The harsh winter of 2009-10 is being blamed for contributing to the stunting of North America's already-dwindling honeybee population.
According to the results of a survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), bee losses over the winter totaled 33.8 percent. Pennsylvania State University's Dennis vanEngelsdorp and a team of researchers polled more than 22.4 percent of the 2.46 million honeybee colonies in the United States.
Winter die-offs have been reported across the continent, from Ohio to California, even reaching north to British Columbia. Of the responding beekeepers, 29 percent attributed the weather to their losses, while 32 percent attributed starvation.
According to vanEngelsdorp, cold weather can help bees cluster and keep warm, but the bees need warm spells in order to leave the nest. He added that bad weather in the autumn months can also negatively affect bees, as the fall is a crucial time for foraging. "If there's a rainy fall, the bees aren't as able to forage," he said. "They need protein to take them into the winter." North Dakota, a large honey-producing state, had a markedly rainy fall season. Fargo recorded nearly twice its normal precipitation in October and November of last year.
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