Central Alberta bee colonies suffered high winterkill losses
Central Alberta honey bee colonies were among the hardest hit last winter, according to the latest survey by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development apiculture program.
Information collected from 112 beekeepers, who represent 92 per cent of the honey bee colonies in Alberta, revealed an average mortality rate of 23.8 per cent during the winter of 2012-13. But the winterkill figure ranged from 17 per cent in Southern Alberta to 37.5 per cent in Central and Northeastern Alberta, said Medhat Nasr, provincial apiculturist with Alberta Agriculture. He added that the figure was 21 per cent in the northwest region of the province and 28 per cent in the Peace River region.
“There was no difference in bee winterkill between colonies wintered outdoors or indoors,” said Nasr.
The survey included questions about management practices, bee health and environmental conditions, and beekeepers were also asked to rank possible causes of winterkill. They listed the long winter and cold spring as the biggest problem, with nosema identified as the second leading cause of bee kill. Other problems identified were the poor quality of queens, varroa infestations and starvation.
“In 2012, Alberta reported the lowest winterkill (15 per cent) in a decade, but this year, losses are substantially higher and varied from region to region,” said Nasr.
“In comparison to the national percentage of winterkill (28.6 per cent), Alberta did not fair too badly. In spite of the high losses, Alberta beekeepers replaced most of their killed colonies, and in some operations beekeepers increased their numbers due to high honey prices and higher demand for Alberta’s quality honey.”