Biodiversity: Honey bees got through the winter relatively well

Honey bees got through the winter relatively well

A bee uses an apple blossom in Gnoien, Mecklenburg. photo

© Bernd Wüstneck/dpa

Beekeepers always look a bit anxiously into the beehives in spring: did the colonies survive the winter well? This year, the answer varies by region.

According to a survey, bees in Germany got through the winter better than in previous years. It is true that every ninth colony of bees did not survive the winter, according to a survey by the Bees and Beekeeping Center in Mayen (Rhineland-Palatinate). Accordingly, 11.6 percent of the colonies died in the winter.

But compared to previous years, that’s not much. In the early winter, for example, almost 21 percent did not survive the cold season. The average in recent years has been 15 percent. Christoph Otten, head of the specialist center, suspects that the reason is that the bees went into the winter very vigorously last season.

Otten does not see a general trend over the years. “The range of fluctuation is strong,” says the expert. The winter losses therefore do not have a direct effect on the amount of honey produced.

Regional differences

The results of the survey are not equally pleasing for all federal states. For example, beekeepers in Schleswig-Holstein reported a loss of 21.4 percent, while in Baden-Württemberg it was only 8.8 percent. According to the specialist center, the reasons for the regional differences include different weather conditions.

However, the data are only comparable to a limited extent. Because depending on the region, different numbers of reports were received. In Bavaria, for example, there were almost 2,000, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania only 86. “The lower the number of cases, the more shaky the statements are,” says Otten.

Data not necessarily representative

Almost 8,000 out of around 100,000 beekeepers nationwide took part in the survey on winter loss rates. According to the specialist center, the data are therefore not necessarily representative. However, comparisons between different years are generally valid, since the same apiaries presumably always reported their losses.

Winter poses various dangers for bees. Among other things, the Varroa mite damages the winter bees, which hatch in the fall and keep the hive warm. According to the specialist center, almost 100,000 bee colonies were wintered last winter. A good 11,000 of them died.


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