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Conducted annually since 2015, the New Zealand Colony Loss Survey is based on the survey of beekeepers developed by the international COLOSS honey bee research association.

Survey topics include the number and nature of over-winter colony losses, queen health and performance, indicators of diseases and parasites, treatment of Varroa, supplemental feeding, and colony management. Because the challenges facing New Zealand beekeepers differ from those facing beekeepers in the northern hemisphere, the survey also includes questions that are specific to to the New Zealand context, e.g. apiary crowding, predation by wasps, and nectar flow from native trees.

For the purpose of completing the survey, winter is defined as the period between 1 June and the time the beekeepers open their hives for the first spring round.

In a nutshell

  • Estimated colony losses for winter 2017 were 9.8%. This figure is statistically indistinguishable from 2015 and 2016 estimates. Recent evidence from Europe suggests that colony loss rates may change significantly over time.
  • Estimated losses were substantially higher in the Middle South Island and Lower South Island in 2017 than in 2016. Estimated losses fell substantially in the Lower North Island.
  • Average loss rates are signifi cantly higher for noncommercial beekeepers than for semi-commercial and commercial beekeepers; however, there is wide variation in individual loss rates.
  • Leading causes of colony losses include queen problems, suspected varroa and related complications, suspected starvation, and wasps.
  • Losses to natural disasters, robbing by other bees, American Foulbrood, suspected diseases, accidents, theft /vandalism, and Argentine ants are less common but also contribute to colony losses.
  • Non-commercial beekeepers monitor for varroa at higher rates than semi-commercial and commercial beekeepers; visual inspection remains a prominent technique across all size classes.
  • Hive numbers and competition for apiary sites continue to grow. Nearly 1/3 of beekeepers with more than 250 colonies reported apiary sites being lost or compromised due to overcrowding.

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