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. A questionnaire asked beekeepers about winter colony losses, and we can use the results to compare colony loss rates in New Zealand with rates from around the world. The results also give us baseline information for monitoring managed honey bee colony losses over time.

Design of the survey

This online survey was based on surveys being used in other countries that were adapted for New Zealand. Participation in the survey was voluntary. The 2018 survey also asked about colony failure caused by queen problems.

Beekeepers were 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.

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.

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 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
  • accidents
  • 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 9.8% 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% of colonies were lost in New Zealand compared to 12% in the northern hemisphere.

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

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

2015 results

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.

Download the report on the 2015 bee colony 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.

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 2020.

Bee Pathogen Programme

Who to contact

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

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