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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Bee health: ANSES takes stock

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News of 22/11/2013

For several years now, a phenomenon resulting in the weakening and mortality of bee colonies has been seen in many countries. Various factors can affect bee colonies alone or synergistically - infectious diseases and parasites, stress due to changes in food resources, plant protection products, climatic conditions, etc. -, and these are now recognised by the scientific community. ANSES, via its scientific units dedicated to risk assessment, its laboratories, and the French Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products, are working to propose courses of action based on a scientific approach.

In the context of its Scientific Conferences, ANSES organised a one-day event on November 21 to take stock of the topic. The event brought together over 300 people for the presentation of results of surveillance, risk assessment and research work conducted by ANSES's teams as well as by other French and European institutions. The day ended with a round table event involving representatives of stakeholders in the area of bee health.


A multi-factorial approach to bee disorders

Over 200 research studies in Europe have been devoted to bee health, and the ANSES Scientific Conferences were an opportunity to present the results of the best research teams working in this field. The work presented during the conference highlighted the multi-factorial origin of colony mortality. Although the parasite Varroa destructor is a major cause of colony weakening and of overwinter bee mortality in particular, the activity of certain plant protection products in combination with a lack of food diversity in field crop areas can also be a factor in the colony weakening process. 

As a whole these studies help gain a better understanding of the interactions between the various stress factors which contribute to the weakening of bees, pollinating insects essential to the preservation of biodiversity.  


Internal request and work by ANSES’s European Reference Laboratory [1]

The results of this research provide data for the expert group set up by ANSES to take stock of current knowledge regarding "co-exposure by bees to stress factors".  It will issue its conclusions by end 2014.

Aside from already published data, the major European surveillance study EPILOBEE, carried out by ANSES’s European Union Reference Laboratory for bee health (Sophia-Antipolis), will supply the experts with mortality data which can be used for comparisons throughout all the Member States. This EU harmonisation of surveillance is a key element for enabling the European Union to coordinate strategies for research and for combating the weakening of colonies.


Assessment of plant protection products

Research work also nourishes reflection on the assessment of plant protection products. The recent work by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the criteria and methods for risk assessments with regard to bees should soon lead to the adoption of new guidelines for the assessment of plant protection products prior to their marketing authorisation.


Veterinary medicinal products

The conference also raised the issue of the availability of veterinary medicinal products used to combat bee diseases. A joint presentation by the French Animal Health Network and ANSES's French Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products emphasised the fact that there was a lack of available medicinal products for treating bee diseases and suggested ideas to correct this. 

The stakeholders participating in the round table that closed the day all stressed the progress achieved with regard to knowledge of the topic and the positive consequences that could be expected from this work, notably improved control of bee health. The Ministry of Agriculture's plan for sustainable beekeeping, which participates in the coordination and funding of research in this field, is also a key element for reaching this goal.

Numerous results from research are expected in 2014. They will be presented at a second Scientific Conference day devoted to bee health, since further events on the topic are destined to be held regularly. 



[1] The European Union Reference Laboratory for bee health, located in Sophia-Antipolis