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Animal Health and Welfare (21-11-2013)

Honeybee Health: EU study provides more insight into the diversity of European beekeeping

Thanks to a study recently published by PLOS ONE, more information is now available on European beekeeping to better understand the general context which is highly relevant for bee health. In recent years, honeybee health has received considerable attention from the European Commission, national authorities, the media and the public.

The study details the results of a survey carried out by the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for bee health. This survey is the first of its kind, and it collects information provided by national reference laboratories (NRLs) on underlying factors affecting the health of Europe's bees. Great differences between EU Member States were observed in nearly all the reported data (number of beekeepers, density of colonies, and many others). The high proportion of non-professional beekeepers and the small average number of colonies per beekeeper were the only common characteristics at European level.

The EURL for bee health is one of the new European instruments put in place and co-financed by the European Commission's to better understand the extent and reasons behind bee colony losses. This initiative along with other initiatives is detailed in the Commission's 2010 Communication on honeybee health. In particular, the EURL is instrumental in coordinating the methods employed by EU Member States to diagnose bee diseases and in the design and implementation of co-financed European surveillance studies since 2012.