Bee Health Survey 2015

Gloucestershire Beekeeping Association has carried out member surveys since 1943. The surveys, normally held every year, gather information about colony numbers, winter losses, the honey crop, and how members are dealing pests and diseases. Historically the survey was called a Crop Report; now we call it a Bee Health Survey.

The latest Survey Report is shown on this page. Data from past surveys is available here: GBKA Member Surveys – Historic data


Report on Gloucestershire Beekeeping Association Bee Health Survey 2015

 Note:  This report is based on replies from 42 members, i.e. about 6% of the GBKA membership, so it cannot give an accurate view of the overall experience of Association members.



42 questionnaire replies were received representing just over 6% of the membership. 

The replies covered 60 apiaries and 218 colonies (29% of respondents had more than one apiary). 

Honey was taken from 129 colonies.  None of the members taking part in the survey had migratory hives, i.e. were moving hives to other locations for part of the year.

1 apiary used WBC hives, one used 14 x 12,  3 used Rose OSB, and the rest used National hives.



Members had 169 colonies in October 2014 and reported 29 winter losses, mainly from starvation and poor queen fertility. They had 161 colonies in April 2015, and 11 losses over the summer, with poor queen fertility given as the main reason.

Respondents expected to have 197 colonies in October this year compared to 169 last year, so a small increase.

They reported buying 19 queens from commercial sources, and another 12 were sourced from the Association or local beekeepers.


The 2014-15 winter was quiet in our region, with average temperatures, rainfall and sunshine. Spring was mild, with the sunniest April since 1929, but there was much more rain than usual in May. The summer was cooler and wetter than normal, with few long spells of dry weather, so for much of the time there was very little nectar for our bees to collect.

Members of the Cirencester, South Glos, and Stroud branches rated the last year as Poor, those from Cheltenham & Gloucester, Newent and the Forest of Dean rated it Average.




The average honey crop measured across all colonies was only 12 lb compared to 22 lb last year and 31 lb the year before.








Calculating the average only for colonies where honey was taken gives a figure of 21lb per colony, compared to 35lb last year.








Beekeeping experience (2014 figures shown in brackets)

17% (25%) of the respondents assessed themselves as Novice beekeepers, 55% (43%) as Intermediate, 17% (29%) as Competent and 12% (3%) as Experienced.  88% (85%) are registered on BeeBase. This chart shows the average honey crop vs experience:






Nectar Sources



These results are similar to last year.



Autumn, winter and spring feeding

This year we asked members questions about feeding their colonies.

In Autumn 2014 36% gave their bees their own honey, 57% gave sugar syrup and 26% gave a proprietary feed, usually Ambrosia or another invert syrup but fondant was also used.

40% gave additional food over the winter. (The question did not ask which feed, but fondant would be usual.)

In Spring 2015 40% fed sugar syrup (some with a supplement such as Vitafeed Gold), 19% gave a proprietary feed, and 38% did not feed their bees, presumably because they had good stores.

The survey numbers were not sufficient to look for any correlation between feeding and colony losses.


Varroa management

In their comments many members said that varroa was less of a problem in 2015.

More members used MAQS strips and Thymovar this year, and fewer used ApiLife Var.

After some early difficulties with MAQS those members using them now are very happy with them.













Mite drop before and after treatment, brood uncapping and general observation of bee health were all being commonly used to assess varroa levels.

40% (35% in 2014) used the artificial swarm method to manage varroa, 71% of whom considered it to be “Good or Excellent”, 36% (33%) used drone brood removal, 40% of whom considered it to be “Good or Excellent”, and 33% (30%) of respondents used fine sugar dusting, of whom 93% considered it to be “Good or Excellent”.


 A list of the additional comments on varroa management and other subjects by contributors to the survey is available here:  Additional comments from members

 The above report can be downloaded in pdf format here: Bee Health Survey 2015


Many thanks to all who contributed to this year’s survey. If you wish to make any comments on the survey or the report please email