Honey Bee Watch is an international coalition tasked with better understanding the biological, behavioral, and environmental traits that favor survivorship among free-living or untreated colonies. Our aim is to become the world’s greatest repository of, and authority on, “Survivor” populations to ensure their protection and conservation. Starting with a pilot program in Europe focused on Apis mellifera, we will eventually expand to include more regions and all Apis species.

Bees living naturally in a tree, photo © Steve Rogenstein, The Ambeessadors
  • Form an international coalition of bee scientists, experts, beekeepers, associations, activists, and others
  • Share best practices, protocols, data, and other resources
  • Provide visibility and support to partners via networking and communications campaigns
  • Centralize research partners’ and citizens’ data to build the world’s largest repository on Survivors
  • Develop scientific projects, educational programs, and conservation campaigns together to inspire local action to protect wild populations

A citizen-science, GIS-based mapping platform has been developed to collect data on Survivors’ distribution and density, together with general observational data. Colony activity will also be periodically monitored and samples collected from long-living colonies to assess diversity and biological traits. Eventually, we’ll also link meta environmental data to achieve a more holistic understanding of Survivors’ conditions.

app.HoneyBeeWatch.com, developed by GISCollective
To date (as of Apr 2023) we have amassed more than 1,500 sites across four continents, have confirmed or are in talks with more than 40 partners (universities, bee laboratories, beekeeping associations, NGOs, botanic gardens, forest preserves, etc.), are working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to reassess Apis mellifera‘s Red List status in Europe, are applying for grants, and will soon embark on a communications campaign to spread our reach. We continually seek new partnerships (with scientists, beekeeping groups, tech innovators, etc.) in order to further expand and deepen research on Survivors.

Apis mellifera on dandelions, photo © Pau Cardellach

Honey bees are essential pollinators that promote biodiversity and ensure food security. Unfortunately, in many regions of the world, honey bee colonies are considered extinct in the wild, while those managed by beekeepers also perish at alarming rates. This crisis has been caused by a series of interacting, largely human-derived stressors.

In contrast to this trend, a few extraordinary populations have been found to be surviving, completely unaided or with little human intervention, despite being plagued by the same lethal maladies. From the few studies investigating these Survivors, we know that, through natural selection, these special honey bees have evolved the capacity to withstand multiple deadly afflictions. These Survivors represent a precious reservoir, from which future communities, both wild and managed, could potentially be repopulated.

To date no wide-reaching international initiative exists to identify, record, monitor, study, and safeguard the many Apis mellifera Survivors awaiting discovery around the world, thus the raison d'étre of Honey Bee Watch. Additionally, such an initiative could aid in the protection of the 10 other honey bee species, for which no global conservation effort has yet been hatched, despite their suspected declines and an overall lack of fundamental data regarding their current distribution and health status.


Project Director: Steve Rogenstein at The Ambeessadors
Science Director: Arrigo Moro at University of Galway

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