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USA - State continues to experience honeybee losses

Every winter the commonwealth’s honeybee population experiences colony losses. Over the past five years, surveys have shown a steady increase in honeybee mortality averaging greater than one-third of the statewide population.

Aaron Evans, an agricultural inspector with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told a group of farmers in January that 2017 was a bad year for bee losses, and that the losses were even worse in 2018, with some beekeepers losing as much as 60 percent of their bees.

Evans said the cause of those losses is not pesticides but high levels of Varroa mites and Nosema infections in wintering bees. He said there is limited to no access to once widely available antibiotics that could help treat honeybee maladies. After an FDA ruling, medicinal treatment is available only through a veterinarian.

Few veterinarians are familiar with honeybee biology and diseases, which can hamper beekeepers’ ability to suppress maladies such as American Fouldbrood, the most destructive beehive disease. In addition, the manufacturer of the antibiotic Fumigillin, which was used to treat Nosema, closed in 2018, raising concerns about possible increases of the disease in the future.

Despite pesticides not being the reason for the decline, pesticide use in and around honeybee habitats is a concern. Virginia and three other states developed a Pollinator Protection Plan in June 2017 aimed to foster communication between pesticide applicators and beekeepers and the use of best management practices to protect pollinators.

BeeCheck, a Virginia apiary registry, was created as a voluntary communication tool that enables beekeepers and pesticide applicators to work together, using a mapping program, to protect apiaries. Details are available at

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