The project, called 'Better-B', is funded by Horizon Europe, a programme for the financing of research and innovation in the European Union, brings together 17 institutions from various countries and has been awarded around €6 million, the UC said.

Over the next four years, researchers will address different types of stress factors through monitoring, experimentation, and ecological modelling, the academy explains.

Quoted in a press release, researcher José Paulo Sousa, from the Centre for Functional Ecology of the Faculty of Science and Technology of UC and coordinator of the project at this university, explained that "honey bee colonies are often poorly adapted to deal with these stress or factors, largely due to modern beekeeping practices."

"The key to resilient beekeeping is harnessing the 'power of nature' to restore harmony and balance within the colonies and between the colonies and the environment, both disturbed by human activities," he said.

José Paulo Sousa argued that the solution is to "understand the processes and mechanisms that apply in nature and adapt modern beekeeping practices and decision-making accordingly, and when appropriate, using the benefits of advanced technologies".

The professor of the Faculty of Science and Technology said that under the 'Better-B' an "evaluation of the quality of floral resources in different habitats and also the interactions between plant-pollinator" will be made, to "better understand the phenomena of competition between honey bees and species of wild pollinators in situations of abundance and scarcity of resources, monitoring and experimentation."

The data collected will serve "to feed models to assess the 'load capacity' of different types of habitats and also to develop decision-making tools on how to improve habitat structure in terms of food resources and balance beekeeping activity and conservation/biodiversity increase of pollinators," the UC informs.

The Better-B team will also assess the impact of 'landscape complexity and pesticide contamination on colony performance', using assessment methods developed and tested under the 'B-Good' project, of which the college is a part. The latter, released in December 2019, was testing with low-cost intelligent hives to improve the management of apiaries.

"The effects of certain abiotic factors on pesticide sensitivity will be evaluated by conducting ecotoxicological assays with honey bees to assess lethal and sublethal effects. UC is the only higher education institution in Portugal to carry out this type of trials", said José Paulo Sousa.

The impact of the Asian wasp on bee colonies will also be evaluated through this project.

"Here, we will use monitoring methods and will be an extension of two UC projects in partnership with the intercity communities of the regions of Coimbra and Viseu Dão Lafões," the researcher added.