(Corrects to "bumblebees" instead of "bees" in paragraph 14 of
April 7 story)
* More research needed, ban on some pesticides remains
* Prevalence of some diseases found to be low
* Environmentalists cautiously welcome first step
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, April 7 A pioneering European Union
survey into the impact of pests and diseases on honey bees found
death rates were lower than feared, in part countering concerns
about the collapse of colonies of the crop-pollinating insects.
The study of 32,000 bee colonies across 17 EU member states
from late 2012 until summer 2013 found winter mortality rates
ranged from 3.5 percent to 33.6 percent.
The winter of 2012-13 was particularly cold and the highest
mortality rates were in northern countries with harsher
During the beekeeping season, when the insects are active,
mortality rates were between 0.3 percent and 13.6 percent.
"It's the first major study of pests and diseases that
affect honey bees. A lot of it seems very encouraging," said Tom
Breeze, a specialist in bees at the University of Reading in
Breeze was not involved in the study, which was made public
by the European Commission on Monday.
By comparison, U.S. beekeepers lost nearly a third of their
colonies last winter as part of a largely unexplained decline in
the population that could affect food supplies.
The study found that overall prevalence of the bee disesase
American foulbrood was low in all the monitored EU member
states, ranging from zero to 11.6 percent.
European foulbrood was even lower. Only five member states
observed positive cases and the clinical prevalence exceeded 2
percent in only one member state.
Varroosis, a disease caused by a mite, was however observed
in nearly all the monitored member states.
The survey was financed by the 17 out of 28 EU member states
which took part and by the European Commission, which
contributed 3.3 million euros ($4.5 million). It said the study
would be followed up with further research.
Environmental campaigning group Greenpeace welcomed the
study as far as it went, while saying that it left out analysis
of the impact of pesticides and changes to biodiversity.
"This is the first year in which some sort of monitoring has
started. Finally it's a first step in the right direction,"
Greenpeace's EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said.
Last week, the Red List of the International Union for
Conservation of Nature found that almost a quarter of Europe's
bumblebee population is at risk of extinction because of loss of
habitats and climate change.
The Commission, the EU executive, also said current
indicators showed wild bees, closely related to the honey bees
and also vital pollinators, were in "a worrying decline".
It has banned the use of certain pesticides, known as
neonicotinoids, suspected of harming bees. They
are produced mainly by Germany's Bayer and
In addition, EU policy-makers are trying to address bee
health by insisting on measures such as crop diversification as
part of reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy.
($1 = 0.7277 Euros)
(Editing by Anthony Barker)