Honeybee colony survival rates over this winter are the best they have been since the British Beekeepers’ Association started its annual survey six years ago. Hurrah…
This winter an average of just one in 10 hives perished according to the BBKA survey of close on 1000 members across England, compared to more than a third dying out the previous winter (2012/13)and an average of around 16% not pulling through across each of the previous four years?
So does this mean that bees are out of the woods and no longer need our help? It’s not quite as simple that. The threats to honeybees – the varroa mite, lack of forage and pesticide use – have not diminished. The big difference during last winter was the weather. We had an extremely mild winter and spring came early which allowed bees to get out and collect available forage early preventing starvation and allowing them to build up their strength to deal better with their foes.
In addition, many weak colonies were wiped out during the long winter and late spring the previous year, so the ones that made it through to summer 2013 were strong going into last winter.
The good weather conditions this spring and summer have encouraged much swarming and brood development. Since varroa feed and breed on honeybee brood we could see a build up of the mite in our hives which could weaken our colonies going into this winter. So beekeepers need to stay vigilant, or come this time next year we will be lamenting significant hive losses again!