Provincial bee experts say bee farmers are coping with higher than normal losses over the past winter.

Normally, 15 per cent of a colony will not survive.

Steve Tattrie is a senior program co-ordinator for the Department of Agriculture.

"There's a complexity of issues that would lead to bee loss. A lot of it is related to some of the climate changes we’re seeing right now. We did have a long winter and a cold, damp spring — that, combined with maybe some pest issues, leading to starvation and management issues," said Tattrie.

In some Cape Breton colonies, the losses are projected to be even higher.

Tattrie said steps are being taken to manage the increased loss of bees. 

Many keepers are importing new queen bees and the province has increased its pollination programs.

Overall, Tattrie said, the bee industry is doing well with the number of bee colonies in Nova Scotia reaching 19,000. 

Honeybees are crucial pollinators for fruit, vegetables and other crops. But stressors blamed for decimating hives around the world include invasive parasites such as the Varroa destructor mite, climate change and the use of pesticides.

The Canadian Honey Council has estimated that the bee population across the country has dropped by about 35 per cent in the past three years.

Neonicotinoid pesticides have been used since 1995 in the Netherlands and are also commonly used in North America.

They are typically coated on agricultural seeds for crops such as corn and canola to protect the plants from insect pests such as aphids. Studies showing harmful effects of the pesticides in bees have prompted the European Commission to introduce a partial, temporary ban on three kinds of neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, in Europe.