Saanenland bee population under attack
Significant damage to bee colonies has occurred in the region of Gstaad over the last year. The average loss is around 30%, but some beekeepers have reported a loss of around 50% or even whole colonies.
Last year, the region was still below the Swiss average for bee mortality, but recently the situation has changed dramatically. Michael Walker, bee inspector in Gsteig, has reported many losses from varroa mites, whose numbers have risen due to climatic conditions last autumn, as the parasites develop faster in warm weather. Therefore, it is now critical for beekeepers to treat their bee population promptly and to renew the frames and honeycombs regularly. In addition, damaged populations should be destroyed so as not to transmit the pest to other populations.
By attaching itself to the bee, the parasite (varroa mite) reaches the hive where it lays eggs and damages the bee larvae. Only strong colonies are able to compensate for this loss. At the end of each June the colonies reach their largest numbers, but populations begin to dwindle from then on, whereas the parasites still continue to reproduce - this can harm strong colonies in autumn. Therefore, it is most important to start the treatment promptly after harvesting the honey. Only in warm weather can the product used for the treatment evaporate sufficiently to contain the pest. The treatment has no negative side effects for humans who eat the honey, as it occurs after harvesting has taken place.
According to the bee inspector, lost colonies should be replaced with local hives, as imported products may carry diseases. In the region of Saanen, the density of beehives is lower than in other regions such as Emmental, and therefore the danger of contamination is lower. Nevertheless, cleaning and treatment has become crucial to prevent further losses.
Federation agrees on National Health Organisation for bees
The Swiss Federal Council has announced plans to create a Health Organisation for bees, which clearly stresses the significance of apiculture. In order to guarantee sustainable prevention and efficient treatment of bee diseases, professional knowledge and health concepts are required. This organization will be led by apiarists and will report to the Federal Veterinary Office. The beekeeping association of Saanenland is part of the cantonal Veterinary office and is therefore supported by this organisation. The regulation will take effect on January 01 2013.