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N.H. beekeepers ask for help tracking honeybee deaths over the winter

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

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The New Hampshire Beekeepers Association is expanding its efforts to understand why the state’s bees are dying over the winter.

The group opened its annual winter hive loss survey, now in its third year, last week and will continue to collect data until the end of April. The survey typically asks participants how many hives they had in the fall versus the amount remaining in the spring, and what caused hives to fail.

The results weren’t great last winter, with 58 percent of the state’s hives not lasting through the winter. It was a 7 percent decrease from 2016’s death rate. A definitive cause remains elusive — mites, starvation and moisture problems topped the list — but as more beekeepers participate, a clearer picture may develop.

The association also is asking beekeepers to submit to their dead bee autopsy observations using a process developed by the New Hampshire Honey Bee Diagnostic Network.

The network, a partnership between the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension and the Beekeepers Association, was founded through a three-year Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant. It’s made up of volunteers trained to diagnose causes of death in honeybees.

One of the network’s initial goals was to train people to spot nosema, a parasite that lives in the digestive tract of bees and eventually can cause a hive to weaken and collapse. Although the disease is relatively widespread in the country, nosema hardly showed up in the NHBA’s previous surveys.

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