Industry survey shows bee numbers dropping

A new survey of New Zealand's bee population shows increasing numbers of hive losses.

Almost a half of the country's registered beekeepers (more than 3,600 ) took part in the 2018 Colony Loss Survey. 

The survey looks at bee health, losses and beekeeping practice and was carried out on behalf of Biosecurity New Zealand by Manaaki Whenua  Landcare Research.

The latest results show bee colony losses have increased slightly since 2015, with annual hive losses reported at 10.2 per cent overall.

Biosecurity New Zealand's biosecurity surveillance and incursion (aquatic and environment health) manager, Dr Michael Taylor said it follows a pattern of past years.

"We have seen a slight increase in reported colony losses across the country every year since we began doing this survey four years ago," he said.

The overall colony loss rate was 8.4 percent in 2015, 9.6 percent in 2016 and 9.7 percent in 2017.

"Although this loss rate is still relatively low compared with many other countries, it does highlight the importance of ensuring good biosecurity, colony health and beekeeping practice and we should strive for better outcomes," said Taylor.

The most commonly reported causes of colony losses, accounting for 80 percent of losses in 2018, were:

·       Queen problems (such as drone layers, queen disappearance or not laying eggs).

·       Suspected varroa mite infestation.

·       Suspected starvation of bees (caused by weather and other factors).

·       Wasps (which kill bees, eat pupae and steal honey).


Less common were losses caused by American foulbrood disease, theft and vandalism, toxicity, accidents, and Argentine ants.

The numbers of beekeepers participating in the self-reporting survey represents 47 percent of New Zealand's registered beekeepers and 42 percent of registered colonies.

"This is the highest response rate we have had in the four years of doing the survey and we have consistently higher response rates than any other country in the world."

The Bee Colony Loss Survey provides baseline information for monitoring managed honey bee colony loss and survival over time.