Virginia has fewer bees but is seeing fewer losses

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The number of Virginia honey bee colonies declined between the winter of 2015 and the winter of 2016, but a warm winter may have helped more bees survive this year.


According to a survey released May 12 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, there were 8,000 bee colonies in Virginia on Jan. 1, 2015, owned by professional and amateur beekeepers with more than five hives. As of Jan. 1, 2016, there were 6,500 hives. But 28 percent of the state’s bee colonies were lost over the winter of 2015, compared to only 17 percent this past winter.


“You have to take the weather into context,” said Keith Tignor, Virginia state apiarist with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Remember what was going on then (in 2015); it was one of the coldest winters on record.”


Virginia beekeepers had to import 800 colonies and renovate 460 more in 2015. Renovating a colony involves either providing a new queen to a hive or providing new worker bees. Those numbers dropped to 500 new colonies and 130 renovated colonies in 2016.


Colony collapse disorder has been a new challenge to beekeepers in recent years. But Tignor said the real problems in Virginia are insect pests and several other diseases.


“Colony collapse disorder is not a specific disease. We think it’s more of an accumulation of different diseases and pests that affect bee longevity.”


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