Winter mortality of honeybees keeps rising in Flanders

The honeybee is not doing well in Flanders. This winter, beekeepers lost an average of 27 percent of their hives, four percent more than last winter, the Flemish Beekeeping Institute (VBI) announced on Thursday. Ten percent of Flemish beekeepers even lost all their colonies.

The VBI conducts an annual survey among its beekeepers on winter mortality. The acceptable winter mortality rate is 10 percent, but this percentage has not been reached for a long time.

As last year, there are big regional differences. Flemish Brabant (30 percent) and Antwerp (29 percent) are the provinces with the highest bee mortality in Flanders. In some municipalities, all bee colonies have been lost. The institute adds that many beekeepers who have lost all their hives this winter are giving up the profession altogether.

A "complex problem"

According to the VBI, the winter mortality is due to a "cluster of factors", "which makes the problem very complex and difficult to manage".

In addition, last autumn, before the usual winter mortality, there was for the first time a significant loss of bee colonies due to the presence of the Asian hornet. This invasive exotic species, which has been on the increase in Belgium for several years, preys on the honeybee.

"The honey bee is like the canary in the coal mine. If the honey bee is not doing well, the whole of nature is not doing well," says the Institute.

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