What’s happening to the bees?

colony collapse disorder

Serious Colony Collapse Disorder:

It seems that the strange syndrome beekeepers call “Colony Collapse Disorder” was not so bad this year. CCD has been blamed for poor wintering in recent years – in Canada, losses had averaged over 20% for the past decade. Manitoba was particularly hard hit, with 30% of colonies dead for each of the past 5 years (up to 2011). Without replacements, 1000 hives would become 700 the first spring, those would dwindle to 490 the next spring… down to about 170 colonies in the spring of the 5th year. This is frightening stuff. To keep at a constant 1000 per year, the average beekeeper in Manitoba – one of Canada’s best honey provinces – would have split, bought, or stolen 300 hives a year. That’s 1500 colonies in the five years. An awful lot of replacements. But in the spring of 2012, those beekeepers found a more sustainable 16% loss. Finally, a normal number!

Here in Alberta, CCD was also less apparent – wintering went well and the honey crop improved over recent years. Alberta beekeepers produced 20% more than last year – making 40.5 million pounds of honey 144 pounds (65 kg – or a smidgen o’er 10 stone, if you’re a Brit) per hive. Overall in Canada, the number of managed hives has jumped up 10% to something over 700,000 colonies. This ties the record colony count from back in the mid 1980s – and is up a lot from just a few years ago (in 2006, Stats Canada counted just 554,000). So if colonies are “disappearing” it’s not here in Canada – at least not during 2012.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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