When Ontario’s beekeepers opened their hives this spring, they found nothing but bad news for beekeepers, as well as for the vegetable and fruit growers who depend on bees for pollination. The recent Ontario Beekeepers’ Association survey of almost 900 beekeepers indicated that seven out of 10 Ontario beekeepers suffered unsustainable losses. Most worrisome, almost one in three (32%) beekeepers reported colony losses of 70% or more.
After a typical winter, beekeepers recover their losses by splitting hives and adding new queens to make new colonies. When losses exceed 20%, beekeepers incur extra costs for the purchase of new queens and bees. Losses over 50% can be catastrophic. Colonies will be in recovery mode all summer and beekeepers will receive little or no income from pollination services or honey production. One in four beekeepers has said that “if these losses continue, I cannot continue in the beekeeping business.” To help commercial beekeepers stay in business, the OBA has asked the Ontario government for financial assistance to allow beekeepers to recover and rebuild their colony numbers back to last year’s numbers.
“I’ve been getting calls from beekeepers around the province,” reports OBA president, Jim Coneybeare. “The number of dead or weak colonies is astounding. These could be the worst winter losses on record.”