Michigan’s Honey Bee Population Shrunk by 30 Percent Last Winter

An external parasite, among other causes, took out about 30 percent of Michigan’s honey bees last winter.

Experts say Michigan’s honey bee population is down by about 30 percent from last year. They say the species responsible for pollinating about one-third of the human diet has been having a tough time making it through the recent harsh winters. Michigan State University Pollination Specialist Doctor Walter Pett says it’s becoming more difficult for beekeepers to replenish hives.

“I’ve been keeping bees for about 30 years, and back when I first started, the overwinter loss, if it was five to ten percent, that was acceptable, but nowadays it seems to be—probably for the last decade—30 to 50 percent loss.”

Dr. Walter Pett

Pett says a variety of other factors–including diseases and parasites–are adding to the sharp population decline. He says bees that are strong enough to survive winter can be used to create new colonies. But he says often beekeepers have to restock hives using supplies from outside the state.