Friday 28 June 2019 

The annual survey carried out by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA ) to measure winter survival of honeybees shows that losses at 8.5% are at their lowest since the current survey programme was started in 2007/08. 

The survey covers the period from 1st October 2018 to 1st April 2019 and was carried out online for the first time. 5581 members completed the survey. 

The BBKA enjoys the membership of beekeepers from the whole of the British Isles and the Channel Isles, including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Isles. 

Honeybee losses  

The overall winter survival rate was 91.5% or 8.5% losses. In England the rate was 91% survival with 9% losses, in Scotland 79% survival with 21% losses, Wales 94.3% survival with 5.7% losses and in the Channel Isles, Isle of Man and Northern Ireland survival rates were all above 98% so losses of less than 2% in those places. 

The most striking result is the fact that we have never had a lower winter loss rate since the survey was started in winter of 2007/08. The table below shows all the results of the BBKA Winter Surveys.

Causes 

Like last year, ( read last year's winter losses here )weather was the main factor mentioned by those who lost colonies but there was no one overall event that caused problems. The winter months were very variable and many places experienced wide variations in temperature and wind exposure which will, not only, have affected the way in which the colonies consumed their winter stores, but also in their ability to leave the hive and forage for any early sources of pollen and nectar which were available. 

Regional data 

Below you will see the data for English regions based on the National Bee Unit reporting areas that have been consistently used in all BBKA Overwinter Surveys. This shows that the regions experiencing highest losses were Northern & North East.

REGION PERCENTAGE
NORTHERN 13.6
WESTERN 8.6
NORTH EAST 11.4
EASTERN 7.2
SOUTH WEST 7.1
SOUTHERN 8.1
SOUTH EAST 8.6

Good beekeeping 

The brilliant overall survival rate of 91.5% this year exemplifies how good beekeeping is necessary for colonies of honeybees to survive and thrive. 

Martin Smith, BBKA Director of Communications said: “We are thrilled that the rate is so low and that it reflects all the effort Associations put into training new beekeepers as well as the continuing education of their existing members. The Associations have been asked to increase their training focus this year on how to avoid starvation, how to understand the nutritional state of the colony in terms of available stores and the ability of the bees to access them.” 

Colony numbers 

This year, we have also made an estimate of the number of colonies being managed by BBKA members, using the whole data set, and it is estimated that on 1st April 2019 they were managing around 119,275 colonies, The number of BBKA members used in calculating this was 25,000. 

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BBKA is appealing for help to build a new accessible training apiary to allow school and public group visits - to donate go here

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