According to the analysis, the number of bee colonies has already been on the decline in Central and Western Europe since 1965. Since 1985 this trend has also become apparent in countries such as the Czech Republic, Norway, the Slovak Republic and Sweden. By comparison, in the South of Europe (Greece, Italy and Portugal) the number of bee colonies increased between 1965 and 2005. In contrast however, the number of beekeepers decreased in all of the countries that were investigated. Scientists assume the cause for this to be the social and economic changes over recent decades. Rising incomes of the rural population made other sugar-based products affordable, the replacement of jobs by machines in agriculture speeded up the rural exodus to urban regions and thus beekeeping as a hobby lost its attractiveness. "The price of treating bee diseases has increased to the extent that the cost of treatments may equal or exceed the income from a colony for an entire year, thus making it uneconomic to keep bees on a small scale", explains Dr. Simon G. Potts of the University of Reading in England. "Moreover, the effort for treating disease, in particular V. destructor, has probably also reduced the attractiveness of beekeeping as a hobby."
Through the investigation, the mystery of bee losses has by no means been solved, emphasize the scientists, who were however able to add another piece to the puzzle. Furthermore, the data would have to be interpreted very carefully because of the very different evaluation methods in individual countries. "With the limited evidence available it is neither possible to identify the actual driver of honey bee losses in Europe nor to give a complete answer on the trends for colonies and beekeepers. This obviously creates an urgent demand for a standardization of evaluation methods, especially on colony numbers. Such harmonized reliable methods will
|Contact: Doris Boehme|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres