Honey bees died by their thousands last winter [2014/15], sparking fears of an environmental catastrophe.

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According to new figures released by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) colony losses in the UK stood at 14.5 per cent last winter.

That’s a big rise on the 9.6 per cent losses during the winter of 2013/14 – but not as bad as the winter of 2012/13 when honey bee colonies suffered a 33.8 per cent death rate.

The BBKA said England’s honey bees are “still in trouble” – confirming fears that flowers, fruit and vegetables could suffer a pollination crisis in the future.

There were regional variations in losses. Worst hit was the west (18 per cent colony losses) followed by the north east at 15.5 per cent. Eastern areas of England lost 14.7 per cent of their bees.

The BBKA said “poor and variable weather, bee predators such as Varroa, and starvation due to lack of honey stored in the hive” are all suspected to have contributed to bee decline.

According to the BBKA’s report, three out of five British adults (63 per cent) are aware that honey bees are in decline and 86 per cent understood the vital role bees play in the health of the environment.

However, two-thirds of adults had little or no knowledge of what they can do to help bees.