European study casts new light on bee colony mortality

Bee colonies are not collapsing as previously thought, a "landmark" pan-European surveillance study has found.

The EPILOBEE study used harmonised data collection to ensure that findings were comparable. It covered more than 31,832 colonies across 17 EU member states and the EC granted EUR3.3m to pay for the survey.

Data collected from autumn 2012 to summer 2013 showed colony mortalities in the EU with significant regional differences. Winter colony mortality rates ranged from 3.5 to 33.6 per cent with a north/south geographical pattern. Overall rates of seasonal colony mortality (during beekeeping season) were lower than winter mortality, ranging from 0.3 to 13.6 per cent. UK winter rates were more than 20 per cent.

An EC representative said: "This data shows that while higher bee colony mortalities do exist in some parts of the EU, bees are neither disappearing nor is colony collapse disorder taking place. Bee health is affected by various factors such as pathogens, the use of pesticides in agriculture, climate change, lack of feed and the loss of habitat, and by their combination."

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