Covid-19 crisis is severely affecting bee research

By | 2nd July 2020

The Covid-19 crisis is severely affecting bee research
As their contribution to World Bee Day on 20th May, members of the international COLOSS association are presenting preliminary results of a survey to evaluate the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on vital research into bees. The crisis affects all countries, but measures adopted by different governments vary considerably in their effects on beekeeping and bee research.

The survey ran between 1 and 17 May, and responses were received from 230 participants in 56 countries worldwide. Nearly 24% of the responses were from the USA, with more than 3% each coming from the UK, Spain, Canada, France, Germany, Nigeria and Switzerland. The majority of the respondents were researchers in universities. The majority work on honey bees, but others work on other bee species, and pests of bees such as varroa, the small hive beetle and the Asian hornet. Many researchers work on several aspects of bee science, with pests and diseases being the most often cited, followed by biology, ecology, behaviour, conservation and biodiversity, and pollination.

Many respondents felt that the crisis had severely affected their daily operations, staff recruitment, and laboratory and field work, but far fewer felt that it had affected desk work. Many felt that it severely affected coordination and team work, teaching and training, and meetings and conferences. Many felt that it severely affected the collection and shipment of samples, and the supply and delivery of equipment and consumables. The crisis is also affecting supervision of students at various levels, and interactions with funding bodies.

13% of respondents felt that their research outputs in 2020 would be affected due to delays in data collection, travel limitations, closure of laboratories, and curtailment of bee breeding programmes. In some cases, researchers feared the loss of an entire season’s work with some experiments being abandoned altogether. 14% felt that the effects of the crisis would continue in 2021, leading to reduced extension and technical assistance to guide beekeepers. Concerns were also raised that the inevitable economic turmoil from Covid-19 will cause job losses, fewer meetings and conferences, reduced productivity and fewer publications.

It is hoped that the full results of the survey will be published in a peer-reviewed journal in the future.

Coordinator of the study, Dr Raffaele Dall’Olio of BeeSources says: “Nowadays the research community interacts globally, but at the same time the study of living organisms in their environment rely on local conditions. Providing insights at different levels will enable us to assess current issues and forecast problems that will need to be addressed in the near future.”