The MUST-B team needs your help

by Agnès Rortais 14.04.16

We had another busy meeting of our MUST-B working group last week. By the summer we hope to have the specifications in place for our risk assessment model, which will contain individual modules on colony, diseases, pesticides, beekeeping practices, resources, and environmental drivers. The debates are intense and we don’t always have the answers.

Take exposure to pesticides, for example. Although there is evidence to implicate certain pesticides in the decline of colonies, it is not always clear how the pesticides reach the bees – what the routes of exposure are.

Getting as much information on how bees are exposed to pesticides is essential to the development of our model – and we realised last week that we need more information on how honeybees are exposed to contaminated nectar in the hive.

More precisely, we need to know if bees – foragers and in-hive bees – are more likely to consume fresh nectar or stored honey in their daily activities.

Can you help? If anyone out there has any information or references on this topic we would really like to hear from you. Please use the comment section below to help us fill this important information gap.

Agnès Rortais is a bee specialist at EFSA.

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Comments

Bees consume the honey that is in the bottom side of the hive. Fresh honey is deposited in the top. The beekeeper gives room on the top to deposit fresh honey and places old honey (and sugar) as low as possible. If there is no old food, the bees consume fresh nectar. This spring most old sugar was consumed in the winter period and very little was left. The effect of pesticides for wild bees (solitary and bumblebees) is more dramatic. They consume only fresh nectar. Therefore it is more urgent to look after the effect of pesticides on the decline of those bees.
Name of organisation: 
NBV (nederlandse bijenhoudersvereniging) afd. Enschede

Dear colleagues, I might be mistaken but it looks to me that your picture shows a dipteran syrphid licking the nectar on a beautiful white flower and not a bee at all. Well, if I'm right it would even not be a hymenoptera. You can clearly recognize some typical dipteran traits like the arista on antenna, the labellum and obviously only 2 wings, and further the insect in your picture lacks the typical waist of hymenoptera. Sorry for being a know-it-all (and as said before I might be wrong) but if this is indeed a syrphid in your picture you should consider to replace it. Kind regards, Stefan Kroder
Name of organisation: 
Knoell group

You are not mistaken at all, Stefan – the mistake was ours. Thanks for pointing it out.
Name of organisation: 
EFSA

The question is very interesting. I would say it depends on the bees and on the external conditions. Forager bees need energy to fly out and would provide this from the stores in the hive. As far as I remember (I don't find a reference for this), they use also part of the nectar they collected as "fuel" to get home. The balance between energy used for foraging and what they can get home (in quality and quantity) determines the flight range of foragers. And finally there are bad weather periods and winter, when all bees depend on the stores in the colony. So there is no standard answer for this.
Name of organisation: 
BeeSafe

We do in fact not know, if a honey bee forager flying back to the hive will absorb all pesticides in the nectar on her way back to the colony, and thus regurgitate pure nectar into the hive, or if all the pesticide remains in the nectar. Most likely, the situation will be between those two extremes, but it will depend on the chemical. The nectar will pass several more bees, before being stored as honey. The rate of absorption in the bees, will influence both the toxicity for each individual bee and its distribution among the colony members. Concerning the mass of studies on pesticides effects on honey bees, I am always wondering why I have not found studies of this aspect. Without a proper understanding of the bio pathways creating a model will be hard.
Name of organisation: 
Aarhus University

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