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The plight of the honeybee.

Summary: Nearly a fifth of the UK's honeybee colonies died last winter, figures from the British Beekeepers Association have revealed.

Nearly a fifth of the UK's honeybee colonies died last winter, figures from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) have revealed.

The figure is an improvement on the previous year when almost a third of hives did not make it through the winter, but is double "acceptable" levels, the BBKA's president Tim Lovett has warned.

According to the BBKA, the period of really cold weather in the winter encouraged the bees to "cluster" together, helping them to survive, while good weather in early spring enabled them to forage for nectar and pollen.

The Association also believes beekeepers took more care to feed colonies where necessary to prevent them from starving.

But there is still a "worrying and continuing high level of colony loss" which the BBKA has put down to diseases threatening the bees.

Mr Lovett said: "It underlines the need for research into the causes and remedies for disease in order to ensure that our principal economic pollinator, the honeybee, can survive the onslaught of the threats it currently faces."

Bees are estimated to be worth around Au200 million to the UK economy each year, as they pollinate many of the food crops grown here.

But in recent years they have been hit by agricultural changes which have reduced the availability of the wildflowers that are important in providing food for the insects.

Diseases such as the varroa mite have infected hives, killing the bees, while climate change and pesticide use have also been suggested as possible factors in the insects' decline.

Independent Television News Limited 2009. All rights reserved.

Independent Television News Limited 2009. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Independent Television News Limited (ITN)
Date:Aug 28, 2009
Words:296
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