An annual survey of the Bee Informed Partnership, a non-profit organization, conducted in collaboration with Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a ray of hope for the nation's beekeepers.
The nationwide survey found that the winter losses of America's honey bees were the lowest in over 10 years. The survey was released on Thursday, May 25, and shared that the country lost 33.2 percent of its honey bee colonies from April 2016 to April 2017. The winter and summer honey bee loss rates and subsequently, the annual loss rates improved if compared with the 2015 to 2016 survey report.
Honey Bee Losses Improves From Horrible To Bad
To track and maintain a record for honey bee losses in the United States, each year, the survey asks both small-scale and commercial beekeepers to monitor and track the honey bee colonies' survival rates.
In the 2016-2017 annual survey, the researchers found that the total annual loss for honey bees were the lowest since the 2011-2012. In the 2011-12 survey, less than 29 percent of the honey bee colonies perished throughout the year. In terms of winter losses, the latest survey records the lowest loss rates since the review was started in 2006.
The current honeybee survival survey recorded that that 33.2 percent of the colonies perished over the review period. This shows a reduction of 7.3 percentage points when compared to the 2015-2016 report, where loss rates were 40.5 percent.
Winter loss rates of honey bee colonies also showed a decrease from 26.9 percent in the 2015-2016 survey to 21.1 percent in the current review. By comparison, the summer loss rates for honey bees reduced from 23.6 percent to 18.1 percent.
"While it is encouraging that losses are lower than in the past, I would stop short of calling this 'good' news," Bee Informed Partnership's project director Dennis vanEngelsdorp remarked.
He explained that while the annual honey bee colony loss rates of more than 30 percent may look low, it is actually a high figure. He noted that with such high honey bee colony loss rates it will be difficult for beekeepers to continue their business.
Factors Responsible For Honey Bee Colony Loss
During the course of the survey, the researchers found that several factors were responsible for the honey bee colony losses, with diseases and parasites ranking first. Apart from these two factors, exposure to pesticides and poor nutrition can also be held accountable for the loss in honey bee colonies.
However, despite all these factors, the deadly parasite varroa mite remains the main culprit behind the low survival rate of honey bees. These parasites can easily spread in honey bee colonies, particularly during the late summer season.
The results of the survey can be viewed online on the Bee Informed Partnership's website.