PoshBee is a massive research programme which includes a large number of European countries, including the UK.  It has been running for over three years and still has 16 months left. The BBKA is still a partner and, although our practical involvement appears to be over, there is the possibility that we might still be asked to carry out surveys.

PoshBee includes researchers from around Europe who have been studying the impact of ‘stressors’ – this includes chemicals, infections/disease, forage and climate on the health and well-being of honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees and to a lesser extent, other pollinators. (butterflies and hover flies were included in some studies).  Hard detailed results cannot be presented, only broad overviews, until the work has been through the peer-review process and papers are published.  Since the studies are so complex, this takes a long time.  Nevertheless, results are beginning to appear and many are really interesting.

BBKA’s involvement in the early stages of the project was to provide bee hives in apple orchards in Kent.  A number of our beekeepers were involved and were very helpful and thus instrumental in making this a successful part of the project.  Staff from Reading University organised for colonies of bumblebees and solitary bees (Osmia bicornis) to also be placed in the orchards.  Regular sampling of these colonies took place (bees, bee bread, wax, pollen, honey) at intervals and all of these samples have been analysed for their content of a variety of chemicals.  In addition, the forage (species of wild flowers, hedges etc.) in and around the orchards was surveyed.  The full results have not yet been reported but apparently the Osmia part of the project was not successful as the season was quite early and insufficient numbers emerged. 

Another part of the same work involved a similar study with bees being placed in fields of oil seed rape in Berkshire and Oxfordshire.  There were difficulties in finding sufficient of our beekeepers for this and an alternative supplier was used.  This involved 8 European countries and all used the same or very similar protocol involving apple orchards and oil seed rape.  The numbers of samples to be processed by the chosen laboratories totals many thousands, which explains why it is so time consuming and results seem to us to take a long time to be reported!

The next few months will see a number of fascinating results emerging.  The work has been impressive and hopefully some of the results, especially those on the impact of mixtures of chemicals (fungicide plus insecticides for example), will help in perhaps changing the methods of assessing the effects of the plethora of chemicals that the countryside and our valuable pollinators are exposed to.  The various presentations have also emphasised how difficult field and semi-field studies are on biological systems.

Pam Hunter
BBKA Representative
January 2022

Please visit the PoshBee website for further information:  https://www.poshbee.eu/