Winter honey bee losses decline

June 1, 2012 By Lee Tune, University of Maryland
Inspecting honey bee colonies.

Total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes dropped to 21.9 percent nationwide for the 2011/2012 winter, a decline of some 8 percentage points or 27 percent from the approximately 30 percent average loss beekeepers have experienced in recent winters, according to the latest annual survey conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, the Apiary Inspectors of America and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This is certainly an improvement over recent years, but it is still far too high a loss rate, says University of Marylands Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the leader of the and a research scientist in the department of at Maryland. One in five bees lost is still huge and still quite a ways from the 13-14 percent loss that say would be sustainable says vanEngelsdorp, who authored the preliminary report on the groups survey findings.

Understanding the health of bees and other is important to ecosystems and our economy because of the crucial role pollinators play in plant reproduction. It is estimated that bees pollinate about a third of the food that we eat, at a value of about $15 billion per year.

The groups surveys for the previous five years found total colony losses of 30 percent in 2010/2011, 34 percent in 2009/2010, 29 percent in 2008/2009, 36 percent in 2007/2008 and 32 percent in 2006/2007.

Honey bee landing on a watermelon flower. Honey bee colony losses were substantially down for the winter of 2011-2012. Credit: Stephen Ausmus

vanEngelsdorp and other scientists involved in the survey say they dont know the reason for improved bee survival this winter, but that the unusually warm winter during 2011/2012 is one possible contributing factor. January 2012 ranks as the fourth warmest January in U.S. history. However they say no direct of the weather connection has been done.
A warm winter means less stress on bee colonies and may help them be more resistant to pathogens, parasites and other problems, said Jeff Pettis, co-leader of the survey and research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. ARS is USDAs chief intramural scientific research agency.

Of beekeepers who reported losing any colonies, 37 percent said they lost at least some of their colonies without the presence of dead bees, which is one of the defining symptoms of colony collapse disorder (CCD), a serious problem that beekeepers began facing in 2006. Since this was an interview-based survey, it was not possible to confirm that these colonies had CCD or if the losses were the result of other causes that share the "absence of dead bees" symptom.

Beekeepers who reported colony losses with no dead bees present had average colony losses of 47 percent, compared to beekeepers who lost colonies, but did report dead bees. Those beekeepers lost 19 percent of their colonies.

Last year, beekeepers who reported colony losses with no dead bee bodies present had average colony losses of 61 percent, compared to beekeepers who lost colonies but did report dead bees. They had 34 percent in losses.

Despite intense efforts we still dont fully understand why bees are dying at such high rates, vanEngelsdorp says, It seems likely that several factors, including pesticides, parasitic mites and diseases, and nutrition problems all play a contributing roll.

Almost half of responding beekeepers reported losses greater than 13.6 percent, the level of loss that beekeepers have stated would be acceptable for their operations. Continued losses above that level threaten the economic sustainability of commercial beekeeping.

A total of 5,543 U.S. beekeepers, approximately 20 percent of the beekeepers in the United States, responded to the online survey. Collectively, the responding beekeepers managed over 14.6 percent of the countrys estimated 2.49 million . A complete analysis of the survey data will be published later this year. The abstract can be found at: .

Explore further: Survey reports 2010/2011 winter honey bee losses

More information: More information about colony collapse disorder can be found at .

Related Stories

Survey reports 2010/2011 winter honey bee losses

May 23, 2011

Total losses from managed honey bee colonies nationwide were 30 percent from all causes for the 2010/2011 winter, according to the annual survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Apiary Inspectors ...

Survey reports latest honey bee losses

April 29, 2010

Losses of managed honey bee colonies nationwide totaled 33.8 percent from all causes from October 2009 to April 2010, according to a survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the Agricultural Research ...

Survey finds slower decline of honeybee colonies

May 20, 2009

(AP) -- The decline of honeybee colonies has slowed slightly since last fall, but a mysterious combination of ailments is still decimating the insect's population, federal researchers say.

Bee keepers across U.S. suffering losses

April 24, 2007

Beekeepers across the United States are noticing a large loss in hives from year to year and it is being attributed to colony collapse disorder.

Canada seeks to breed a better honey bee

June 29, 2011

Following a massive bee die-off in parts of the world, two Canadian universities on Wednesday launched an effort to breed honey bees resistant to pests and diseases.

Microbial team may be culprit in colony collapse disorder

May 25, 2010

New research from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) identifies a new potential cause for "Colony Collapse Disorder" in honeybees. A group of pathogens including a fungus and family of viruses may be working ...

Recommended for you

Predators learn to identify prey from other species

March 21, 2018

Wolves purportedly raised Romulus and Remus, who went on to rule Rome. Is there good scientific evidence for learning across species? Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama wanted to know ...

Insects could help us find new yeasts for big business

March 21, 2018

Yeasts are tiny fungi - but they play key roles in producing everything from beer and cheese to industrial chemicals and biofuels. And now scientists are proposing a new approach that could help these industries find new ...

Promiscuity may have accelerated animal domestication

March 21, 2018

Domestication of wild animals may have accelerated as promiscuity increased among the high density populations drawn to life near humans, according to a new paper by University of Liverpool researchers.

Monkeys use tools to crack nuts, shuck oysters

March 21, 2018

Wild macaque monkeys have learned to use tools to crack open nuts and even shuck oysters, researchers said Wednesday, identifying a rare skill-set long thought to be the exclusive party trick of humans and chimps.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.