Bloomberg News

U.K. Honeybee Colony Losses in Winter Were Highest on Record (1)

June 13, 2013

The U.K. lost a third of its honeybee colonies during the winter of 2012-13, the highest rate since an annual survey began, after adverse weather last year prevented bees from leaving hives to seek pollen.

The average loss rate jumped to 33.8 of every 100 colonies from 16.2 a year earlier, the Stoneleigh Park, England-based British Beekeepers Association said today on its website. Conditions may have deteriorated since the survey period ended March 31 because spring was delayed, it said.

Pollination, mainly from honeybees, makes possible an estimated one-third of all food and beverages, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said this month in a statement. 2012 was the U.K.’s second-wettest year on record and the rainiest ever for England, according to the Met Office, the national weather forecaster.

“The poor summer of 2012 meant honeybees were regularly prevented from gathering pollen and foraging,” the association said. “When they could go out, there was a general scarcity of pollen and nectar throughout the season. Virgin queens were unable to mate properly, leading them to become drone-laying queens, causing those colonies affected to die out.”

The honeybee is the only bee variety to maintain colonies throughout winter, depending on stored honey to survive when temperatures are too low to forage or no food is available, the association said.

The group examined data from 846 survey forms returned by members chosen at random to compare colony numbers as of Oct. 1 and March 31, according to the statement. The latest winter’s loss rate was the worst since at least 2007-08, the statement showed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Weeks in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at

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