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Incorporating NASA Earth Observations into an Assessment Tool to Identify Correlations Between Factors Associated with Bee Health

Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are a vital component to global agriculture, however, over recent decades their populations have been declining. Honey bees provide pollination services to more than 90% of the leading 107 global crop types, and without them it is estimated that 5-8% of global production would be lost. Anthropogenic drivers such as land use change, habitat fragmentation, existence of vegetative land cover (native or agricultural), climate, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides, contribute to honey bee health complications and annual population losses. Also, the presence of invasive pests (Varroa mite [Varroa destructor], tracheal mites, and small hive beetles) and pathogens (e.g. Nosema) further compound these issues. Leveraging citizen science, NASA Earth observations, and nationally reported statistics, a comprehensive methodology was developed to illuminate environmental variables that are linked to honey bee prosperity in the New England region of the United States from 2015 to 2018. The team created a tool harnessing Google Earth Engine to incorporate in situ data collected from local hives and apiaries and biophysical variables, such as vegetation indices, and soil moisture collected from satellite data. The tool will aid in the development of historical trends in honey bee welfare and will provide insight for better understanding of bee habitat suitability conditions.