CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A first-time survey by the New Hampshire Beekeepers Association shows the state lost an average of 65 percent of its beehives this winter.
The survey covered Oct. 1, 2016, through March 31; data collected from 261 sites in 130 towns shows the number of hives dropped from 1,004 to 350, the Concord Monitor reports. Merrimack County reported the highest loss.
Beehive loss nationwide has been ongoing for years, a particular concern since bees are important pollinators of food crops and natural ecosystems. A national survey found that beekeepers lost more than 40 percent of their honeybee colonies between April 2014 and April 2015.
The Bee Informed Partnership, which collects national data on the decline of honeybees in the U.S., says New Hampshire beekeepers have lost more than 60 percent of their hives from 2009 to 2016. Last winter’s spike, the partnership says, was the biggest in hive mortality since the 2013-2014 winter, when the state lost about 52 percent of its 537 reported hives. In comparison, last year saw a 29.5 percent loss of its 322 reported hives.
In the association survey, almost 45 percent of the beekeepers who responded reported they didn’t know the reason for the decline. Almost 30 percent reported varroa mites, a parasite, as the cause, and about 17 percent blamed starvation. Other reasons included weakness and mice. Many respondents listed multiple reasons.
The survey says survival rates were helped with at least one varroa mite treatment and seasonal feedings. Hives that received multiple treatments for the mites were twice as likely to survive as hives that received one treatment.
Also, the survey shows that almost twice as many hives lived that were fed in the fall and winter versus those that were not fed. Beekeepers with over five years of experience saw greater survival rates than those with fewer years.