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Resilient beekeeping

Resilience of beekeeping is important both for pollination services and for the honeybee production sector. Bees are subject to numerous biotic and abiotic stressors (e.g. loss of feed resources, exposure to various chemicals, invasive species and/or pathogens) and the impact of climate change on honeybees requires further attention. The biology of honeybees, including immunity and nutrition is still poorly understood, as is the role of genetic diversity within honeybee populations and interactions between honeybees and their environment.

The proposals will address relevant areas of research as appropriate:

  • Develop technologies and strategies for beekeepers to adapt to climate change and possibly contribute to mitigate climate change, including the design of novel beehives equipment, technologies and management protocols;
  • Perform baseline studies on immunity, health, nutrition, and genetic diversity and resistance of honeybees in line with their biological performance;
  • Develop tools for assessing potential impacts of beekeeping on wild pollinators at landscape scale, strategies for mitigating those impacts, and tools tailored to public authorities for planning and decision-making with regard to optimal deployment of bee hives at local or regional level, taking into account among others nutrition requirements and landscape factors;
  • Address at least Varroa destructor and possibly other honeybee mites, as well as Aethina tumida
  • Review the key biological mechanisms of Varroa destructor, which determine its multiplication in a hive, including its potential connection with other pathogens, and identify possible novel areas to target with potential new control methods, including bee genetic resistance, especially in light of the experience and limitations of the attempts to fight it in Europe in the last decades;
  • Assess the vulnerability and preparedness of the EU honeybee-keeping sector in relation to Aethina tumida and Tropilaelaps spp. which are exotic or largely exotic to the EU (A.tumida is present in southern Italy), scrutinise strategies and practices in other countries (outside of EU) where these appeared recently, identify successful practices and suggest mitigation strategies for and by the beekeepers to live with these pathogens, in case of their eventual spread in the EU.

Proposals should include, if appropriate, a genetic component, looking at both the diversity of honeybee populations and the possibility of breeding and conservation approaches to address the identified challenge.

Proposals must implement the 'multi-actor approach’ and ensure adequate involvement of beekeepers, farmers, agricultural advisory services, manufacturers, the veterinary profession, ecology and nature conservation experts, and other relevant actors.