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Ontario beekeepers suffer high colony losses

Ontario beekeepers suffer high colony losses

Producers may have had highest winter losses ever, survey reveals

By Kaitlynn Anderson
Staff Writer

The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA) has discovered some concerning information after conducting a survey of almost 900 beekeepers to determine the extent of overwintering losses.

After opening their hives this spring, seven out of every 10 beekeepers recorded unsustainable losses, an OBA release stated on Monday.

In fact, almost one-third of respondents experienced losses of 70 per cent or higher.

“The number of dead or weak colonies is astounding,” Jim Coneybeare, president of the OBA, said in the release. “These could be the worst winter losses on record.”

Producers may incur some additional expenses when they lose more than 20 per cent of their colonies over the winter. However, beekeepers who record losses over 50 per cent “will receive little or no income from pollination services or honey production,” the release said.

This year, 43 per cent of survey participants attributed their high colony losses to the cold, long winter.

“Last year’s poor summer weather and meagre honey crop” likely worsened the situation, the release said.

In the survey, one in four respondents revealed that they would be unable to remain in the beekeeping business if these losses continue.

These losses could present a challenge for producers who rely on colonies to pollinate their crops, too.

“Farmers who rent bees for pollination require strong, populous colonies early in the spring to match their bloom period,” Dennis Edell, director and chair of the issues management committee with the OBA, told today. However, “the colonies that do survive (this year) will be weaker and less effective pollinators.”

This situation could impact Ontario fruit and vegetable growers, who rely on bees to pollinate almost $900 million worth of their crops, the release stated. 

“Honey bees are agriculture’s workhorses,” Coneybeare told “Every third bite of food is the result of pollination. Try to imagine a world without bees, fruits, many vegetables, nuts and berries.”