Demographics of the European Apicultural Industry
Over the last few years, many European and North American countries have reported a high rate of disorders (mortality, dwindling and disappearance) affecting honeybee colonies (Apis mellifera). Although beekeeping has become an increasingly professional activity in recent years, the beekeeping industry remains poorly documented in Europe. The European Union Reference Laboratory for Honeybee Health sent a detailed questionnaire to each Member State, in addition to Kosovo and Norway, to determine the demographics and state of their beekeeping industries. Based on data supplied by the National Reference Laboratory for honeybee diseases in each European country, a European database was created to describe the beekeeping industry including the number and types of beekeepers, operation size, industry production, and health (notifiable diseases, mortalities). The total number of beekeepers in Europe was estimated at 620 000. European honey production was evaluated at around 220 000 tons in 2010. The price of honey varied from 1.5 to 40 /kg depending on the country and on the distribution network. The estimated colony winter mortality varied from 7 to 28% depending on the country and the origin of the data (institutional survey or beekeeping associations). This survey documents the high heterogeneity of the apicultural industry within the European Union. The high proportion of non-professional beekeepers and the small mean number of colonies per beekeeper were the only common characteristics at European level. The tremendous variation in European apicultural industries has implication for any comprehensive epidemiological or economic analysis of the industry. This variability needs to be taken into account for such analysis as well as for future policy development. The industry would be served if beekeeping registration was uniformly implemented across member states. Better information on the package bee and queen production would help in understanding the ability of the industry to replace lost honey bee stocks.