University of Coimbra team joins European group to study stress factors in honey bees

A team of researchers from the Life Sciences Department of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC), coordinated by José Paulo Sousa, collaborates with the “MUST-B” group, created by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) with the aim of studying the integrated risk of multiple stress factors in honey bees and assessing ways to mitigate them by improving crop and agricultural landscape management.

The FCTUC team is responsible for collecting field data on the development of colonies and the surrounding landscape. All the data “will be used for the calibration of the ApisRAM model – risk assessment model for honey bee colonies at European level -, which is being developed by the MUST-B group“, explains José Paulo Sousa.

This model, he details, will allow, for example, “to predict the health status of bee colonies by adopting a holistic approach to the problem, integrating not only health information about colonies and effects derived from exposure to pesticides but also the influence of the composition and landscape management, especially in terms of agricultural practices and availability of floral resources“.

The data collected by the Portuguese team is also being integrated into the EU Bee Partnership (EUBP) platform, with the active participation of FCTUC PhD student in Biosciences, Nuno Capela. This platform, also supported by EFSA, aims to collect and analyze data related to pollinators, and to present them in a visually clear and simple way. It also aims to help data exploration and improve the understanding, by stakeholders in different areas, about the health status of pollinators and their role in the environment.

With the data collected as part of his PhD, the researcher Nuno Capela, from the Center for Functional Ecology, intends to “standardize the collection of future data and help in the creation of algorithms that can automatically detect events, trends and possible problems in bee colonies“. Thus, he points out, “in the future, beekeepers, researchers or even citizens, will be able to add raw data on the platform, which will process it automatically, showing as result graphs and tables that are easy to interpret“.

At the moment, the main focus of the platform “is information on honey bees, but the integration of data from other pollinators is planned in the near future. All of this will allow the centralization of existing information, to identify the problems that led to the decrease in pollinators, and help in decision making for better protection of these insects and the pollination service they provide, crucial for our survival“, adds Nuno Capela.

Monitorização dos apiários @ FCTUC
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