Ottawa-area beekeepers are concerned their colonies might not survive the long, cold winter.

The bee population in Ontario was already down because of a pesticide that killed millions this summer and caused others to stop producing eggs, according to the president of the Upper Ottawa Valley Beekeepers' Association. 

The combination of older bees and a long winter has beekeepers concerned, said Murray Borer.

"We need the young bees going into winter so they can actually sustain the colony," Borer said.

Peter Vichos, a commercial beekeeper in Kemptville, said it's too early to check on how his 1,200 colonies are faring.

"It's always a very nervous time of year," Vichos said.

Bees need a few warmer days during the winter to take a short flight outside the hive but Vichos said that this year they have not had a chance.

"We have had some awful cold. Prolonged cold weather," he said. "It is concerning because it does put stress on the bees. They do need to have clearing flights." 

He said beekeepers could lose more than 20 per cent of their bees but they won't know until it's warm enough to check the hives in mid-March.