version 1 and kick-off of the EFSA-BeeLife project on the development of a platform for the EU Bee Partnership (EUBP) called the “EU Pollinator Hub”

  9. 2021


    The EU Bee Partnership (EUBP) unveils a new online data platform that will play a crucial role in efforts to protect bee and pollinator health. The prototype platform is a ground-breaking tool that will bring together and visualise harmonised data related to bees and other pollinators.

  10. May

    A new  scientific opinion Opinions include risk assessments on general scientific issues, evaluations of an application for the authorisation of a product, substance or claim, or an evaluation of a risk assessment., requested by the European Parliament’s Committee for the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), sets out an integrated, holistic framework for assessing the combined effects of multiple stressors on honey bees (MUST-B).

  11. January - March

    An eight-week public consultation is held to gather comments on EFSA’s draft scientific opinion on the assessment of multiple stressors in bees (MUST-B).

EFSA's role

EFSA has an important role to play in ensuring that healthy bee stocks are maintained in Europe, given its mandate to improve EU food safety and animal health and to ensure a high level of consumer protection. A number of the Authority’s Scientific Panels and Units contribute to this work, principally in the areas of pesticides, animal health and welfare and plant health, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), data collection and scientific assessment.

Central to this work are the assessments EFSA carries out on the environmental safety of pesticides and GMOs that manufacturers would like to place on the EU market. EFSA’s Pesticides Peer Review Unit is responsible for the peer review of risk assessments of active substances used in plant protection products. The dossiers submitted by applicants must contain comprehensive information on the potential risk to the environment posed by their products. The unit also carries out risk assessments of Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) of active substances in pesticides. These assessments take account of the potential effects of the substances on the environment in general and on non-target organisms such as bees.

EFSA’s Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR Panel) provides independent scientific advice on the risk assessment of plant protection products and their residues. This includes looking at risks to operators, workers, residents and consumers as well as the environment, including wildlife. One of the main activities of the PPR Panel, together with the Environment, Plants & Ecotoxicology The study of the adverse impacts of substances, particularly chemicals, in relation to the environment and public health. Unit, is to develop new or review existing guidance documents on the risk assessment of pesticides, including the development of risk assessment approaches, methodologies and models. The Panel may provide opinions on the effects of specific active substances used in plant protection products or on any generic issue related to the safe use of pesticides.

GMOs and derived food and feed products are subject to a risk analysis before they can be placed on the EU market. In this process, the role of the GMO Panel is to independently evaluate the risk assessments provided by companies and manufacturers and to give scientific advice to risk managers on any risks that GMOs may pose to human and animal health and the environment. The assessment covers several specific aspects of risk, one of which is the possible risk to “non-target organisms” such as bees.

In addition, each application for authorisation of a GM plant has to be accompanied by a Post-Market Environmental Monitoring ( PMEM Monitoring of the effects of a new product (e.g. a GM plant) following its release onto the market. This may reveal adverse effects which were not predicted in the risk assessment conducted prior to market release. It stands for post-market environmental monitoring.) plan demonstrating how the applicant will monitor the GM plant for possible adverse environmental effects after it has been placed lawfully on the EU market. The aim of PMEM is to identify possible unanticipated adverse effects on the environment which could arise directly or indirectly from cultivation of GM plants.

The Panel on Plant Health provides independent scientific advice on the risks posed by organisms which can cause harm to plants, plant products or plant biodiversity in the European Union. Every pest risk assessment includes the assessment of environmental risk, but to clarify and harmonise approaches in this area the Panel has published specific guidance on the environmental risk assessment of plant pests. EFSA’s work in the area of plant health is specifically relevant to bee health as some pests that are a threat to bees can be transported by, and live on, plants. The small hive beetle, for example, can live without bees, surviving on fruit and vegetables. It could therefore be introduced into the EU in consignments of such products.

The Panel on Animal Health and Welfare provides independent scientific advice on all aspects of animal diseases and animal welfare. Its work chiefly concerns food-producing animals, including honey bees.

EU framework

The EU Biodiversity Strategy and the EU Pollinators Initiative (adopted in 2018 and revised in 2023) set the commitment to reverse the decline in wild pollinators by 2030, aiming among others to improve knowledge of pollinator decline and to tackle its causes.

Animal health and welfare

Bees are covered by the Animal Health Strategy for the European Union, and legislation on animal health certification and requirements for the movement of bees between Member States (Directive 92/65/EEC). These requirements are intended to prevent and control a number of bee diseases and pests such as the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) and the Tropilaelaps mite, which can spread via the movement of bees and trade in hive products, plants and fruit. There are also animal health requirements for imports from third countries of live bees and bumble bees to avoid introduction into the EU of exotic bee diseases (Regulation 206/2010).


Pesticide residues may be taken up by bees during the collection of nectar and/or pollen and water. A Regulation was adopted in 2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, replacing Council Directive 91/414/EEC. The new Regulation – 1107/2009 – maintains the provision that pesticides can be approved at EU level only if their use has no unacceptable effect on bee health or leads to negligible exposure of honey bees.

Genetically modified organisms

Before a GMO can be used or cultivated, it must be authorised under Directive 2001/18/EC or Regulation 1829/2003 following a thorough scientific evaluation by EFSA that includes the potential adverse effects on bees.

Plant health

The aim of the EU plant health regime, established by Council Directive 2000/29/EC, is to prevent the introduction of organisms harmful to plants or plant products or their spread within the EU. Every pest risk assessment includes the assessment of environmental risks.

MUST-B project

In 2015, EFSA launched a major project to develop a  holistic approach An approach to risk assessment that takes into account the complexities of real life situations. to the risk assessment of multiple stressors in honey bees (MUST-B). This self-task The process whereby, during the course of its regular work, EFSA identifies an issue worthy of further consideration. was further formalised through a mandate received in 2018 by the European Parliament asking EFSA for a scientific opinion.

The MUST-B project has drawn on EFSA’s expertise in areas such as animal and plant health, data collection and analysis, modelling, pesticides and environmental risk, but also involved a range of experts and stakeholders from beyond EFSA. The project has been overseen by a working group (WG) made up of experts from a variety of scientific backgrounds. 

In 2021 the MUST-B WG delivered a scientific opinion on “A systems‐based approach to the environmental risk assessment of multiple stressors in honey bees” that considers not only cumulative and synergistic effects of pesticides but also issues related to the genetic variety of bees, pathogens, bee management practices, and colony environment. The approach consists of two core components: a monitoring system and a modelling system: ApisRAM.

In 2022, the newly composed MUST-B WG started working on a mandate to specifically support the implementation of ApisRAM through the selection of environment scenarios and the testing of the model.

EU Pollinator Hub

In 2017, the European Parliament requested that a new stakeholder discussion group on bee health data be created and facilitated by EFSA: the EU Bee Partnership (EUBP). Concluding that bee and pollinator health data is not interoperable and often fragmented, the EUBP set out to ensure data standardisation and accessibility through the transformation of isolated data into aggregated information. As a major milestone in these efforts, the EUBP in 2021 unveiled a new online data platform to improve the sharing of harmonised and standardised data on pollinators. 

Developed in a collaborative effort – under the lead of BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination and supported by a grant from EFSA – the Prototype Platform brings together and visualises harmonised data related to bees and other pollinators. The ultimate goal is for the platform to become a hub that gathers all relevant information, knowledge and data collected by, and exchanged among, stakeholders on pollinator health and beekeeping. It will make relevant data accessible to end users such as citizens, beekeepers, beekeeping or farming associations, researchers, agencies and policymakers.

EFSA is financially assisting the transformation of the prototype platform into a fully operational tool: the EU Pollinator Hub. The collection and sharing of harmonised data on bees and pollinators from across Europe will also be central to the success of the framework developed by EFSA for environmental risk assessment of multiple stressors in bees under the MUST-B project.


A request to develop an integrated, holistic approach to the risk assessment of multiple stressors in managed honey bees was sent to EFSA in 2018 by the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. The request followed a project launched by EFSA in 2015. It also built on a previous European Parliament initiative which led in 2017 to the creation of the EU Bee Partnership – a stakeholder-led project facilitated by EFSA – which aims to establish an EU-wide platform for the collection and sharing of harmonised data on bee health and beekeeping in Europe.
MUST-B is an ambitious attempt to consider multiple stressors – whether they be chemical, biological or related to environmental factors such as climate change and agricultural practices – together in a single risk assessment framework. It is a systems-based framework composed of two core components – a monitoring system and a modelling system – with honey bees used to showcase the approach.
The approach envisages interoperable data flowing from the monitoring system to the simulation model of a honey bee colony. The model, known as ApisRAM, has been developed specifically for MUST-B. Importantly, it will be able to simulate exposure to multiple chemicals and to reflect more accurately both field and in-hive exposure of honey bees to multiple chemicals over time. ApisRAM would be calibrated and continuously updated with incoming monitoring data and results from the latest research, presently from the B-GOOD and PoshBee projects.
Data would be collected from a network of “sentinel hives” equipped with digital sensors and from representative climate zones and landscapes in the EU and connected to a platform for data storage and analysis. The EU Bee Partnership (see question 1) and the research development supporting MUST-B (B-GOOD and PoshBee) play a crucial role in developing this aspect of the project.
The approach has been developed for honey bees, but could be applied to bumble bees, solitary bees and other insect pollinators and non-target arthropods to strengthen their protection and the ecosystem services Benefits to human or animal populations provided by an ecosystem, such as food or fuel provision, natural medicinal ingredients, and maintenance of soil fertility. that they provide to the wider environment.
No. The scientific opinion published in 2021 presents ideas and concepts for future development. It is not prescriptive, nor is it associated with or related to specific EU legislation. The finalised opinion presents a framework and supporting rationale but many of the tools and proposed methods still require further elaboration, which will in part be reliant on new research and scientific development. However, it is expected that in the near future the systems-based approach and innovative models and tools can make a significant contribution to the development of environmental risk assessment of multiple chemicals and other stressors.
The review of the bee guidance was developed in line with existing legislation for the approval of plant protection products and as such was part of the periodic evaluation process for pesticides. This process follows the “single crop, single pesticide” assessment, and does not address combined effects from exposure to multiple chemicals and/or other stressors. MUST-B is not part of any regulatory process, and therefore has the scope to suggest new perspectives for the future development of environmental risk assessment. It could, however, make a significant contribution to the revision and update of regulatory guidance documents at some point in the future. For more detailed info, please see the dedicated editorial on how EFSA is working to protect bees and shape the future of environmental risk assessment.
The EUBP Prototype Platform is the first practical effort to respond to identified weaknesses in the collection, standardisation and sharing of data on bee and pollinator health. Stakeholders from different sectors – beekeeping and farming associations, European agencies, the phytopharmaceutical industry, veterinary associations, NGOs, and others – have collaborated closely to develop the platform, under the lead of BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination and supported by an EFSA grant.
The prototype provides two critical solutions: a stable platform that enables data storage and automatised visualisation through an interactive map; and the processing of new data with automated algorithms to integrate it and advance a new data-sharing standard. As the platform is growing, future developments will require improving data sharing and integration automation, automatically conforming new data into a standard for communication and visualisation. EFSA is financially assisting the transformation of the prototype platform into a fully operational tool, the EU Pollinator Hub, by 2024.