Virginia Losing Bees at 'Alarming' Rate

Pittsylvania Co., VA -- Virginia is seeing big losses in honey bees at what is considered an alarming rate. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says a survey shows nearly a third of managed honey bee colonies in Virginia died over the winter. That can have a major impact on profits.

One Pittsylvania County farm was spot on with Virginia averages. Beekeeper Russell East tells us over the winter they lost about 33% of their hives due to cold temperatures. East says they lost 7 hives and potentially 350 ponds of honey. That equates to thousands of dollars potentially lost for the year.

As bad as that seems, East tells us the 2012-2013 winter season hit them even harder, when they lost half of their hives. East says that was their worst year. That's why it doesn't surprise him that Virginia averages for colonies lost during the same winter were up as well. Throughout the commonwealth, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reports a nearly 45% loss for that winter.

The survey ranked Virginia 20th of the 47 reporting states for the highest percentage of honey bee colony loss this past winter. East says he has had seasons without any loss of hives and even with the challenges, he still loves beekeeping.

"It's still well worth just the fun of keeping bees. You just have to steal yourself and your heart you know you are going to lose some....They are kind of like our children, so we don't want any of them to die," says East.

The survey was conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership.