This past winter was the worst in recent memory for the bee population in Ontario. The final survey of overwintering losses by Ontario Beekeepers conducted by the Ontario Beekeepers Association (OBA) were released in mid – May .
Thirty percent of beekeepers reported a loss of 70% or greater of their overwintered hives; 40 % reported losses of 50% to 70 % and 30 % reported losses of 25% to 50 % According to Mr. Jim Coneybeare, President of the OBA, A the number of dead or weak colonies is astounding. These could be the worst winter losses on record.
In the Province of Quebec and New York State many beekeepers reported losses of 90%.
It would appear that the main cause for these losses was the weather. In our area, Environment Canada reported 49 freeze cycles. This occurs when temperature fluctuations between cold and warm, varies over a short period of time B say a week or less. Normally this would occur 5 or 6 times during the winter season and bees can handle those conditions.
In addition to overwintering losses, as of May, surviving colonies are at least four if not six weeks behind their normal spring build up. The winter and spring of 2018 were particularly severe and damaging for beekeepers, with record breaking cold weather in December and January and no temperature relief through March and April brood rearing – often starting as early as February – was delayed until warmer weather arrived in late April.
In addition, the problem of neonicotinoids is still a major problem.
Pesticide related losses continue with 40 % of commercial beekeepers participating in the OBA survey saying they suspect pesticides may have weakened their hives as a reason for high winter losses.