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Wisconsin beekeepers struggle to prevent large bee colony lossSubmitted: 05/27/2015
WISCONSIN - The bee population could be in danger. Beekeepers in the US lost more than 42% of their colonies in the past year, according to the Bee Informed Partnership. In Wisconsin, beekeepers lost even more than that.

Some beekeepers in Wisconsin lost more than 60% of their colonies over the past year. They think long Wisconsin winters could be one of the reasons why so many bees die.

In the winter, honeybees live off of the food they've stored in the fall. Wisconsin winters tend to be long, so the bees need a lot of honey to survive.

"We've got to have plenty of supply of feed. On average, up here, it's about 120 pounds of honey per colony," says Chris Hansen, owner of Hansen Honey Farm. "On years like last year where we didn't make [much] honey in the summer, it's hard to have any honey for the winter."

"Every time we had a good bloom coming on, we had a rain storm come through and wash the nectar out of the plants," says Hansen. "The bees made enough honey to survive during the summer but they didn't really have any surplus."

In the past, Hansen Honey Farm has lost more than half of its bee colonies during the winter.

"We do lose a large percentage, on average, I'd say we lose about [more] than 50%, just from starvation," says Hansen. "There are mite related issues, where mites are eating them up. They're getting diseases. They have a great immune system. They can fight these things, but we have too many little things beating them up on both sides."

The farm is now trying different ways to keep its bees alive. Two years ago, the farm let its bees go to find natural habitat for the fall, but the beekeeper wasn't a big fan of the process.

"That didn't agree with me," says Hansen. "They work too hard to give them the boot. So last year, we went and sold them all to another beekeeper. He ran them out west and put them in almonds for the winter."

Hansen says that method worked well in keeping the bees alive, but it cost him a lot of equipment. That means Hansen Honey Farm had to remake all of its equipment in the winter.


Story By: Karolina Buczek

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