Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research runs the annual New Zealand Colony Loss Survey on behalf of the beekeeping industry and MPI. This year over 3,400 beekeepers responded to provide information about the health of their bees and relevant management practices.
The first NZ Colony Loss Survey was completed in 2015 and was refined and repeated in 2016. It was run again in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
With five years of data now collected, our researchers can begin to build a long-term picture of annual and seasonal trends in colony losses to inform industry and government about this vital primary sector activity. The work also helps our beekeepers to compare their experiences with national and international information on colony losses.
The top-line results from the 2019 survey are as follows:
- 3,456 beekeepers completed the 2019 survey – over 40% of all registered beekeepers with valid email addresses.
- The overall colony loss rate for winter 2019 was 10.46%, an increase of 25% since the survey began in 2015.
- This loss rate implies that New Zealand lost about 81,965 colonies over winter 2019 – an estimated 16,377 more colonies lost than if 2015 rates had continued.
- Overall losses were lowest in the Lower North Island and highest in the Middle North Island and Lower South Island. Losses in the Lower South Island continued their upward trend since 2015. Overall losses in the Upper North Island and Upper South Island were down sharply from winter 2018.
- As in past surveys, smaller operators reported greater losses (as a share) than commercial beekeepers.
Colony losses were most frequently attributed to queen problems (30.3%) and suspected varroa and related complications (28.1%), followed by suspected starvation (10.3%), and wasps (9.6%). Losses were also attributed to robbing by other bees (4.5%) and suspected nosema and other diseases (4.0%). Overcrowding in hives continues to be a challenge for beekeepers, particularly in the Upper North Island.