A third of Britain’s honey bee colonies died out last winter – prompting fresh fears of a pollination crisis for our flowers and vegetables.

Europe’s bees are in crisis (credit: Wikimedia)

Bee losses over the winter of 2012 to 2013 were more than double that of the previous winter, despite a surge in back garden beekeeping.

According to the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), an average of 33.8 colonies in every 100 were lost compared to 16.2 in the winter of 2011 to 2012.

The BBKA’s report saw apiarists blame the impact of “continual poor and changeable weather during 2012”. This year’s late spring made matters worse.

A statement said: “The poor summer of  2012 meant bees were regularly prevented from gathering pollen and foraging.

“When they could go out, there was a general scarcity of pollen and nectar throughout the season.”

Beekeepers reported a “significant increase” in incidences of isolation starvation – when bees huddle together closely in hives in winter, exhausting their food supplies, leading to starvation.

The BBKA study made no mention of garden and agricultural pesticides that have been linked to bee decline (neonicotinoids). Some are being banned for two years across the EU.

SEE AG’S 6 JULY ISSUE FOR FULL STATISTICS ON HONEY BEE LOSSES