Winter losses of honey bee colonies and renewal of livestock in Austria and the Czech Republic
1 Institute of Zoology, University of Graz. Universitätsplatz 2, 8010 Graz, Austria.
2 Czech Beekeepers Association, Staroměstská 2362/A, 370 04 České Budějovice, Czech Republic.
3 Department of Protein Biochemistry and Proteomics, Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research, Faculty of Science, Palacký University, Šlechtitelů 27, 783 71 Olomouc, Czech Republic.
In Austria we have established the monitoring of honey bee colony losses during winter. Since the winter of 2007/2008 we have collected information from more than 6600 beekeeping operations regarding more than 150000 wintered colonies. Data is collected online, per mail and the survey is advertised in a beekeeping journal and at several beekeeper meetings. In particular, we maintain a website dedicated to this: www.Bienenstand.at. There is an online database, where everyone can analyze the results of past investigations. In the Czech Republic, winter losses of honey bee colonies were investigated for the second time this year. The response rate increased from 556 in the first year to 977 in the second year. In both countries, winter loss rate was much higher compared to 2013/14. In Austria, loss rate was 28.4% (95% confidence interval: 27.1-30.0) based on 1259 beekeeping operations wintering 22882 colonies. In the Czech Republic, it was 19.4% (95% CI: 17.9-21.0) based on 977 beekeeping operations wintering 19844 colonies. In both countries, queen problems were included in mortality figures. We found differences in losses between regions in both countries, ranging from 22 to 52 % in Austria, and from 11 to 32 % in the Czech Republic, respectively. In 2014, following a winter with comparably low losses in both countries, we made a follow up study to investigate renewal of livestock. We found that the number of beekeepers that breed queens or do not is quite similar between the two countries. In both countries, new honey bee livestock is rather home-grown than purchased. The main reasons for production or purchase of queens or nuclei are replacement of queens or extending the operation. However, the latter might change after a winter with high losses, were renewal of livestock is needed to compensate winter losses. We will further investigate the interplay of colony losses during winter and livestock production during summer.