A yearly survey of beekeepers shows fewer colony losses occurred in the United States over the winter of 2013 to 2014 than in recent years, but beekeepers say losses remain higher than the level that they consider to be sustainable.
According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide. That number is above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability, but is a marked improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012 to 2013 and over the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent.
There is no way to tell why the bees did better this year, according to Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland assistant professor who is the leader of the survey and director of the Bee Informed Partnership, and Jeff Pettis, co-author of the survey and research leader of Agricultural Research Services (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.
Although the survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Bee Informed Partnership, shows improvement, losses remain above the level that beekeepers consider to be economically sustainable. This year, almost two-thirds of the beekeepers responding reported losses greater than the 18.9 percent threshold.
“Yearly fluctuations in the rate of losses like these only demonstrate how complicated the whole issue of honey bee heath has become, with factors such as viruses and other pathogens, parasites like varroa mites, problems of nutrition from lack of diversity in pollen sources and even sublethal effects of pesticides combining to weaken and kill bee colonies,” Pettis says.
The winter losses survey covers the period from October 2013 through April 2014. About 7,200 beekeepers responded to the voluntary survey. A complete analysis of the bee survey data will be published later this year. The summary of the analysis is at BeeInformed.org.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also announced that it will hold a summit this fall aimed at addressing the nutrition and forage needs of pollinators. The summit will take place in Washington D.C. on October 20 to 21 and will be attended by a consortium of public, private and non-governmental organizations. Attendees will discuss the most recent research related to pollinator loss and work to identify solutions.
Additionally, the USDA launched the People’s Garden Apiary bee cam at the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. as an additional effort to increase public awareness about the reduction of bee populations and to inform Americans about actions they can take to support the recovery of pollinator populations. The USDA Bee Watch website will broadcast honey beehive activity live over the Internet 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Read the full article, Yearly Survey Shows Better Results for Pollinators, but Losses Remain Significant, to learn more about USDA pollinator efforts.