A team of researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) has carried out a two-year follow-up, between March 2019 and February 2021, of the UABee experimental apiary, initially made up of six hives populated with Iberian bees (Apis mellifera iberiensis). It is the first fully monitored apiary in Spain that is being followed by both manual and sensor methods.
The apiary applies reference sanitary conditions – mandatory treatments against the varroa mite in the absence of breeding – and support measures in critical times. The researchers have recorded the weight, the incidents that occurred in the hives, have captured images of the activity of the bees and have related all this to the meteorological conditions. The study has been completed with the analysis of the pollen and origin of nectar used to produce honey.
The study also shows how foraging activity, the behavior of worker bees that collect pollen and nectar, depends on temperature.
The apiary is located in a wooded area on the same UAB campus in Bellaterra. The data show that the weight of hives and the activity of bees in peri-urban Mediterranean conditions increases with temperature in winter and spring, but decreases markedly in summer and after honey harvests, with lows in early autumn. For this reason, the researchers recommend beekeepers Harvest early in spring to allow bees to increase their reserves of honey and pollen to get through the summer and winter.
The study also shows how the criminal activity, the behavior of the worker bees that collect pollen and nectar, depends on the temperature, with a maximum activity at 19.4 ° C, and decreasing greatly if the temperature drops below 7 ° C or rises above 31 ° C. Thus, although there is flowering, its usefulness for Iberian bees is very limited in winter and summer.
Iberian bee (Apis mellifera iberiensis) ./ UAB
Reduction of one third of bees
The mortality of hives protected against the varroa mite was 17% per year (1 in 6 hives), below the Spanish average, and attacks of velutine wasps, asian wasp, constituted the greatest threat between the months of June and November.
The Asian hornet limits the exit of bees throughout the day and was responsible for a third of the total losses of hives. For this reason, the scientists installed electric harps as protection, which killed more than 4 veloutines a day, although with collateral effects on the bees themselves and other species.
The Asian wasp limits the exit of bees throughout the day and was responsible for a third of the total losses of hives
The researchers estimate that the installation of harps prevented the predation of more than 14,000 bees in 2020. With these measures, the average production of honey was 13 kg per hive per year, located between the Spanish average (10 kg) and the European ( 15 kg).
“Thanks to the monitoring With weight, temperature and sound sensors it has been possible to identify the hives that had problems or those in which the bees were leaving, recovering the swarms in order to reinforce them and keep them active ”, explains the project manager, Gerardo Caja. “
Everything indicates that in Spain and Europe the decline of domestic bees is slowing down, and our work shows that with good management and control of the new Asian hornet infestation the population and the production of the hives could be maintained ”, adds the professor from the Department of Animal and Food Science at the UAB.
New phase of the UABee project
The UABee project began in May 2019 with the aim of building an experimental apiary for the demonstration (visits to get in touch with the beekeeping and bee biology), teaching (training courses for university students and industry professionals) and research on beekeeping and bee biology.
It is a unique experimental apiary in Catalonia and with the second phase of electronic monitoring that is now beginning, it becomes the only fully monitored apiary in all of Spain.
It is a unique experimental apiary in Catalonia and with the second phase of electronic monitoring that is starting now, it becomes the only fully monitored apiary in all of Spain, which will allow more detailed studies in the future.
the facility has recently been expanded to ten hives. Initially it consisted of six hives intended to house colonies standard and with the possibility of modifying its configuration according to the activity and size of the colony.
UABee will also host research projects in collaboration with other institutions, aimed at studying the metabolomics of bees, the chemical processes that take place inside the cells of their body.
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