Three-quarters of bee colonies died over the winter in Merrimack County

  • Martin Marklin points to the dead part of the hive on the left while the right side is still thriving at his hive in Contoocook earlier this spring.

  • Dead bees with the queen in the middle that has the red dot at the Der Markt at Marklin apiary in Contoocook. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Worker bees obscure part of a raised honey comb at Stephanie Green's apiary at her home in Hopkinton on Friday, June 22, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Honey bees move in and out of their hive at Stephanie Green's apiary at her home in Hopkinton on Friday, June 22, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Debby Frisella of First Year Beekeeper looks over the health of the bees at the Beekeeping Capitol Area Beekeepers Association Apiary on the grounds of the Bridges House on Mountain Road in Concord on Wednesday, June 19, 2109. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Debby Frisella looks over the health of a beehive at the Capital Area Beekeepers Association apiary on the grounds of the Bridges House on Mountain Road in Concord on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Debby Frisella of First Year Beekeeping lights the smoke gun as she gets ready to enter the Capitol Area Beekeepers Association Apiary on the grounds of the Bridges House on Mountain Road in Concord on Wednesday, June 19, 2109 to look on the health of the bees. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Debby Fisella of First Year looks over the health of the bees at the Beekeeping Capitol Area Beekeepers Association Apiary on the grounds of the Bridges House on Mountain Road in Concord on Wednesday, June 19, 2109. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Debby Frisella looks over a beehive at the Capital Area Beekeepers Association apiary in Concord on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Debby Frisella of First Year looks over the health of the bees at the Beekeeping Capitol Area Beekeepers Association Apiary on the grounds of the Bridges House on Mountain Road in Concord on Wednesday, June 19, 2109. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Debby Frisella of First Year looks over the health of the bees at the Beekeeping Capitol Area Beekeepers Association Apiary on the grounds of the Bridges House on Mountain Road in Concord on Wednesday, June 19, 2109. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/19/2019 10:08:48 AM

Honeybees are still having a hard time surviving the winter in the Granite State – especially in Merrimack County – but it looks like education on loss prevention may be making a dent.

The New Hampshire Beekeepers Association found that 55% of the state’s honeybee hives did not survive this past winter, according to a recent survey. That’s slightly better than the previous winter, when 58% died, continuing a slight improvement in hive loss since the association started its survey three years ago.

Heather Achilles, who runs the survey for the beekeepers association, says it’s still too early to capture trends but noted in the survey that hives treated for parasitical varroa mites and the disease nosema seemed to have higher survival rates.

Varroa mites topped the list of reported loss causes for a second year, followed by starvation and moisture. Those are the same highest-reported causes as last year, according to prior survey data.

But people may not be counting for mites along with that treatment, which means they might not be treating for mites at the right time, Achilles said.

She should know – Achilles said she tested for mites in September, but when she counted mites in a dead hive this spring, she said the bees were “just infested with mites.” She suspects some bees went to raid a feral hive that may have been infested and brought them back.

“There’s no question that’s why my hives died,” she said.

Achilles said three mites per 100 bees is the threshold for treatment. Anything above that is an infestation, she said.

Testing for mites is relatively simple and requires just a half-cup of bees, about 300 workers, Achilles said. One method is to put your bees in a mason jar and coat them with powdered sugar, which will encourage the bees to clean themselves and the mites off. You can then release the bees and count the mites.

The other, more effective way is to put the same amount of bees through an alcohol wash and shake them – but they won’t survive the bath, Achilles said.

Merrimack County had by far the highest loss rate: A whopping 73% of hives died over the winter, much worse than the next-highest county, Strafford, which had a 63% loss rate. Merrimack County consistently had the highest loss rate in the state, a fact “which we need to investigate further,” stated the report.

Survey participation continues to rise, with 405 beekeepers responding this year, 28 more than last year’s survey, according to the data. Beekeepers participating in the survey came into the fall of 2018 with 1,445 hives – by March, only 651 of them remained.

Honeybees are a European species imported into the U.S. to assist in agricultural pollination. They exist almost entirely in hives maintained by people. Keeping hives alive has become increasingly difficult throughout the country over the past decade for a variety of causes, including diseases, stress and pesticides.

Natural plant pollinators, including several species of native bees, have also struggled. A UNH study of 125 years of records indicated that 14 native bee species are in decline in the Northeast.

The survey can be found online.

(Staff writer David Brooks contributed to this report. Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)




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