Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)

Methods and solution for the development of digital vitality indicators for honey bees: At four locations, which differ in their location typology (according to BfN), bee colonies are to be managed and continuously monitored according to good professional practice. At each site, four colonies will be equipped with BeeCheck and hive scales to digitally map the seasonal dynamics of colony development. In addition, the following data will be collected:

  • Weather (weather station with data logger)
  • Pollen input (set up and empty pollen traps/pollen scales, perform pollen analyses)
  • Documentation of flowering phases (own site inspection)
  • Nectar input (hive scales)
  • Remotely sensed landscape analysis for food availability (drone surveys, aerial photo analysis, geospatial data analysis)
  • Pathogen load (regular sampling)
  • Colony strength (regular population estimations)

The vitality and resilience of a bee colony can be determined by how it responds to disturbances and external stimuli, such as food availability, by changing activity patterns. Different stimuli are mimicked in experiments on tracht migration, feeding, and stimulus feeding (with different sugar concentrations). Manipulative experiments (interception of different numbers of bees) are used to simulate disturbances. The reaction of the bee colony to stimuli and disturbances will be considered with regard to their duration and intensity. For this purpose, flight activity and speed of flight hole passing are recorded with the BeeCheck and hive weight and thus food input or food consumption are recorded with the hive trolleys. The examined colonies should differ in their vitality and resilience. Therefore, colonies with different health status (healthy/ varroa/ viruses/ nosema) and different history (economic colony/ scion/ artificial swarm/ swarm) should be compared. The results will be used to identify vitality indicators that allow patterns in activity to be assessed and evaluated. This can be done with BeeCheck or hive data alone to assess vitality.

Gero Messsysteme GmbH

Methods and solutions for product optimization: In close interaction with future customers, the Gero company develops a market-ready prototype of the BeeCheck and the accompanying program. In addition, it contributes to the data analysis the evaluation of the speed of the bees’ flight hole passage and extends the accompanying software with important parameters.

Biochem Agrar GmbH

Methods and solution for validation and product development: The testing institute ensures the application of the BeeCheck and potentially also the BEEHAVE in practice and can secure a pioneering role in the new technologies. The development of a service under guideline- and GLP-compliant use of the BeeCheck and a BEEHAVE-compliant service will be carried out by the testing institute within the scope of the project. Through its experience in testing assignments and participation in international ring tests, the testing institute can contribute its extensive technical and scientific know-how. The developed products can be marketed later. It is particularly advantageous to work closely with the manufacturer on the finalization of the BeeCheck prototype to ensure that the BeeCheck can later be optimally integrated into the test institute’s operating procedures.

Rifcon GmbH

Methods and solution: In cooperation with the UFZ, the use of BEEHAVE in the context of risk assessment of pesticides is advanced. A crucial prerequisite to strengthen the acceptance of models in the process of risk assessment is a validation especially under the application of pesticides. This validation can be carried out using the data collected in the BeeCheck trials by Biochem Agrar and Eurofins. Based on this, possible applications are outlined, a relevant application scenario is developed and exemplified as a case study. For this purpose, Rifcon can contribute a long experience in the use of process-based models in pesticide evaluation and registration, which is characterized by close cooperation of modelers, field biologists and ecotoxicologists.

Furthermore, a suitable study design for field observations and pesticide studies will be discussed with the project partners at the beginning of the project and the statistical evaluation of the conducted studies will be supported.

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Combining BeeCheck and BEEHAVE: BEEHAVE will support the design of experiments with BeeCheck. For this purpose, stress experiments that are considered meaningful based on expert knowledge will be implemented in BEEHAVE and simulated for different food availability in the landscape and pathogen loads. In this way, the experimental design will be optimized, while at the same time BeeCheck will provide the opportunity to test BEEHAVE’s predictions, which will lead to adaptation and extended validation of BEEHAVE in due course.

Methods and approach for the development of VI-SOFT: Based on the experiments, BeeCheck and hive scale data, and simulation results, vitality indicators will be developed, based on the one hand directly on the answers from the BeeCheck experiments and data, and on the other hand on scale data and other characteristics of a bee colony commonly collected by beekeepers. A set of indicators is being developed that, similar to blood counts and ECGs in humans, for example, provide information about current vitality or impending loss of vitality.

Many findings, such as the fact that the vulnerability of bee colonies varies over the course of the season and that special attention should be paid to gaps in the tract, also provide interesting information for practitioners. Together with bee experts from the project, beekeeping practices are then tested in the model for their suitability to increase vitality. The aim is to produce robust predictions that are practical despite the uncertainty in data and simplifying model assumptions. Suitable measures and their consequences will be processed for VI-SOFT, a user-friendly version of BEEHAVE, and made available to partners from beekeeping practice via appropriate teaching material. VI-SOFT will also fulfill an educational mission by means of interactive games and playfully communicate new research findings into practice. The game expands the range of advice and courses offered by beekeepers’ associations and state research institutes.

Fachzentrum Bienen und Imkerei (FBI) und Institut für Bienenkunde und Imkerei (IBI)

Methods and approach: FBI and IBI, in cooperation with the JKI, each first conduct extensive field observations of natural activity patterns, taking into account food availability and weather. This is followed by manipulative field experiments in which the responses of different peoples are mapped.  In addition, data analysis must be conducted regarding analogies between vitality indicators measurable by BeeCheck and vitality indicators possible by stick carts. For the use of the automatic monitoring devices, FBI and IBI are developing beekeeper-oriented usage protocols.

Furthermore, FBI and IBI are important mediators to the practice and as multipliers in the beekeeping community they have a lot of experience in preparing contents suitable for the target group. They accompany the development of VI-SOFT to obtain a product in the sense of the beekeepers. In addition they communicate results in the context of personal consultation, their web pages, their further training formats and the beekeeper letter. In this way, they increase the competitiveness and competence of the local beekeeping.

RLP AgroScience GmbH (AS), Institute for Agroecology

Methods and approach: AS mapped flowering areas/forage of monitoring sites at different times by remote sensing using drone flight and subsequent landscape analysis.

gaiac – Research Institute for Ecosystem Analysis and Assessment

Case-Study for the development of a bloom supply module in the GraS model and feasibility study for the coupling with the BEEHAVE model. Within the framework of a case study, which will be carried out for one of the selected study sites, a new module is to be developed for the GraS model. In this module, the flowering supply and thus the nectar and pollen availability for a real section of the agricultural landscape will be derived from publicly available GIS data and plant databases or literature data. Within the framework of a feasibility study, it will then be examined 1) whether the data collected by the other project partners (site visits: JKI, remote sensing: IfA, pollen analysis: FBI and IBI) can be used to validate the calculations in the new flowering supply module, 2) whether the data of the project partners can be used to improve the flowering supply module, and 3) whether the data can be used as input for BEEHAVE and thus whether it is possible to couple the GraS model to BEEHAVE.