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What’s ailing honey bees

Bees can suffer from all kinds of diseases

Apr 16, 2015
After the winter apiarists check on their honey bees’ health.

After the winter apiarists check on their honey bees’ health.

After the winter hibernation period, apiarists are now drawing conclusions about their honey bee’s state of health. In Germany, 30 percent of all honey bee populations may have perished. Elsewhere the number could be even higher, for example in Canada: winter losses of 58 percent were recorded in Ontario last year. These losses have often been linked to the use of neonicotinoids, although under normal field conditions, no harmful effect has been seen. The honey bees’ health is crucial to successful over wintering and is affected by many different factors.

Honey bee health mainly depends on its nutrition: some monocultures and vast green fields do not supply enough nutrients. Dr. Andreas Schierling, Head of the Bee Health Department in the Bavarian Animal Health Department, connects the dots: If the honey bee is malnourished, it becomes more susceptible to diseases. Additionally, the Varroa destructor weakens the bee and can also infect the larval stage with various pathogens. While apiarists can easily detect a Varroa infestation, they often lack knowledge to recognize other diseases caused by viruses, fungi and parasites. “There is no disease bees can not have”, states Schierling. The insects can even suffer from diarrhea. That is why Schierling advises apiarists and breeders on bee health issues, analyzes samples and recommends treatments.

Besides this, adverse weather conditions pose an additional challenge:
Some regions face extreme weather situations – the winter in Ontario, for example, was extremely harsh. When facing low temperatures, honey bees struggle to keep the hive warm: the arduous task weakens them and means they need additional nutrition. If the apiarist doesn’t notice this and prove more food, the consequences for his honey bee populations can be fatal.

Apart from environmental factors – such as habitat, nutrition and weather – the conditions in which the hives are kept also affect the honey bee’s state of health. Commercial honey bee populations in particular need special care. Their transportation is very stressful, and infections can spread due to cramped conditions. Additionally, some pollinated plants, such as blueberries in Canada, provide inadequate nutrition for the bees that pollinate them. Therefore apiarists should allow their honey bees to rest after the pollination season, refrain from collecting honey and feed their pollinators a sugar water solution to help them recover. In this way, honey bees will be ready to face the next winter in a healthy, strong state.


Read the full comment on bee health issue

You find the news report on winter losses in Canada

Read the article in the Financial Post

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