Research

As part of its activity and objectives, BDI funds research into the causes of bee diseases. By pooling a proportion of member subscriptions, BDI is funding greater understanding of the diseases it insures against. This in turn promotes good practice to ultimately reduces the incidence of disease and maintains a healthy honeybee population in England & Wales. 



October 2020 - A three-year research project to explore the transmission and triggers of European Foulbrood Disease funded by BDI & CB Dennis Trust is underway


A three-year PhD studentship to explore the transmission and triggers of European Foulbrood Disease funded by BDI & the CB Dennis Trust started this autumn. Monika Yordanova (pictured below) has been appointed to undertake the work based at Imperial College London.

 
 

Monika writes:

This year I start my PhD investigation to help understand the factors that influence honeybee vulnerability to European Foul Brood (EFB) so that we may develop and promote evidence-based disease management strategies. My PhD is being undertaken with thanks to generous funding from Bee Disease Insurance Limited and the CB Dennis Trust. Based at Imperial College London, I will be aided in developing my ideas and research by my primary supervisor, Dr Peter Graystock from Imperial College London, and my secondary supervisors, Dr Richard Gill from Imperial College London and Dr Sophie Evison from Nottingham University.

European Foulbrood is a globally distributed disease that kills developing brood and can cause significant energetic costs to surviving adults. This reduces hive fitness and facilitates further spread of the disease. Additionally, the causal bacterium can be spread from healthy individuals through feeding larvae with contaminated food. Symptoms of the disease include an uneven or patchy brood pattern, dead and discoloured larvae found in uncapped cells and a characteristic "sour" smell. It is one of the only two microbial bee diseases (the other being American Foulbrood) where positive detection in the UK warrants immediate notification to the authorities. This indicates the serious nature of the disease and its potential for rapid spread to other local colonies. This PhD venture will focus on investigating how the bacteria responsible for causing EFB,  Melissococcus plutonius, is transmitted. Additionally, I aim to explore some of the factors that may enhance the bacteria's virulence, which may allow me to identify some management practices that reduce the severity of the disease in beekeepers’ hives. To carry out my PhD I will be collaborating with the National Bee Unit to help collect samples and data, in addition to my own fieldwork to assess the health of UK honeybees. Once I have a clear picture of disease status and trends, I will be using the state-of-the-art microbiology facilities at Imperial College London to safely work with the EFB causal parasite and confirm the conditions that favour and disfavour its growth in honeybee larvae.

 

Though I have some beekeeper experience to gain, this will not be my first time working with bees and I’m very excited to get started. As an undergraduate student, I joined the Insect Cognition Lab at the Royal Holloway University of London as a volunteer and quickly became mesmerized with bees, appreciative of their invaluable ecological role and curious about their intriguing social behaviour. Since then I took on an individual research project exploring bumblebee social foraging behaviour and have just completed an MRes at University College London, where I explored population genetics of the common wasp and worked with the Natural History Museum in London to model farm management strategies to target herbicide-resistant weeds. Now in 2020, I am embarking on my PhD journey. I hope that this will allow me to apply all of the skills I’ve accumulated so far (and pick up on some new ones!) to guide advice on managing the animals I love most, bees.

 

To read more about the research project, look at the announcement of October 2019 further down the page.




September 2020 - Preliminary announcement of a 2nd PhD studentship with Newcastle University: 
New tools to improve the management of honey bee disease

This project, funded in conjunction with Somerset Beekeepers Association, will look at the ways of managing European Foul Brood


January 2020 - BDI announce sponsorship of a PhD studentship with Newcastle University: Modelling host and disease behaviours as drivers of chronic bee paralysis emergence.

Ben Rowlands is from a small town an hour north of Boston, Massachusetts in the USA. He did his undergraduate and masters degree at Newcastle University before moving on to a PhD in the Modelling Evidence and Policy group also at Newcastle. As part of his PhD, Ben will be using a combination of laboratory experiments and computer models to identify the key drivers of an emerging honey bee virus: chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV). 
Over the last decade, chronic bee paralysis cases have been increasing in the UK, with little known about how or why. Ben’s laboratory experiments are designed to identify epidemiological traits of CBPV such as transmission routes and severity, elucidating bee-to-bee viral spread
In addition, the computer models aim to simulate honey bee behaviour and CBPV epidemiology to examine multiple infection scenarios, particularly at a full-hive scale. Finally, Ben will be using the computer models to explore possible management techniques for this virus with the goal of informing beekeepers of ways to mitigate CBPV outbreaks.

 



October 2019 - BDI & CB Dennis Trust announce the awarding of a major grant for research into European Foul Brood (EFB)

The CB Dennis British Beekeepers Research Trust and Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd are delighted to announce the awarding of funding to Dr Peter Graystock and Dr Richard Gill of Imperial College London and Dr Sophie Evison of the University of Nottingham for a project to investigate the transmission of the honey bee disease European Foul Brood (EFB)

Maintaining a healthy honey bee population is crucial for food security and preservation of the natural ecosystem service of pollination. European foul brood (EFB) is a disease of honey bee brood caused by the bacterium Melissococcus plutonius. Symptomatic infections of the larvae include the infected larvae losing their internal pressure, becoming flaccid, before ultimately dying and degrading to just a dark scale in the brood cell. This lethal effect on developing individuals has led it to be considered one of the most significant diseases of honey bees worldwide and responsible for substantial damage to the beekeeping industry.  Yet to date, we are only just beginning to understand the transmission and triggers of EFB.

 This project will look at these transmission routes and triggers of EFB with the ultimate aim of providing a better understanding and improved control over this disease.

 Jointly the two organisations will be providing around £90,000 of funding over three years to support the PhD student research – emphasising that the beekeeping industry as a whole is serious about funding research into ensuring that we maintain a healthy honey bee population.

 Martin Smith, President of BDI said: “BDI is pleased to be able to fund this project. EFB is of great concern to our 180 member associations in turn to their 25,000 beekeeping members.  As well as insuring against costs associated with disease, funding research to try and reduce its incidence is a clear aim of our organisation”

 Simon Baker, the Chair of the CB Dennis Trust said:  “The Trustees are very pleased to jointly fund this valuable research.  Cooperating in this way helps us fund larger projects such as Studentships, which train the next generation of research scientists as well as helping better understand bee diseases.”

 Dr Peter Graystock said: “This studentship will provide valuable insight into one of the most destructive honeybee diseases. We are incredibly excited that The CB Dennis British Beekeepers Research Trust, and Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd recognised the importance of this work and agreed to fund the studentship.”

 



BDI & CB Dennis Trust announce a call for research projects:


September 2019 - Applications are now closed for this funding




BDI announce major funding into the relationship between Honey Bees, Deformed Wing Virus and the Varroa mite





Projects recently funded have included:

European Foul Brood
Distinguishing between EFB outbreaks – tracking infections and differences between countries




European Foulbrood
Photo Courtesy The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright




American Foulbrood

A typing scheme for Paenibacillus larvae, the causative agent of American foulbrood.



American Foulbrood
Photo Courtesy The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright





Honey Bee Working Borage

Investigating the impacts of nutrition on Honey Bee Health






Honey Bee Foraging on Borage
Photo Courtesy The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright







Call for more research projects

The Directors of BDI are inviting more researchers to submit proposals for funding from the company.
During the next 12 months, one four year project and one 3 year project will be completed and as a result, BDI now invites proposals from the research community for funding for additional work.
Proposals, which should specifically be in the field of bee diseases / bee health should be addressed to the Secretary of BDI.  Priority will be given to those projects that seek to increase the level of understanding American and European Foul brood, although other disease related projects will also be considered.

Researchers are invited to contact  to Bernard Diaper informally if they wish before submitting a formal application.