Bee colony loss survey

An annual survey completed by New Zealand's beekeepers is helping us understand the state of our managed honey bee colonies. Find out about the results so far.

Surveys will give us baseline information

Biosecurity New Zealand contracted Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research to survey managed honey bee colonies from 2015 to 2018. The survey asked about winter colony losses using an international questionnaire that can be used to compare over-winter colony loss rates around the world. The survey results provide baseline information for monitoring managed honey bee colony loss and survival over time.

Design of the survey

This online survey was based on similar ones being used in other countries and adapted for New Zealand, in consultation with New Zealand beekeepers. Beekeeper participation in the survey is voluntary. The 2018 survey asked supplementary questions about colony failure caused by queen problems.

New Zealand beekeepers are surveyed 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.

2018 survey results

Nearly half of New Zealand's registered beekeepers responded to the 2018 survey, a record level of participation on previous years. 

The latest results show a slight increase in reported bee colony losses since the survey began 4 years ago. Annual hive losses in 2018 were reported at 10.2 percent overall.

Download the report on the 2018 bee colony survey [PDF, 9.1 MB]

2018 Bee Colony Loss Survey infographic A3 [PDF, 356 KB]

2018 Bee 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 weaher 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, accidents, and Argentine ants.

2017 results

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 9.84 percent overall.

Download the report on the 2017 bee colony survey [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Download an infographic of the results [PDF, 390 KB]

2016 results

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 percent were lost in New Zealand compared to 12 percent in the northern hemisphere. Colony losses in 2016 were statistically the same as in 2015.

Download the report on the 2016 bee colony survey [PDF, 1.2 MB]

Download an infographic of the results [PDF, 410 KB]

2015 results

  • Low-to-average beehive loss in New Zealand compared to other countries.
  • 11% of NZ colonies were lost during the winter compared to 17% in the northern hemisphere.
  • Overall, commercial beekeepers lost fewer hives than non-commercial beekeepers.
  • Most bee colonies were lost due to problems with queen bees, colony death or wasps.

Download the report on the 2015 bee colony survey [PDF, 1.3 MB]

What happens after each survey

Biosecurity New Zealand and industry discuss the survey results and what they mean for the beekeeping industry and future research.

We're also undertaking the largest bee health study ever done in New Zealand, the Bee Pathogen Programme. Results from the Bee Pathogen Programme will be available in late-2019.

Who to contact

If you have any questions about the survey, email apiculture@mpi.govt.nz

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