Honey bees weather winter well

The winter of 2014 was a relatively good one for Central Alberta honey bees.

The winter of 2014 was a relatively good one for Central Alberta honey bees.

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development has released the results of its latest honey bee winterkill survey.

These indicate a mortality rate of 16.7 per cent for the area between Calgary and Edmonton — less than half the figure recorded for the previous winter.

The provincial average was 18.5 per cent, with the lowest rate in Southern Alberta at 15.1 per cent. The highest mortality rate was in the Peace River region, at 23.2 per cent.

“The surveyed beekeepers reported wintering 197,038 honey bee colonies and nuclei,’ says Medhat Nasr, an apiculturist with the department. “Overall, beekeepers reported that 18.5 per cent of Alberta bees died during the 2013-14 winter.”

Nasr said beekeepers who wintered full size bee colonies in British Colombia reported the lowest winterkill in recent years, at 10.5 per cent.

During the winter of 2013–14, a quarter of managed honey bee colonies died in Canada. The highest winterkill was 58 per cent in Ontario, with the rest of the provinces averaging 19.3 per cent. The lowest winterkill was reported in British Colombia, at 15 per cent.

“It was encouraging to hear that Quebec reported 18 per cent winterkill in 2014,” says Nasr. “This is the lowest reported winterkill in Quebec in comparison to previous years.

It is particularly remarkable that Alberta has decreased its bee winterkill rates by 50 per cent, going from 30 to 40 per cent from 2007 to 2010, down to 15 to 24 per cent in the last four years.

“Overall, the average winterkill in Alberta is 20 per cent in the past four years. The significant decrease in winterkill rates has been attributed to the use of Varroa mite control products and the adoption of effective bee surveillance and management systems.”

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