ECOBEE: a tool for long-term honey bee colony monitoring at the landscape scale in West European intensive agroecosystems

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Journal of Apicultural Research Vol. 53 (1) pp. 57-66
DOI 10.3896/IBRA.
Date February 2014
Article Title

ECOBEE: a tool for long-term honey bee colony monitoring at the landscape scale in West European intensive agroecosystems


Jean-François Odoux, Pierrick Aupinel, Sophie Gateff, Fabrice Requier, Mickaël Henry and Vincent Bretagnolle


In Central Western France, as in many other areas, traditional apiculture has been replaced by more intensive practices to compensate for colony losses andcurrent decreasing honey yields. One neglected aspect concerns the choice by professional beekeepers of apiary sites in intensive agrosystems, with regard to landscape features, a choice which appears to be largely empirical. ECOBEE is a colony monitoring scheme specifically ntended to provide beekeepers and researchers with basic ecological data on honeybees in intensive agrosystems, as well as colony population dynamics. ECOBEE was launched in 2008 as a long-term ecological project with three specific aims: 1. to monitor seasonal and inter-annual population dynamic parameters of honeybee colonies in a heterogeneous farming system; 2. to provide relevant and robust datasets to test specific hypotheses about bees such as the influence of landscape planning, agricultural inputs or human pressure; and 3. to offer opportunities for assessing the effectiveness of agro-environmental schemes or the effects of changes in agricultural policies on honey bee wellbeing. Here we present an overview of ECOBEE, the type of datasets collected over the first four years of monitoring, and their possible application and use. We found that colony dynamics were largely influenced by the phenology of the main mass-flowering crops foraged by bees, namely oilseed rape and sunflowers. Furthermore, we detected a sharp food shortage period in late spring between the flowering of oilseed rape and sunflowers, possibly temporarily constraining colony sustainability. We further discuss the research perspectives offered by ECOBEE, especially with regard to spatial ecotoxicology.


honey bees, monitoring, floral resources, colony dynamics, agroecosystem landscape, agricultural practices, France, intensive cereal farming, Agri-Environmental Schemes

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