Honeybee Winter Deaths in Scotland Double as 31% of Hives Fail

Honeybee winter losses in Scotland almost doubled this year, with 31 percent of managed hives failing, up from 16 percent the previous winter, according to a survey of beekeepers run by the University of Strathclyde.

Colony losses in the 2012-13 winter were 156 out of a total 498 colonies managed by beekeepers, according to survey results published online today. The loss rate is the highest since surveys began in 2006, according to the university.

The losses match those in England, where a third of honeybee colonies perished this past winter, double the previous year, according to data from the British Beekeepers Association. European beekeepers have been reporting unusual colony losses for the past 10 to 15 years, according to the European Food Safety Authority.

“The loss rate in Scotland is amongst the highest in Europe this year, while similarly high losses have been reported recently from England and Wales,” Alison Gray, a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, was cited as saying in the statement.

Of 20 wild honeybee colonies in Scotland known to be alive in September, 11 died over winter, according to data from the university. That’s the worst survival rate since monitoring of feral colonies started five years ago, according to Magnus Peterson at the university, who’s been collecting the data.

“The difficult weather conditions are a particular problem in Scotland, with severe winters followed by long wet springs being a problem, especially if it comes after a poor wet summer as in this last year,” Gray said.