Development of innovative methods for measuring and predicting the vitality of bee colonies

Funding code: 313-06.01-28-1-71.014-10
Acronym: BiVi
Involved employees: Dr. H. Ruhnke, Dr. J. Wegener, K. Milchreit, Prof. Dr. K. Bienefeld
Co-operation partners: AMP Lab Mainz, BioChem Agrar GmbH Machern, Lüth & Dümchen GmbH
Duration: 2011 - 2014
Financing: German Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection, Nutrition and Agriculture (BMELV)

In this project, the development and validation of novel methods for measuring and predicting the vitality of bee colonies is to be developed. A twofold approach is adopted:

  1. Automated measurement of the common vitality indicators (number of bees, brood size, food stored) by means of computer-assisted image analysis.
  2. Development and validation of new physiological and biochemical indicators. These are selected in a way that reflects the performance of all essential vital functions of the colony. They include, for example, characteristics of immune competence, tolerance to toxic/oxidative stress, reproduction and fluctuating asymmetry. Further, the global DNA methylation level is to be tested as a prospective indicator of stress during development.

Validation is first to be carried out on colonies that were specifically stressed with insecticides, Varroa, or both at the same time. Finally, a field validation is planned with agricultural colonies of external apiaries.

The results would be a marketable instrument and software for automated, fast and accurate counting/measurement of the amount of bees, brood and food stored. Secondly, a set of biochemical/physiological indicators is to be developed that for the first time will allow for statements on the performance of existing animals.