GUELPH — Bee colony overwintering losses dropped to 38 % in Ontario last year, down from the highest-ever recorded losses in 2013-2014, according to the OMAFRA apiary program.
Beekeepers themselves did not finger pesticides, including the soon-to-be heavily-restricted neonicotinoid-treated seeds, as the most common bee killer.
Losses self-reported by commercial and small-scale beekeepers were nearly identical, with 109 commercial operations recording a 38 % loss and 96 small-scale apiaries recording 37 % losses out of 100,200 colonies registered by Ontario beekeepers going into winter, says the recently-released Ontario apiculture winter loss and management survey.
Regionally, losses were pegged at 25 % for commercial beekeepers in Eastern Ontario, 23 % in the southwest, and 44 % in the south.
While it’s a drop from 58 % in 2013-2014, it’s still more than double the level of colony losses considered sustainable by apiculturists — about 15 %.
Starvation was pinpointed as a main cause by 46 commercial beekeepers, with 37 citing weak colonies in fall and 36 suspecting poor queens. Acute pesticide damage was the reported cause in 15 cases and 21 beekeepers blamed chronic pesticide damage.
According to the apiary program, the main factors affecting pollinator declines are extreme weather and climate change, disease, pests, and genetic weaknesses, reduced habitat and poor nutrition, and exposure to pesticides or agrochemicals.