The BeeCSI team had an inaugural meeting in Montreal this September at Apimondia 2019 to discuss and develop a standardized experimental plan for the project and to delegate specific tasks to each research team involved.
The team plans to develop a diagnostic tool that will assist in the assessment of honey bee health by sampling a small number of individuals and testing biomarkers using gene expression profiling. The proposed tool will allow for the diagnosis of stressors that are directly impacting honey bee health in a specific colony. This, in turn, will allow for appropriate measures to be taken (by the beekeeper) in order to reduce the number of losses and help the colony recover. The pilot project, which will take place at YorkU, will focus on two main stressors: chronic exposure levels of Neonicotinoids and pathogen spillover in Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).
The BeeCSI team consists of 22 researchers from across the country, representing institutions like Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), University of Manitoba, University of Guelph and University of Laval (and York University).
Beekeepers can apply the tools in many different contexts to help guide short-term and future management strategies. The former requires a rapid turn-around time for diagnosis. Beekeepers are already accustomed to sending samples to diagnostic centers (e.g. NBDC) and the current turn-around time of two weeks is sufficient to allow beekeepers to receive a diagnosis and enact management changes during critical time points of the beekeeping season (i.e. spring buildup and after honey supers are removed in summer). We note that shorter turn-around times are expected in light of the growing accessibility and portability of ‘omics platforms. Other applications of our tools are less time sensitive, including troubleshooting the causes of health declines over space and time to better inform management actions for the upcoming field season.