U.S. beekeepers reported a significant decline in honeybee colonies, based on an annual survey.

The nationwide survey conducted from April 2015 to April 2016 showed a 44 percent reduction of honeybee colonies, which is even worse than the losses last year.

Bee Informed Partnership and Apiary Inspectors of America conducted the survey and included both small-scale and commercial beekeepers. The yearly inspection is done to assess overall health and survival rates of honeybee colonies across the U.S.

Honeybee Colony Losses

The results of the survey showed that 44.1 percent of colonies were lost over the year, a 3.5 percent increase from last year's findings. Winter loss rates jumped from 22.3 percent to 28.1 percent, while summertime loss rates also increased by 2.8 percent from 25.3 percent to 28.1 percent.

University of Maryland Entomology professor and Bee Informed Partnership project director Dennis vanEngelsdorp said most beekepers are concerned about honeybee colony losses occurring even during summertime when bees are supposed to be at their best health.

In recent years, large numbers of honeybees die leading to colony collapse disorder (CCD).

CCD is attributed to several factors. Varroa mite, a parasite that spreads among colonies, causes significant decline. Farmers changing crop choices due to drought also cause malnutrition and subsequent death. Use of pesticides has also been implicated to cause malnutrition.

Varroa Mite And Pesticides

A multi-year assessment of bee colony parasites and diseases in commercial and small-scale beekeeping published in Apidologie on April 20 showed that varroa mites are increasing in unprecedented rates and are associated with deadly viruses.

The study also pointed out that small-scale beekeepers or those who have less than 50 colonies are the ones affected by the parasites. Backyard beekeepers often do not have any strategies to control spread of varroa mites. When uncontrolled, the parasites spread to other colonies and cause the collapse.

"We are seeing more evidence to suggest that good beekeepers who take the right steps to control mites are losing colonies in this way, through no fault of their own," said UMD Department of Entomology graduate student Nathalie Steinhauer.

This staggering number of honeybee losses year after year demands immediate actions. Tiffany Finck-Haynes from Friends of the Earth believes that regulating pesticides will help prevent more losses.

"The longer we wait, the worse the situation becomes," said Finck-Haynes. "If we do not suspend neonicotinoid pesticides immediately, we risk losing our beekeepers and harming important ecosystem functions upon which our food supply depends."

As honeybee colonies are lost, billions of annual are also lost. Annually, honeybees and honeybee pollination bring in a total of $15 billion to the U.S. economy. Immediate solutions to colony decline should be carried out because aside from losing money, honeybee loss also wreaks havoc on the nation's food system.

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