Winter colony losses up

Bee colony losses were higher in Canada this year, partly because April was a cold and snowy month on the Prairies.

In its annual report, the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) said Aug. 21 that bee colony losses in Canada were 25.1 percent for the winter of 2016-17. (PDF format) The national winter loss in 2015-16 was 16.8 percent.

The CAPA data for 2017 was based on a survey of 587 commercial and hobby beekeepers, representing 53.8 percent of registered colonies stored in the fall of 2016.

The winter loss percentage is the number of colonies that failed to make it through the winter, divided by the number of bee colonies in operation the previous year.

Prince Edward Island beekeepers lost 41.8 percent of their hives through the winter, the highest rate in Canada.

Nova Scotia had the lowest rate: 13.2 percent.

Alberta, which has almost 40 percent of all the bee hives in Canada, had winter losses of 28.8 percent. That’s nearly double the 15.3 percent figure from 2015-16.

Weather was a major factor in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, CAPA said in its report.

“Beekeepers in western provinces reported that most of bee colonies died in April, which was one of the coldest, wettest (and) snowiest Aprils in years.”

Mike DeJong, Alberta Beekeepers Commission president, also blamed early spring weather for bee deaths.

“It was really bad in April for bees,” he said in early July. “They started off and then went backwards…. They kind of went into dormancy mode (during) that cold weather.”

Saskatchewan beekeepers also suffered this spring. Apiarists reported winter losses of 23.4 percent, compared to 15 percent in 2016.

Bees had a better winter in Manitoba, as only 17.9 percent of colonies failed to survive the winter.

Nationally, 25.1 percent losses were higher than the last three winters:

  • 2015-16 : 16.8
  • 2014-15 : 16.4
  • 2013-14 : 25

On a more positive note, CAPA said bee colony numbers in Canada are headed in the right direction. In 2007, the country had 589,254 colonies. In 2016, the number was 750,155.

That’s an increase of 27.3 percent over the last decade.

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