VDACS reports increase in honeybee colony losses

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Winter losses of honeybees were greater than expected and greater than the average.

According to a release from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the average colony loss per year for the past decade was 30 percent, but this past winter saw almost twice that.

“The winter losses were 59.5 percent,” said Keith Tignor, State Apiarist.

He also says this was the highest rate since 2000 when the state began monitoring annual winter losses.

The release adds that VDACS staff found high levels of Varroa mites and nosema infections in wintering bees, both of which can shorten the lifespan of worker bees and increase the mortality rates during the winter months.

Across the country, 30.7 percent of managed hives were lost during the winter of 2017-2018, up 9.5 percent over the previous winter season.

Many groups are conducting research on honeybee losses, including Virginia Tech, but no one cause stands out as the reason for this past winter's losses.

The release says it's a combination of environmental conditions, loss of habitat, pests and diseases such as Varroa mites, small hive beetles, nosema, pesticides used around beehives, and other factors.

VDACS encourages people to become new beekeepers and existing beekeepers to add to their hives.

Homeowners and apartment dwellers can also help by planting pollinator gardens and window boxes of bee-friendly plants.

There are other ways to help, which can be found on VDACS Pollinator Protection Plan at the link in the Related Links box. There is also a link to a map detailing honeybee losses across the U.S.

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