B-GOOD, a new four-year research program on bee health


B-GOOD, a new four-year research program on bee health

Over the next 4 years, Bees@wur will participate in the new international research program B-GOOD, Giving Beekeeping Guidance by cOmputatiOnal-assisted Decision-making. New monitoring technologies will be developed and linked to a digital platform for beekeepers in order to detect and mitigate changes in the colony health status and prevent losses.

Honey bees are essential te ensure food production for the growing world population. More than 80% of the number of crops depends on pollination and these are precisely those crops that provide the vitamins and minerals in our diet. However, the production of pollination-dependent crops is growing much faster (since 1960 by 300%) than the increase in the number of bee colonies worldwide (increase of 40% over the same period).

Insight into bee health is important

Reliable insight into the health status of each bee colony and timely intervention if the health status deteriorates, is essential for sustainable beekeeping management and optimal pollination capacity. At the same time, obtaining reliable insight with the current methods is disruptive to the bees (and thereby reducing health in itself) and time-consuming for the beekeeper, and furthermore depends on the beekeeper's experience and expertise.

New techniques for less stressful monitoring

Within the B-GOOD program, we will work on replacing current stressful monitoring methods with new (semi) automated monitoring technology, such as continuous measurement of weight, temperature, noise and vibrations. This technology is then combined for validated decision support. This results in a basic package that can be expanded as required by the beekeeper (hobby or business). The package supports the beekeeper in keeping honey bee colonies healthy and sustainable in a way that saves labor, minimizes stress to the colonies, and involves minimal use of chemicals. This applies to both the hobby and professional beekeepers, each with their own objectives and method of keeping bees. With healthier bee colonies and better colony survival, beekeepers in the Netherlands and Europe can enjoy their bees longer and deliver more and better pollinators to their environment, including pollination for farmers and horticulturists who produce pollination-dependent crops.

B-GOOD is an EU H2020-SFS program (June 2019 - June 2023), consisting of a consortium with 17 European partners and coordinated by the University of Ghent (Prof. Dirk de Graaf). In 9 different work packages, we will work in 4 years towards a ready-to-use basic package with new technologies at different stages of development. The program includes development of new monitoring technologies, design of models for determining thresholds and predictions for changes in bee health and decision making support, design and deployment of a management data platform. B-GOOD integrates the biology of the honeybee colony with the ecosystem (incl. agriculture) and the socio-economic aspects of different types of beekeeping methods for optimal connection with the environment and beekeeper. The total package of new technologies and the digital infrastructure is validated by scientific institutions and of course the end user: the beekeeper.

From the Netherlands there are 3 partners involved in the B-GOOD program:

  • Bees@wur (Wageningen Plant Research) is the largest partner in the consortium and is responsible for testing and validating the total package of new and existing technologies, and linking them to the digital decision support platform developed in B-GOOD focused on business method. This testing is conducted in a three-stage, within 1) EU research institutes, 2) selected beekeepers, and 3) random beekeepers based on open registration. The health status of healthy and sick bee colonies is measured with existing methods and newly developed technology. The data is used for 1) validation of the new technology and 2) to gain insight into how changes in health status can be detected in a timely and reliable manner for optimal (digital) action advice to the beekeeper. With this role, Bees@wur is also the key partner within B-GOOD to transfer the knowledge from the project to the end users of the project.
  • Within B-GOOD, Wageningen Food Safety Research (WSFR) contributes to the development of new Lateral Flow Devices (strip tests) that are being developed for the rapid detection of bee-unfriendly pesticides in honey by-products and raw materials that are relevant to various specific NL production sectors for statutory and non-statutory controls.
  • The BEEP Foundation (beep.nl) will supply the consortium with their existing technology and the existing data platform (digital cabinet card) as a starting point for further developed and supplementing with additional technologies from other partners.

Bees@wur conducts applied scientific research on honey bee health bees to ensure food diversity. The group consists of three scientific researchers (3 FTE) and seven part-time technicians (together ~ 3 FTE). A PhD student (1 FTE) is added to this team, specifically recruited for a PhD research within the B-GOOD project. Since the arrival of the varroa mite in the Netherlands, Bees@wur has focused on finding solutions to this problem: first (together with and following abroad) quickly finding effective means and biotechnical methods to reduce mite infestations, then towards the natural selection of bee populations with resistance to mites (since 2007-2008), and now with the promotion of bee health and professionalization of beekeeping by developing automatic monitoring technology (incl. monitoring and control advice for varroa mites).