COLOSS workshops in Warsaw

From February 7 to 9, 2023, workshops were held at the SGGW headquarters in Warsaw for COLOSS members and European international teams of scientists working on three projects within the COLOSS association. Polish version 🇵🇱.

  1. 00:05 Interview with Robert Brodschneider
  2. 07:52 Interview with Lotta Fabricus Kristiansen
  3. 18:08 Interview with Anna Gajda

The abbreviation COLOSS means in English: Prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes. It is an international non-profit association based in Bern, Switzerland that focuses on improving bee welfare at a global level. The association was established in 2012. Currently, it has nearly 2,000 members (including 43 from Poland) and they include scientists, veterinarians, beekeepers and students. The topic of the first workshop was research on monitoring losses of bee colonies (Colony losses monitoring), and the second one was research on contacts between the world of science, beekeepers and the beekeeping industry (B-RAP - Bridging Research and Practice). The host of the meeting was the Laboratory of Insect Diseases at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences - SGGW, whose management is an active scientific participant of the COLOSS association, and it is the custom of this organization to organize meetings in a different place every year among the institutions and people who cooperate on these projects. 

Bee colony loss monitoring project

Before international projects related to increased losses of bee colonies financed by the European Union were organized in 2008, on the basis of which the COLOSS organization was later founded - now financed by private money - there were basically no coordinated efforts in Europe to determine trends in bee mortality. Therefore, the project Colony losses monitoring was one of the main projects from the beginning. After 15 years of activity, the team consists of 30-40 people who are responsible for monitoring losses of bee colonies in their home countries. Currently, there are over 30 countries, and apart from most of Europe, they compare their data with Mexico, North Africa and individual Asian countries. The number of beekeepers involved in counting colony losses varies in different countries. In Austria, the project reaches approximately 5% of beekeepers, which is a reason for joy for the project coordinator, Dr. Robert Brodschneider, who comes from there. In record countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Scotland and Norway it is over 20%. In Poland, the involvement of beekeepers in this project is less than 1%!

However, could such a small result in Poland be the reason for the lack of representativeness of the statistical sample and, subsequently, for incorrect conclusions drawn from it? As Robert Brodschneider says : representativeness can be measured by various indicators - those for which these 5% of beekeepers are sufficient, e.g. by comparing the number of bee families they have. 

In order to answer a few simple questions, it is not necessary to be representative. For example, to find out what the death rate is in a given country and compare it with another, I do not need representativeness. The result may be underestimated or overestimated. Yes. However, to answer the question is what are the risk factors for the loss of bee colonies, I don't care whether I overestimate or underestimate the losses of bee colonies. I divide the population of respondents into two groups. In one I have smaller losses and in the other larger ones, but there is no statistical error in drawing from this conclusion about the risk factors of incurring greater losses.
Robert Brodschneider

The plan for the future is to expand the reach to more countries and increase the number of respondents. According to the project coordinator, it would be great to have a global reach. What the team was currently working on during the workshops in Warsaw included: publication regarding research on estimating economic losses of bee colonies. If all goes well, we may see a scientific paper on this topic in the next 12 months. 

B-RAP project 

The second part of the workshop was filled with work on a much younger project, COLOSS: B-RAP, which lasts several years . The main goal of this activity is to develop an effective strategy to support beekeepers and beekeeping by actively combining the world of science and practical applications in beekeeping, and therefore also good communication between beekeepers and scientists, so that the research results translate into solving practical problems in the apiaries themselves. The B-RAP Task Force, led by Lotta Fabricus Kristiansen from Sweden and Linde Morawetz, focuses on developing tools, skills and theory regarding the sociological aspects of disseminating bee science. One of the cognitive tools of scientists are surveys. 

In beekeeping, we often talk about the discrepancy between science as a theory and practice as an activity used by the beekeeper in the apiary. It is also claimed that practice is more important and primary than theory. I asked one of the coordinators of the B-RAP project, who has been a beekeeper since 1998, about this. 

I think it's a misunderstanding. For me, theory and practice are not in contradiction. They are two different ways of looking at the same phenomena. The knowledge base on the subject being studied are theories, while practice is the knowledge base for skills in the apiary. Both websites are important from my point of view. There is a problem with communication, which may result from the fact that scientists and beekeepers may speak a different language. You may then get the false impression that these things are incomparable. This is exactly the problem we need to solve, which is what the website was created for B-RAP Task Force.
Lotta Fabricus Kristiansen

According to the project coordinator, there are two main methods of effective communication. One of them is writing articles, including popular science articles, e.g. for industry magazines. Science popularizers play an important role here as they act as a link between scientists and beekeepers. The second form of communication is advisors and mentors within the beekeeping world. Some prefer to read, others prefer to listen, and still others prefer to watch. We should take all these forms of information transfer into account. If mutual communication improved, we would have better knowledge of what expectations and problems beekeepers have. Then scientists could get more money for applied research that can solve specific problems. Such issues often lose out in terms of funding to basic research, i.e. research that concerns more general theories. The science grading system also does not help, because such specific, applied research for a specific specialized problem in beekeeping will most often not be published in high-scoring journals. Therefore, if scientists, thanks to greater scientific knowledge about beekeepers' problems, would obtain greater funding opportunities, they could spend more time, for example, on disseminating popular scientific knowledge in a language understandable to beekeepers. 

Virus Task Force 

The third Warsaw workshop focused on the COLOSS task force on bee viruses . The goals of this project are to develop and organize new virological data and provide tools to analyze and compare viruses in honey bees from around the world. The project brings together scientists from Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South American countries. The group's current tasks are to disseminate innovative virological research in beekeeping and develop standard methods for controlling bee colonies in order to effectively detect, identify, transmit and analyze data on honey bee viruses and, ultimately, to prevent the occurrence of disease syndromes related to them by developing modern standard control methods. these pathogens, which currently constitutes one of the greatest threats to maintaining a stable population of honey bees in the world. 

2023 is the first year after the pandemic break when researchers within task forces had to meet only via the Internet. About my impressions related to this, I asked one of the hosts of these workshops, the head of the Utilitarian Insect Diseases Laboratory at the head of the Laboratory of Insect Diseases at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, PhD in veterinary sciences Anna Gajda

During the Covid-19 restrictions, I suffered a lot from being able to hold such meetings only online. It was burdened with some kind of mental barrier. All of us at COLOSS were already very tired of such a formula. In live work meetings, you can take a walk, see someone's face, get to know each other, pat each other on the back. It may sound trivial, but these aspects in my opinion are very important for building an effective task force consisting of many people from different countries and such in-person meetings are usually more productive in the end results than conducted online.
Anna Gajda

We hope that step by step the knowledge that the COLOSS members are working on will become more and more capacious and systematized. There will be scientific articles, but also manuals for beekeepers based on such extensive research, and the knowledge achieved through international cooperation will be disseminated through various popular media channels. 

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