In Europe, the decrease in honey bee colonies has been the topic of much discussion for several years. Decreases of some 16% were reported between 1985 and 2005 and several reports also indicated the extent to which bee health in the hive was suffering – sometimes resulting in colony losses too. Coupled to this was the decrease in number of beekeepers across Europe.
Despite the data which had been generated, it was still difficult to assess any real impacts as methods of surveillance were different across countries. To really have a clear picture of the situation, standardized surveillance systems were needed to accurately assess bee health in Europe.
To tackle this, the EU asked the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for honeybee health for technical assistance in setting up the first active epidemiological surveillance program on honeybee colony mortality (EPILOBEE) in Europe.
Following the guidelines produced by the EURL, 17 member states of the European Union took part and, for the first time, a harmonized active epidemiological surveillance program on honey bee colony mortality, based on randomly selected apiaries and colonies, has been implemented.
It is well recognized among bee specialists that numerous hazards threaten honey bee populations (Apis mellifera) world-wide. Many publications looking into colony losses from around the world have shown that several biological and environmental factors, acting alone or in combination, have the potential to cause premature honey bee colony mortality.
The first report from EPILOBEE is out and presents only the results on mortality rates and on disease prevalence produced during the first year of the program.
From the results, it is clear that honey bee colony mortality is not as big a threat as previously expected. However, honey bee colony mortality is higher than normal in certain countries e.g. France, with significant regional (and possibly temporal) differences.
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