Research project on field data collection for honey bee colony model evaluation

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As part of the MUST‐B project, a research project on field data collection for honey bee colony model evaluation was carried out in 2018‐2020. In a preparatory phase (2018), methods for monitoring of honey bee colonies were tested, field operators trained, and experimental colonies established. The main field experiment was conducted in 2019‐2020, during which bee colonies in six experimental apiaries were closely monitored in both Denmark and Portugal. An experimental spraying (spraying of Pirimor G in 6 ha of flowering oilseed rape) was carried out at one of the sites in Denmark in 2019. During the two‐year experiment, climate variables were recorded continuously, and availability of floral resources was mapped regularly in the landscapes surrounding each apiary (within an area of 1.5 km radius). Adult bee population, brood and provision were assessed approximately every three weeks in experimental colonies. Furthermore, the weight of colonies was logged continuously during the field seasons by automatic hive scales. At four sites, foraging activity was monitored continuously in 1‐2 colonies in 2019 and 2020. Spatial foraging was decoded from honey bee waggle dances observed once per month in four apiaries, at the same time as floral mapping. Finally, samples for analysis of diseases (varroa, Nosemaand viruses), pesticide residues and botanical composition of pollen were collected. All data were organized in a relational database. Whereas previous studies have monitored similar aspects of honey bee colony development and health, the current dataset is unique in encompassing a large number of variables measured simultaneously. In particular, the current study emphasized a detailed data collection on population dynamics and development for the testing and calibration of the ApisRAM model developed in the MUST‐B project. Methods used encompassed manual and automatic monitoring. Recommendations for future data collection include an assessment of variables currently collected with confidence and variables in need of further development.