Health for humans, animals & plants

May 20: International World Bee Day

Bees are feeling the effects of climate change. Higher temperatures affect the bees' breeding cycle and their food sources. Lack of water causes many plants to produce less nectar for bees to collect.

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However, plants bloom longer due to the extended growing season and new, immigrant or introduced plant species can grow in our area, increasing the diversity of the food supply. The shorter winter period allows bees to breed longer. This benefits the varroa mite, the honey bee's greatest enemy. It depends on the bee brood and can thus reproduce better. The Tropilaelaps mite also lives on bee brood and cannot survive long without it. If the winters become so warm that the bees brood through, the Tropilaelaps mite can also become native to us.

Due to the changed climate, new bee pests also feel at home with us. The small hive beetle, for example, which originates from Africa. In Europe, for example, the small hive beetle, which originates from Africa, is currently only found in Italy, but the risk of further spread is high. It can reproduce particularly quickly under warm conditions.

Currently, the Asian hornet(Vespa velutina), which was introduced via France, is spreading further and further across southwestern Europe. It also feels more at home in warmer areas and benefits from climate change. This hornet is a threat in more ways than one: it hunts bees, which stay in the hive because of the danger and reduce their collection flights. Thus, significantly less nectar is carried in and pollination of flowers is reduced.

As the Austrian reference laboratory for bee diseases, we are monitoring these developments to analyze how we can best support the bees in these changes and thus promote their health:

  • We train bee experts and educate beekeepers to detect and report new pests.
  • We offer courses and online materials on varroa mite so beekeepers can properly control it.
  • Any suspicion of new pests such as the small hive beetle or the Tropilaelaps mite is investigated by us. So far, these suspected cases have always been negative.

We are conducting research projects on the influence of climate change on pollination and food supply of bees, e.g. on pollination of beetle bean by honey bees during heat stress or on the development of forest honey yield in the last decades. In another research project, we are investigating how different mowing techniques affect the damage to insects and honey bees ("Erhebung von Grundlagen zur Bewertung insektenschonender Mähtechniken im Wirtschaftsgrünland und in artenreichen Magerwiesen (ISM)").

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