As pollinators of plants, bees are crucial to the global food production cycle, but many species are facing a bleak future.
A recent study from University of Exeter and University of Manchester researchers showed that drought as a result of climate change was decimating the amount of flowers, in just one of a number of threats bees face.
Scientists and activists are trying their best with initiatives to protect these vitally important creatures.
Saving the bees
Pollination experts from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) are leading elements of a major new Horizon 2020 project called PoshBee (pan-European assessment, monitoring and mitigation of stressors on the health of bees).
The project is set to run for five years and it aims to evaluate the impacts of pressures on various bee populations and develop new tools to help reduce the negative effects on the insects.
Former TCD professor Mark Brown at Royal Holloway University of London is leading the initiative, which will bring together 42 partners from across Europe, seven beekeeping associations, eight farming organisations, four companies, and 23 academic and government research organisations.
Professor in botany at TCD’s School of Natural Sciences, Jane Stout, is leading the development and implementation of the project that will see researchers conduct fieldwork across eight countries in Europe, assessing the real levels of exposure that bees have to chemical, nutritional and pathogen stressors. In Ireland, this work will be conducted in collaboration with Teagasc and the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations.
What is stressing bees?
Stout said: “Because of worldwide concerns over bee decline, we will be working with farmers and beekeepers across Europe to establish a baseline of what’s stressing bees in agricultural ecosystems.
“It’s thought that a combination of pressures – including agrochemicals, disease and loss of floral resources, which provide bees with their nutrition – is contributing to bee decline. We are aiming to quantify this in the field, in order to try to establish exposure hazards and ultimately develop tools, screening protocols, and practice- and policy-relevant outputs to local, national, European and global stakeholders.”
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