Beleaguered beekepers finally have reason to cheer after more than 80% of honey bee colonies survived the cold winter.

Already struggling to recover from huge losses as a result of colony collapse disorder, officials were worried one of the coldest winters in recent years would further decimate numbers. However, the national loss of 17.3% was better than the 19.2% last year and 30.1% the year before.

"Our honey bees are slowly moving out of intensive care but are still not healthy enough," warned British Beekeepers' Association president Martin Smith.