West Virginia winter bee losses are “normal” again this year, although West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) cautions that that number can vary widely from apiary to apiary.
“The loss figures are not based on a formal survey, but rather the general impression of WVDA apiary inspectors as they work and communicate with the 962 registered beekeepers which are located throughout the state,” added Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick. “And, through the assistance of a USDA grant, the WVDA Apiary Section will conduct a formal survey of bee populations, disease prevalence and management practices in 2013.”
“The commercial producers are seeing 10- to 15-percent losses; hobbyists might be at 40 percent or higher,” said WVDA Apiary Specialist Paul Poling.
He pointed out that smaller producers might report a much higher percentage loss.
“If someone is only keeping two colonies and one of them dies out, that’s a 50 percent loss for that particular producer,” he said.
Poling also noted that effective mite control is also critical to keeping winter losses to a minimum. Varroa and tracheal mites can infest hives and kill bees. Fumigants have been used to treat colonies, but a new, easier-to-use product is available this year.
Apivar is a chemical pesticide strip using the miticide Amitraz that can simply be placed inside the hive for a recommended 42 days. However, it is not safe for use when honey is being produced, so it is good only for spring and fall treatments. Poling also noted that the weather is not nearly as warm as last year, and that some bee colonies may need supplemental feeding before the nectar starts flowing.
Many bee experts have been concerned in recent years about what has been termed colony collapse disorder (CCD), an as-yet-unidentified condition – or complex of conditions – to explain the disappearance of entire colonies of bees. As of yet, CCD has not been identified in West Virginia.
“The losses we have seen in West Virginia in the past few years have all had some type of explanation, whether it was mites, disease or starvation,” said Poling.
For more information, contact the WVDA’s Apiary Program at 304-558-2210.
WVDA’s Apiary Program