Survey finds queen problems are the biggest health issue for bees

New Zealand honey bee population is growing and bee losses are low on an international scale, the inaugural NZ Colony Loss and Survival Survey has found.

Queen problems were the main contributing factor to the honey bee losses, which averaged 10.73 per cent over the 2015 winter season. This is because a well-mated healthy queen drives the reproduction and growth of a colony, according to the report.

Starvation was the most common cause for colony loss. Weak, unhealthy, and sick bees are less likely to survive wintering, which leads to losses of entire colonies.

The survey found the parasitic varroa mite is also one of the biggest challenges to the health of the bee population. Evidence of the mite ranged from 72.7 per cent in Marlborough/Nelson/West Coast area to 28 per cent in Otago/Southland (the last region of New Zealand to be infested by varroa).

Agcarm chief executive, Mark Ross says:

“The survey is critical not only because it informs us on bee health, but because it allows us to make better choices to protect our bee population and to track changes on colony loss and survival for the future.

“The report shows that we still have some work to do – to make sure our bees are well-fed; freed of varroa; and protected from wasps. But, overall, our bee population is thriving – which is good news especially after all of the over-dramatised aspersions on the state of our pollinators.”

The survey was conducted in October 2015 by Landcare Research. It was funded by Agcarm, the Ministry for Primary Industries, National Beekeepers Association and Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group.

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