Although Wisconsin honey producers are feeling better about their bees – they’re still facing some challenges with an insect that’s attacking their hives.
According to the Wisconsin Ag Statistical Service, honey bee colonies for operations with 5 or more colonies in Wisconsin as of April 1, 2017, totaled 18,000 colonies. This is 3 percent below the 18,500 colonies on April 1, 2016. Producers boosted their April 1 inventory by moving colonies into Wisconsin and adding colonies to a maximum of 65,000 during the April-June 2017 period. The quarter of April-June 2016 had the largest maximum number of colonies, with 78,000, while January-March 2016 had the smallest maximum number of colonies with 21,000.
Honey bee colonies lost for operations with 5 or more colonies for the April-June 2017 quarter was 2,900 colonies or 4 percent. This was the smallest loss in the last 6 quarters and was down 47 percent from last year, and 34 percent below last quarter. The quarter of July-September 2016 had a loss of 12,000 colonies, the highest honey bee colony loss of the 6 quarters.
Varroa mites were the number one stressor for operations with 5 or more colonies during all 6 quarters surveyed. Producers reported that varroa mites affected 13.7 percent of Wisconsin’s honey bee colonies for the quarter of April-June 2017. The quarter of October-December 2016 showed the highest percentage affected by varroa mites at 69.3 percent.
Of interest might be the slight increase in honey bee colony numbers just across the border in Minnesota. State officials there note an increase of about 26% in honey bee colony numbers, as hive managers bring more colonies into the state. Apparently Minnesota is having a little more success battling the varroa mite.