Bee surveys give us baseline information
Biosecurity New Zealand has contracted Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research to survey managed honey bee colonies since 2015. The annual questionnaire asks beekeepers about winter colony losses and the possible causes. We use the results to monitor and compare colony loss rates between New Zealand and more than 35 other countries. The results also contribute to other work to improve bee health.
Design of the survey
The online survey was adapted for New Zealand from surveys being taken in other countries. Participation is voluntary. Beekeepers are asked about:
- losses of hives (and causes) over winter
- queen bee health
- monitoring and treatment for mites (Varroa)
- feeding supplements used
- floral sources providing significant nectar flow
- shares of colonies in pollination and honey production
- broodcomb replacement policy.
2021 bee colony loss survey results
Based on reports from 381,000 colonies and 47% of New Zealand beekeepers, we estimate the overall loss rate over winter 2021 to be 13.6%, or about 109,800 colonies.
In previous surveys, losses were most frequently attributed to queen problems. However, this changed in 2021.
- For every 1 colony reported to be lost to queen problems, 1.6 colonies were reported to be lost to varroa.
- The share of all colonies reported to be lost to varroa over winter increased from 1.6% in 2017 to 5.3% in 2021.
2021 Colony Loss Survey infographic [PDF, 1.2 MB]
2020 survey results
The overall loss rate for winter 2020 is estimated to be 11.3%. These loss rates imply that New Zealand lost approximately 99,150 colonies over winter 2020.
Nearly one-third of New Zealand beekeepers participated in the 2020 survey. As in previous years, overall loss rates for winter 2020 show considerable regional variation. Causes to which beekeepers assign losses remain similar.
For beekeeping in 2020, respondents considered economics (honey and pollination prices) to be poor-moderate and other factors to be moderate-good such as:
- environmental factors (weather, floral resources)
- biosecurity (pests, diseases)
- lifestyle (stress, time pressure).
Report on the 2020 New Zealand Colony Loss Survey [PDF, 2.7 MB]
2020 Colony Loss Survey infographic [PDF, 173 KB]
2019 survey results
New Zealand beekeepers reported that they lost more than 81,960 colonies during winter 2019. This is a loss of just over 1 colony in every 10. This is roughly the same level as losses in 2018.
Beekeepers believe most of these losses were caused by problems with the queen and complications related to Varroa mite. Smaller numbers of losses were because of starvation or wasps. Overcrowding is a particular challenge for beekeepers in the upper North Island.
Losses varied a lot from region to region. Losses were highest in the upper and central North Island, and the lower South Island.
Report on the 2019 New Zealand Colony Loss Survey [PDF, 6.1 MB]
2019 Colony Loss Survey infographic [PDF, 1.2 MB]
2018 survey results
Nearly half of New Zealand's registered beekeepers responded to the 2018 survey. This was a record level of participation.
The latest results show a slight increase in reported bee colony losses since the survey began. Annual hive losses in 2018 were reported at 10.2% overall.
Report on the 2018 New Zealand Colony Loss Survey [PDF, 9.1 MB]
2018 Colony Loss Survey infographic A3 [PDF, 356 KB]
2018 Colony Loss Survey infographic A4 [PDF, 356 KB]
Causes of bee colony loss
The commonly reported causes of hive loss in 2018 were:
- queen problems (such as drone layers, queen disappearance, or not laying eggs)
- suspected Varroa mite infestation
- suspected starvation of bees (caused by weather and other factors)
- wasps (which kill bees, eat pupae, and steal honey).
Other reported causes of colony losses (in order of frequency) include:
- robbing by other bees
- Nosema and bee diseases
- toxic exposures
- American foulbrood disease
- theft and vandalism
- Argentine ants.
The 2017 survey showed bee colony losses in New Zealand continue to be significantly lower than many other countries. Annual hive losses were reported at 9.8% overall.
Report on the 2017 New Zealand Colony Loss Survey [PDF, 1.4 MB]
2017 Colony Loss Survey infographic [PDF, 390 KB]
The 2016 survey showed bee hive loss in New Zealand was low to average compared to other countries. Over the winter of 2016, only 9.6% of colonies were lost in New Zealand compared to 12% in the northern hemisphere.
Report on the 2016 New Zealand Colony Loss Survey [PDF, 1.2 MB]
2016 Colony Loss Survey infographic [PDF, 410 KB]
The 2015 survey found low to average colony losses in New Zealand compared to other countries. Around 11% of New Zealand colonies were lost during the winter compared to 17% in the northern hemisphere.
Overall, commercial beekeepers lost fewer hives than non-commercial beekeepers. Most colonies were lost due to problems with queen bees, colony death, or wasps.
Report on the 2015 New Zealand Colony Loss Survey [PDF, 1.3 MB]
What happens after each survey
After each survey, Biosecurity New Zealand and representatives from the beekeeping industry discuss the results, what they mean for the beekeeping industry, and what they mean for future research.
Find out about our other research and projects
Who to contact
If you have any questions about the survey, email email@example.com