Ireland had highest rate of honey bee colony losses last winter

29 countries were studied, and Ireland's losses were almost double the 'acceptable' rate

Ireland had highest rate of honey bee colony losses last winter

Beekeeper | Image: rank Augstein / AP/Press Association Images

Ireland lost almost a third of its bee colonies last winter - the highest loss out of 29 countries.

450 beekeepers were surveyed, and the results indicate that the average national loss in winter 2015-2016 was 29.5%.

That compares to the 15% average that is generally viewed as 'acceptable' by beekeepers.

Some of the reasons that possibly contribute to the high loss rate included 'disease, increased use of pesticides and possibly local factors such as climate and decreased floral diversity'.

Research here is carried out at University of Limerick, while international studies are coordinated by COLOSS (honey bee COLony LOSSes).

The Irish rate was the highest measured in the 29 countries involved in the COLOSS study.

Other high colony loss rates were measured in Northern Ireland (28.2%), Wales (22.4%) and Spain (22.1%).

While the Irish figure was significantly higher than the previous two years, it was not as high as the 37% recorded in winter 2012-2013.

Dr Mary Coffey of the National Apiculture Programme said: “The highest losses (over 30%) were in some parts of counties Cork, Kerry and Kilkenny. However, it is difficult to isolate any single cause for these high losses.

"The National Apicultural Programme will contact some of the beekeepers involved to ask some extra questions to try to tease out possible causes for this high level of mortality," she added.

Philip McCabe - president of Apimondia, the world beekeeping federation - spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about the figures.

"There's a huge drop in the amount of honey being produced this year," he explained.

"The weather plays a part in that as well - we had two very good weeks in May & June, then it broke and it's back again. It's up and down, but when we get three to four weeks of good weather we get a crop of honey".