Huge research programme announced to protect bees

| 19th June 2018
The alarm bells of declining bee populations worldwide have gone largely unnoticed. But a new study which will look specifically into the effects of agrochemicals on one of our key pollinators hopes its findings will help protect them well into the future. CATHERINE HARTE reports

We hope that by the end of the five year study we will have a good understanding of the threats that bees face, as well as a range of advice and tools for policy makers and practical bee keepers and conservation organisations that will keep our bees healthy into the future.

A new study into the effects of agrochemicals on bees across the UK and Europe is due to be carried out by a consortium of academics, governmental organisations, industry, and NGOs.

This will be the first study of its kind to incorporate the knowledge and experience of local beekeeping, farming organisations and academic researchers - including the EU RefLab for bee health - and will provide the first comprehensive pan-European assessment of the exposure hazard of chemicals.

Mark Brown, Professor in Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation at Royal Holloway will lead the research consortium, called POSHBEE. The team will study honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees, which all face declining around the globe. It has a grant of €9million.

Keeping bees healthy

The study will look at the mix of chemicals that bees are exposed to, as well as their co-occurrence with pathogens and nutritional stress for solitary, bumble, and honey bees across two major cropping systems.

Professor Brown said: “I’m very excited to be leading this new study, especially as it will examine many species of bee, from our well-known social honey bees to much less well-known, but equally vital solitary bees.

“With 42 partners working on POSHBEE across the UK and Europe, and with the help of experts from science to bee keepers and farmers, we aim to make ground-breaking findings and start to work on ways to keep bees healthy.

“We hope that by the end of the five year study we will have a good understanding of the threats that bees face, as well as a range of advice and tools for policy makers and practical bee keepers and conservation organisations that will keep our bees healthy into the future. After all, they are our best pollinators and are essential for our human well-being.”

This Author

Catherine Harte is a contributing editor to The Ecologist.  This story is based on a news release from Royal Holloway, University of London. For more information, follow the team on Twitter @poshbee_eu.

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