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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 beelossbeekeepers 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.

"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."

This year's long, cold winter extending into spring was mentioned by 43% of beekeepers as the main reason for the heavy losses of colonies already weakened by last year's poor summer weather and meagre honey crop.

Beekeepers estimate that their bees are at least four to six weeks behind where they should be at this time of year.

One in five beekeepers suspects pesticides as the cause of colony losses. Neonicotinoids, the most common pesticide used in Ontario, was recently the subject of an EU total ban to protect both wild and honey bees.

Despite legislation adopted in Ontario to reduce their use, neonics are still being used on 75% of Ontario corn and soy crops, despite the government's goal of reducing usage to 20%.

source: media release, Ontario Beekeepers Assoc


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