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Brit honeybees crawl through rotten winter

One in six hives lost

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British honeybees have survived the coldest winter in 31 years with losses of one in six hives - higher than the natural rate but a marked improvement over previous years.

According to the Telegraph, 2008-09 saw one fifth of hives wiped out. The previous year did for 30 per cent of colonies.

Regionally, the north of England was worst hit this year, with 26 per cent losses. Honeybees in the south west fared best, with a 12.8 per cent fatality rate.

The British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) president, Martin Smith, said: "Winter losses between 7 to 10 per cent are acceptable. The current rate is not and neither are the vast regional differences. Yet there is still no answer to what is causing the losses. Disease, bad weather and poor nutrition due to habitat loss are the prime suspects.

“British beekeepers are having to work even harder at this time of year to replace their missing colonies to keep the stream of honey flowing and more vitally to maintain the ‘pollination army’ on which we depend for so much of our food, and the beauty of our countryside."

Honeybee numbers worldwide have seriously declined in recent years. Some attribute this to "Colony Collapse Disorder" - possibly caused by the single-celled fungus Nosema ceranae, or mobile phone radiation, although UK research has shown that local populations may have been affected by the neonicotinoid group of pesticides. ®

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