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Landmark study examines honeybee colony losses

The EPILOBEE study, produced by the European Union Reference Laboratory for honeybee health (EURL) and co-financed by the European Commission and the participating Member States, is the first project to assess the loss of honeybee colonies across Europe. Following a 2009 European Food Safety Authority project that revealed the weakness of honeybee surveillance systems in the Member States, EPILOBEE sought to address the lack of comparable data at EU level by harmonising the data collection methods. 31,800 colonies in 17 Member States were surveyed between winter 2012 and summer 2013 with regard to the rate of colony mortality. The study found that the mortality of bee colonies was higher than normal in certain countries. In the cold winter of 2012, Belgium suffered the highest colony loss with 33.6%, followed by the UK with 28.8%. Finland’s mortality rate was 23.3%, while 14.1% of colonies in France were lost. However, the situation of colony losses seems to be better than expected. Data is still being analysed and the study is repeated for another year to discern trends. While EPILOBEE lays the groundwork for further research into bee mortality, it does not make a statement about the contribution of solitary risk factors, such as habitat loss, climate, diseases, the context of beekeeping, use of pesticides and others.

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Issue 33