A pan-European report on bee health has found that death rates in the UK are among the worst in Europe.
The Epilobee study surveyed 32,000 bee colonies across 17 EU member states from late 2012 to summer 2013, showing significant regional differences.
Winter mortality rates ranged from 3.5% to 33.6% with a north/south geographical pattern, with countries in northern Europe recording the highest bee mortality rates.
The UK was among member states with the worst bee death rates.
During the cold winter of 2012-13, the research shows 28.8% of bee colonies died in the UK. Only Belgium recorded a higher rate, at 34%.
Countries with a mortality rate between 10-15% included Germany, France, Latvia, Poland and Portugal.
While countries with warmer climates, including Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia and Spain, recorded bee colony mortality rates below 10%.
Overall rates of seasonal colony mortality – during the beekeeping season – were lower than winter death rates, ranging from 0.3%-13.6%.
Summer losses in the UK were higher than the majority of other EU countries at 9.7%.
However, the European Commission, which contributed €3.3m to the report (70% of the eligible costs), said the overall bee mortality rates in Europe were “better than previously expected”.
In the US, last year beekeepers lost more than a third of their bees on average.
Last year, Brussels banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, produced mainly by Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, suspected of harming bees .
The EU Commission is attempting to address the decline in bee health by introducing new agri-environment measures in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), such as crop diversification and ecological focus areas.