Ecotoxicology and bee decline


Honeybees are the key pollinator of wild flora and of many crops, in addition to being a source of income. Beekeeping has in Trentino a high significance, both from a cultural point of view as well for the production of high quality honeys. For several decades, here as elsewhere, bees and beekeeping are in serious crisis, in particular due to the appearance of Varroa destructor, a mite that has decimated the assets of beekeepers and beekeeping has compromised the wild honey bee populations. The weakening due to this mite, together with the shortage of food sources, the loss of genetic variation and the chronic effects of crop protection products, are the causes of the "bee decline " a complex syndrome that causes serious repercussions on the profitability of beekeeping . The honeybee is also a key organism for the conservation of biodiversity and at the same time, an effective biomarker. The research proposed here provide laboratory and field trials on potential effects of agrochemicals used in fruit growing toward bees. The use of computerized hives will facilitate the collection of data regarding the behavior and fitness of honeybee colonies placed in different fruit areas. Residues accumulated in hive products of pesticides used in apple cultivation will be monitored. The study of ecotypes of honeybees, better suited to Trentino environments and the research of the most appropriate methods to control Varroa infestation are other important part of the activity developed within the project. In addition, technical solutions to foster spread of natural and familiar beekeeping (i.e. Top bar hive), to recreate an ecological network of hives, will be investigated, as well the spread of the cultivation of nectar plants. Efforts will be spent to create high-level training opportunities for professional beekeepers in Trentino.