Introduction of pathogens by pollen, bees and bee products: risk identification in order to the protect plant and pollinator

Project Details


Main research question/goal

The aim of this project (FOD-APIRISK) was to improve the protection of both the bees themselves, as well as the plants they pollinate, against diseases. It mainly concerned the risk of the introduction of (quarantine) pathogens via pollination, with pollen purchased abroad. The deterioration of wild bee populations and the increasing winter mortality of domestic honeybees and the related pollination crisis in the agricultural and horticultural sector, international trade in pollen, pollinating insects - being (honey) bees and bumblebees - and beekeeping products has increased in recent years. The project results clearly demonstrated the plant health risk and the animal health risk through the introduction of bee pathogens. The project consortium were able to draft recommendations to the federal government with respect to the import ot foreign tpollen, pollinators and beekeeping products.

Research approach

By combining a specific diagnostics for known plant and bee pathogens with a metagenome analysis, we obtained a clear overview of all pathogenic micro-organisms present on imported pollen and bees. We then conducted a risk analysis on the use of foreign pollinators / pollen / apiculture products. In the long term, this research provides a basis for quickly identifying new pathogens and determining their origin.



The final project report present general recommendations to the competent authorities, and in particular propose to implement a control plan or complete ban on the use of imported pollen intended for the polination of commercial fruit tree orchards. In that way, the risk on the unintended introduction of plant pathogens of phytosanitary concern will be minimized. Additionally, the export of the implicated fruits will be safegarded. 

Funding provider(s)
FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de voedselketen en Leefmilieu
Effective start/end date1/03/1628/02/19