Canadian Report on Wintering Loss

Thursday 15 July 2021

One of the greatest challenges for Canadian beekeepers is our long and harsh winters.  The number of colonies that survive through until spring will determine pollination units and honey production for the subsequent season.  Overwintering success is also a strong indication of the overall health of our colonies as weak, diseased, or infested hives are less likely to survive.  For these and many other reasons, beekeepers should keep good records of their winter success and nationally, a report is generated with important benchmark information on honey bee losses.  We have provided a brief summary and overview of the provincial and national wintering loss data for the 2020 / 2021 period.

Canadian Report on Wintering Loss

Each year the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) publishes their “Statement on Honey Bee Wintering Losses in Canada”. This report is based on data collected through homogenized questions asked to a sample of each province’s beekeepers by our provincial apiarists. This year’s preliminary results, based on the winter season of 2020 and 2021, showed that nationally there was a decreased winter loss rate. Preliminary results indicate that this past winter, beekeepers reported a winter loss of 23.2% compared to the previous year’s (2019 / 2020) rate of 30.2.%.

Our region showed a good result with all Atlantic provinces reporting below the national average, and most reporting below their 2019 / 2020 average winter losses (Table 1).  This is a reflection on the relatively mild winter and health of our bees entering into winter. Winter losses, as a reflection of hive health, determine the number of hives available for pollination and the ability of the industry to expand numbers during the following season. Last winter’s weather was fairly mild for beekeepers in most of our region and the winter loss data reflects well on our regions’ beekeepers, even with the drought conditions experienced last summer. This result does not look at summer losses and trends which, with this year’s early spring, swarm-encouraging conditions, and greater potential for varroa populations to increase substantially, may be an important factor in our colony numbers going into and surviving this winter.

Table 1. Survey Parameters and Preliminary Honey Bee Colony Mortality (2020 / 2021) for Atlantic Canadian Provinces

We have included some general comments from our region’s provincial apiarists on the success of the individual Maritime provinces.

Cameron Menzies, Prince Edward Island:

“We had another decent winter fortunately – about 16% loss on average. It was a mild winter which ended up being likely forgiving for beekeepers who didn’t feed enough in the fall/ wrap in time. The top reported causes of colony loss ended up being poor queens and weak colonies in the fall. Starvation was not reported as a top cause of mortality.

Spring of course, came a bit early up here too and the dandelions, tree inflorescences, etc. were available a week or so sooner than normal. So far, so good!”

Jason Sproule, Nova Scotia:

“Hive numbers have been holding steady for the past few years. Nova Scotia generally experienced a mild winter and a gentle spring with early bloom and lots of good flying days. Overall, winter losses were estimated to be 12.3% which is the lowest in more than a decade and within what is considered sustainable. Most hives are wintered indoors (76%) but there were comparable losses for both indoor (12%) and outdoor (13%) wintering methods.

Surveyed beekeepers were able to identify reasons for losses such as queen health, weak colonies in the fall, and starvation. It is encouraging that commercial beekeepers seem to have a handle on Varroa mite management as this has not been considered a major reason for winter loss in recent years. 79% of commercial beekeepers are using a standardized mite monitoring technique such as sticky boards or alcohol washes and many are applying mite control treatments. Apivar is by far the most relied upon mite control treatment and survey respondents are appropriately managing resistance by using this treatment only once per season and rotating with other treatments as needed.  I hope our beekeepers keep up the super work.”

Chris Maund, New Brunswick:

“New Brunswick beekeepers who reported honey bee winter loss results for the 2020 to 2021 winter loss survey had an average of 13.2% honey bee colony losses, which was low compared to other years. Beekeepers with 50 or more colonies had been surveyed. Respondents cited the two major causes of honey bee losses as being either not known or poor queens.”


The CAPA Statement on Honey Bee Wintering Losses in Canada is a useful tool for beekeepers and a good measure of our individual success.  A review of this report is highly recommended for well-informed beekeepers.  So, take a few minutes and read the final full report ONLINE.


Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can: