2019 California Spring Update

Bee Informed.jpg

Bee Informed Partnership Post by Rob Snyder June 12, 2019




Many California beekeepers reported that the start of this year was the worst in 20+ years. Several factors contributed to this year’s issues, starting with the numerous fires last year causing nearly 3 months of smoke in the area.

A beekeepers yard in September showing smoke from fires in Northern California 2018.

A beekeepers yard in September showing smoke from fires in Northern California 2018.

Petal Fall in 2019 in almonds after heavy rain.

Petal Fall in 2019 in almonds after heavy rain.

Once the days got longer, queens started laying but the temperatures dropped again and egg laying stopped once more resulting in smaller colonies after almonds. In fact, most colonies were 2-3 weeks or even a month behind, which delayed the start of queen production. Many producers had to source bulk bees from beekeepers further south to begin starters, builders and nucs.

Italian Queen selected for hygienic testing.

Italian Queen selected for hygienic testing.

Carniolan Queen selected for hygienic testing in 2019.

Carniolan Queen selected for hygienic testing in 2019.

Once queen producers started generating nucs, the weather conditions were still challenging enough that the windows of opportunities for queens to mate were narrow at best. However, many queen producers found the first round of catching queens resulted in better than expected mating percentages, allowing them to somewhat catch up on orders and start replacing their own queens. Around this time beekeepers were treating with terramycin to combat European foulbrood (EFB). Some beekeepers believe as I do, that fungicides play a roll in colonies being more susceptible to brood diseases especially EFB. I do think that some of the EFB outbreaks we see are due to the way commercial beekeepers and queen producers manipulate colonies to shake bulk bees.

Early EFB symptoms, orange arrows indicate larvae I would select for testing, red arrows indicate old larvae I would not test

Early EFB symptoms, orange arrows indicate larvae I would select for testing, red arrows indicate old larvae I would not test

If you are seeing this or lots of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) it will be really hard to nurse colonies back to health. This is what happens if you neglect to treat or manipulate colonies to impact mite levels. Red arrows point to varroa mite in or on open brood.

If you are seeing this or lots of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) it will be really hard to nurse colonies back to health. This is what happens if you neglect to treat or manipulate colonies to impact mite levels. Red arrows point to varroa mite in or on open brood.

Currently queen producers are re-queening and treating their colonies before shipping off to summer honey and pollination locations. The late spring has provided more rain than the past 8 years and many beekeepers say that rain in May increases the star thistle crop. We are hopeful this year will be a great star thistle honey crop, helping to restore lost colonies and recover some of the income lost due to the late start on queen production.

https://beeinformed.org/2019/06/12/2019-california-spring-update/

Flame in the Bee Yard: Relighting a Smoker the Easy Way

Bee Informed Partnership By: Dan Aurell May 16, 2019

The Scenario

We’ve all experienced a smoker going out just when we need it. Sometimes we may simply forget to pump the bellows for too long while we are getting some other things ready; sometimes we may make the mistake of stuffing the fire chamber too tightly with fuel before the fire has a good chance to catch. At other times our smoker may go out during travel between bee yards. Any of these scenarios sound familiar?

The Traditional Method

So, when your smoker goes out for the umpteenth time, what do you typically do? You could re-open the smoker, dig in there, take out some fuel, burn your fingers in the process of making room for a flame, light the fuel from the bottom and cross your fingers so it stays lit this time? Let me save you the embarrassment, there is a lazy way to re-light it!

A smoker holds up after numerous external lightings

A smoker holds up after numerous external lightings

The Tried and True Easy (Lazy) Method

First, if you do not already own a propane blow torch, it is well-worth your time, energy and money (~$40) to procure yourself one. Once you have a propane blow torch, you can simply blast the flame at the outside of the metal smoker while pumping the bellows, and voilà! The heat transfer through the metal will re-light most smoker fuels. Don’t be afraid to heat the metal red-hot: smokers are seemingly built to withstand such high heat for long periods of time. For example, commercial beekeepers will keep their smoker lit for a long time while loading a semi truckload of bees or working colonies in a big bee yard. If you are concerned about wear and tear, I can report that after a year of relighting my smoker with a torch, the metal on one part of the fire chamber is a little bumpy, but otherwise totally fine.

Warnings:

Keep the flame away from the bellow and its air valve

Keep the flame away from the bellow and its air valve

Even though it is shielded by metal on most models, be aware that there is an air valve on the back side of the bellows that could be damaged by flame or heat. The same goes for fingers…

The Lazy Man is a Safe Man

You read that right – this lazy method has an upside beyond convenience. At times and places with an elevated wildfire risk, this method may be a safer way to play with fire in the bee yard. Since it doesn’t require you to pull out the contents of the smoker, which often are still smoldering a little and with a slight breeze can blow sparks across a dry field, you too can prevent wildfires!

https://beeinformed.org/2019/05/16/flame-in-the-bee-yard-relighting-a-smoker-the-easy-way/

NOW LIVE! The 2018-2019 Colony Loss and Management Survey

Bee Informed Partnership Beekeeper News.jpg

Good morning America!

It’s beautiful outside! The birds are chirping and the bees are flying! You may even notice a few flowers outside too!

Here in the South, our many azaleas are in full bloom! This means Spring is upon us! 

Auburn University.jpg

The sun rising over the campus of Auburn University

And of course, Spring means one thing: it’s time to take the Bee Informed Partnership’s annual Colony Loss and Management Survey!

It’s easy! One click and you are in, ready to take the survey and to serve our nation’s beekeeping industry:

TAKE THE SURVEY TODAY!

The information that you provide will be invaluable to our understanding of honey bee health around the country.

As background, the BIP’s National Loss Survey was launched for the first time in 2006, and thanks to the many thousands of beekeepers who have participated since then, we have been able to document and better understand long-term honey bee colony loss trends. Check out the interactive state loss map as evidence!

In 2010, BIP’s National Management Survey was added to help us understand how management practices are potentially linked to colony survivorship. Thanks to your answers, we have been able to develop a dynamic management data tool.

Feel free to play around with the interface. Want to know how colony losses compared between beekeepers that DID or DID NOT use a varroa treatment? Or what about the average age of comb in American hives? It’s all in there!

Bee Informed Survey 2019.png

The Bee Informed Partnership’s dynamic management, data explorer tool

If you would like to prepare yourself for our questions, or want to take some notes while you’re looking at your colonies, download the survey or have a look at the 2018 – 2019 National Colony Loss and Management Survey Preview.

This preview should serve as an aid to the questions that are asked on the survey.  Please, do not mail this preview version back to us.

When you are ready: TAKE THE SURVEY NOW!

Many thanks to all previous participants, and to all you new-Bees for taking some time out of your busy schedule to fill out this year’s survey.

Your contribution is supporting research efforts at a national scale that are aimed to promote the health of our honey bees!

https://beeinformed.org/

Honey Bee Caste Systems: Part 1 - Honey Bee Genetics

Bee Informed Partnership By Garrett Slater March 19, 2019

I have always been fascinated with queens and workers. In fact, I spent my master’s degree studying the mechanisms that produce queens and workers. I won’t bore you with my master’s thesis, but I did want to write about the fascinating differences between queens and workers. This topic includes a lot of information, so I decided to split this topic into 3 blog installment: 

  • The Genetic Book of Life-The basics to honey bee genetics

  • How genetics and the environment shape honey bee workers and queens

  • The differences between queens and workers 

Honey bees are unique living organisms. Some fascinating traits honey bees possess include: 1) distinct reproductive caste system, i.e. fertile queens that lay the colony’s eggs and sterile workers who forego their own reproduction but help raise their brothers and sisters instead, 2) they have a behavioral division of labor within the worker caste, and 3) they have distinct sexual dimorphism. As most beekeepers know, honey bees include many more interesting characteristics, but I included the three that I am most interested in! While honey bees are quite unique compared to any other animal or living form, the underlying material by which these traits are passed on to future generations is shared with all organic living organisms: Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA. DNA carries the genetic material necessary to produce the distinct and fundamental characteristics of honey bees. While all living organisms have DNA, honey bee genetics is unique.

Honey bees have a system of sex determination (male drones versus female queens or workers) known as haplodiploidy. This differs from human sex determination in several ways. With humans, both males and females carry two copies of every chromosome (they are both diploid), one inherited from the father, and one from the mother. Human males result because they have a specific sex chromosome (Y chromosome) that females lack. With honey bees, queen bees carry sperm inside a specialized compartment within her body that she obtained from earlier mating events, and she determines whether or not to fertilize each egg as it is being laid. Males develop from unfertilized eggs, and therefore only carry a single set of chromosomes (Haploid) and females develop from fertilized eggs and possess two copies of each chromosome (Diploid), Females receive DNA from both parents, while males receive DNA from just the mother. Therefore, this is referred to as a Haplodiploid genetic system.

Caste System 1 .jpg

Figure 1: Depicted above is the genetics of honey bee workers and queens. Female workers and queens result from fertilization, which is the act of fusing female queen eggs with male drone sperm. This combination results in a diploid egg and contains chromosomes from both the male drone and the female queen. Unique to honey bees, diploid females can develop into either a queen or worker. This depends upon the nutrition they receive during development.

Caste system 2.jpg

Figure 2: The picture above is the genetics of a laying worker. A laying worker has underdeveloped reproductive traits, so they cannot mate with drones. Because of this, they cannot fertilize eggs and produce female workers or queens. The laying workers can, however, produce unfertilized haploid males. This is a last-ditch effort for the colony to pass along its genetic material to future generations because the colony will not survive.

Caste system 3.jpg

Figure 3: The picture above shows a queen laying drone eggs. Queens can either lay fertilized or unfertilized eggs. This typically depends upon cell size as queens lay unfertilized drone eggs into drone cells. In some situations, queens run out of viable sperm for many different reasons. Queens can only produce unfertilized drone eggs, which can spell doom for a once prosperous colony.  

Figures 1-3 summarize the genetic differences between diploid females and haploid males. In order for females to develop, they need a different genetic recipe from both the mother and father. Diploid males are a great example of how important these different genetic recipes are in sex determination. In certain cases, diploid males can result if they receive identical chromosomes from both the father and mother. This can result from very inbred populations, and results in infertile males.

Queens are the only individuals in the colony that can produce both diploid female workers or queens and also produce haploid males. I will touch on why workers cannot produce diploid females in a later blog, but I describe in some detail in Figures 2-4. Though, workers can lay drones because workers are able to lay unfertilized eggs. Essentially, workers cannot mate or store sperm, so they produce just haploid males.

Honey Bee genetics is fascinating. If you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it, keep an eye out for the next installment on how genetics and the environment shape honey bee workers and queen. 

Cheers!
Garett Slater
Midwest Tech-Transfer Team
University of Minnesota
Bee Informed Partnership

https://beeinformed.org/2019/03/19/honey-bee-caste-systems-part-1-honey-bee-genetics/

The Signs of Mite Damage - How to Identify Progressed Varroosis?

Bee Informed Partnership    September 26, 2018

BIP Tech Transfer Team Member, University of Minnesota, Written by Garett Slater, posted by Anne Marie Fauvel

Varroa infested colonies entered the United States in ~1987, and changed beekeeping forever. Beekeeping has always been time consuming, difficult and experience oriented; however, beekeeping became even more challenging when beekeepers were called to eradicate a bug on another bug. Since its introduction in the US, beekeepers have reported high annual colony losses due to mites. In fact, some beekeepers report 60% losses due to this troublesome pest. While beekeepers have faced devastating challenges before, including American Foulbrood, Varroa mites has presented damages never before seen.

Varroa have become more difficult to manage since their introduction. The mites are seemingly embedded within the honey bee industry reality as nearly, if not all, colonies have Varroa. Like many beekeepers say: ” all my colonies have mites, I just cannot see them”. Even if alcohol washes do not reveal mites, Varroa is present in the brood or will be present soon due to infestation from surrounding colonies. As mites have become more widespread, they became a vector for a variety of viruses. In fact, researchers are finding more and more variants of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), a virus that affects the honey bee’s essential flight capabilities. Research has shown that DWV-B (Deformed Wing Virus variant B) can be responsible for high over-winter losses.

The point here is that Varroa devastates colonies.  It would also seem that Varroa are transmitting more virulent strains of viruses with each passing year. Because of this, I recommend to keep mite levels below 1 mite/ 100 bees in the spring and below 3 mites/100 bees in the fall. With Varroa loads any higher, beekeepers risk high colony losses.

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor

Beekeepers must consistently monitor mites if they expect to have strong and healthy colonies. Beekeepers can monitor their mites in various ways, but I recommend both of these two methods: perform an alcohol wash (or other monitoring method) and observe the overt signs of mite damage. It is ideal to perform monitoring methods once a month, but we realize this is not always possible. Because of this, combining both monitoring and observation methods are recommended. Ideally, mites should be monitored at least 4 times a year.  As seen in Figure 1: population increase, population peak, population decrease, and fall dormant; it is essential to understand the seasonal changes. For example, brood density varies throughout the year, so certain treatments can be less effective at different times. By understanding seasonal cycles, beekeepers can better manage their mites. I understand Figure 1 does not reflect the reality of every region but it gives a good overall general idea.  Some regions have multiple population peaks due to large honey flows, so you will need to understand the honey bee seasonal phases in your region. But essentially, as the bee and brood population increase, so do the mites.

Figure 1: Honey bee seasonal phases – Beekeepers should monitor mites once a month, but if this is not possible, mites should be monitored at least 4 times a year: during the late winter-early spring dormant, population increase, population peak, population decrease, and fall dormant phases. I recommend alcohol washes (or another monitoring method) during these periods. Photo courtesy of the Honey Bee Health Coalition.

Mite Monitoring Techniques

I attached a chart outlining the 3 major mite monitoring techniques I recommend. Perform one of these techniques 4 times a year: Early spring, late spring, late summer and early fall. Each beekeeper has their preference, so use the method you feel the most comfortable with. I use alcohol washes, but I feel comfortable with sugar rolls or CO2 as well. As long as you monitor, there is not a wrong method!


Advantages 

Disadvantages 

Sugar Rolls

Known research on accuracy

Common method

May not kill bees

Messy

Hard to do on windy, rainy or humid days

More time consuming

Less accurate

Alcohol Wash

Well documented

Quicker than sugar rolls

Can be more accurate than sugar roll

Can be messy

Kills bees

CO2

Quickest method

Easy to do with multiple colonies

Kills the bees (most likely)

When monitoring for mites, beekeepers should review mite thresholds. I outline my recommended thresholds for each monitoring method below. If your colony is above threshold, I recommend taking actions. Mite thresholds are not an exact science, even if you have levels below the threshold, it is no assurance that your colonies will be healthy and successful. For example, I have sampled many commercial beekeepers with mite levels <0.5 mites /100 bees in the spring, and they eventually had huge losses. I typically see mite levels spike in the late summer because: A) summer treatment with honey supers are limited, B) Mites are often lurking in the brood, and C) Mites from other beekeepers nearby can (re)infest colonies. Because of this, always monitor and monitor again. Once mite levels do spike, they may be difficult to bring down. Too often, when you notice, the mite damage is already done. I should note that I recommend alcohol washes, powdered sugar rolls or CO2 over a sticky board. Sticky boards are not nearly as accurate, because they do not quantify the level of infestation. If a sticky board is your only option, you can attest that you have some mites or more mites, but you are not able to assess the level of infestation (1, 2, 3 mites/100 bees). Use other monitoring method options for more accurate results and an infestation level to compare with suggested thresholds. *These thresholds may vary per US regions. These are the threshold I recommend in the Midwest (MN & ND)

Monitoring Method

# of mites in early-spring

# of mites in mid-spring

# of mites in late-spring

# of mites in early-fall

# of mites in late-fall

Alcohol Wash

 

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

Powdered sugar roll

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

CO2

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

1 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

3 mite/100 bees

Sticky Board

9 mites/24 hours

9 mites/24 hours

9 mites/24 hours

12 mites/24 hours

12 mites/24 hours

Mite related Disease Progression 

I inspect and observe hundreds of colonies annually. When I enter a colony, I often immediately know whether it has (or did) have high mite levels simply by observing progressed signs of mite damage. Just observing progressed mite damage does not suffice, but it is a good start. By noting visual signs of Varroa, you will know just how important your mite levels are and the need for action. Monitoring is best but if you can recognize some of the visual signs, you will better understand the extend of the mite damage to your colony.

I outlined the 5 stages of mite damage, which I relay to my beekeepers. In the spring during population increase, I want to see colonies within the Stage 1- 2. While I hate to see mites in the spring, this is not always a bad sign. Even if I observe mites, the colony may be below the recommended threshold, so just continue to monitor that colony. During the late spring, summer and fall, I like to see colonies within Stage 1-3. Even if Chewed Down brood (CDB) (outlined below) and phoretic mites are seen, it does not mean that beekeepers have high levels. However, a combination of phoretic mites and CDB can signal worse mite issues. If these signs are seen, continue to monitor these colonies. As for Stage 4-5, I never want to see these stages, regardless of temporal period. Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and Varroa Mite Syndrome (formerly Parasitic Mite Syndrome or PMS) can signify high mite levels.  Specifically for Varroa Mite Syndrome, it signifies very progressed mite damage, which often results in colony deterioration and eventual colony death. If colonies are in stage 4 or stage 5, monitor immediately to determine extent of damage. Action is often required, but may be too late.

 Stage

Visual Signs

Notes

Stage 1

Zero signs of mites, brood diseases or viruses


Stage 2

Visual signs of phoretic mites on either workers or drones.

 

This does not necessarily mean a mite issue exists, but if mites are seen, monitor to determine extent of varroosis.

 

Stage 3

Chewed Down Brood and/or phoretic mites

 

 

Stage 4

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and/or Chewed Down Brood and/or signs of phoretic mites.

Visual signs of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) can mean larger varroa issues. Obviously, this depends upon the number of bees with DWV and the number of phoretic mites seen, but mite monitoring is recommended to determined extent of varroosis. These signs signal a more progressed form of varroosis.

Stage 5

Varroa Mite Syndrome (VMS) and/or Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and/or Chewed Down Brood and/or Phoretic mites

Visual signs of Varroa Mite Syndrome usually signal extreme issues with varroasis. If Varroa Mite Syndrome is seen, then mite levels are often a significant issue and has advanced to the most progressed stage of varroosis.

Visual signs

Phoretic Mite

Phoretic mites are Varroa mites seen on the abdomen of worker (or drone bees). Most phoretic mites, however, are found underneath the bee, more precisely tucked between the abdomen’s sclerites where they latch on and feed. Because of this, I typically inspect the ventral abdomen of several worker bees during inspections. This is why beekeepers “never see mites”, even if these beekeepers have higher mite levels. Visually inspect phoretic mites just on the workers, not the drones. If phoretic mites are seen on worker bees, then this represents a more progressed infestation of mites. Signs of phoretic mites indicate the colony is in Stage 2-5. Visually inspect other signs to further pinpoint extent of damage.

Phoretic mite on the thorax of a worker bee. Photo by Rob Snyde Chewed Down Brood (CDB)

Bees can sense mites in the brood. If sensed, bees will uncap and cannibalize the pupae. If CDB is seen, then mites may be at a high level, especially within the brood. CDB can indicate progressed mite damage, so continue to monitor and assess colony health.

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV)

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) represents the next stage of varroosis progression. Bees with DWV are kicked out of the colony so if bees with DWV are seen than Varroa has become an issue. DWV does not signify un-manageable mite levels for the colony, but it is a more progressed sign of mite damage.

The bottom right corner contains a cell with chewed down brood (CDB). Bees begin chewing brood when they sense mites within the cell, so this can indicate larger mite issues. Photo by Rob Snyder

This bee has deformed wing virus, a debilitating virus than can easily deplete a colony. Oftentimes, bees with the virus are removed from the colony. So if bees with Deformed Wing Virus are seen, than this can indicate larger issues. Photo by Rob Snyder

Symptoms

Spotty brood and Varroa present on adult

Mites may be present on brood

Mites seen on open brood cells

Small population size

No odor present, just sunken brood

Varroa Mite Syndrome (VMS) is the most progressed sign of mite damage. If VMS mite is seen, than the damage is done. These colonies will likely collapse, and there is nothing a beekeeper can really do. At this stage, the colony has already dwindled and deteriorated. Photo by Rob Snyder

Varroa Mite Syndrome (VMS)

A pathogen has not been identified for this diseased, however mites are always present when this disease is seen. This brood symptom looks similar to other brood diseases except the larvae do not rope like foulbrood. Larvae do appear sunken to the side of the cell. If Varroa Mite Syndrome is observed, then colony has likely dwindled and deteriorated. Varroa Mite Syndrome is the most progressed sign of mite damage, and truly at a stage of no return. Even if low phoretic mites are seen, Varroa mite syndrome often means an end to your colony, even if treatment is applied.



Summary

All beekeepers should consistently monitor mites throughout the year. Even if mite levels are low at one point, it does not mean they will stay low. Mite levels can easily spike, so always be aware and monitor and re-monitor. Beekeepers should learn how to monitor and visually inspect for mites. By doing so, varroa mites can effectively be managed. Varroa mites are the most challenging issue beekeepers face, so make sure you know where your colonies stand. If you don’t, then you risk losing your colonies.

https://beeinformed.org/2018/09/26/the-signs-of-mite-damage-how-to-identify-progressed-varroosis/

(Note: Thank you to Jaime E. Garza, Apiary/Agricultural Standards Inspector, Department of Agriculture, Weights & Measures, County of San Diego for the link and his quote, “With the lack of floral resources this year, Varroa mites may put more stress on your colonies. Hopefully the information will help give you a better idea of how to look for signs of Varroa mite infestations and encourage you to monitor and control them if you are currently not doing so.”)

Drift

      By Dan Wyns     June 12, 2018

     Drift




Bees have incredible navigation abilities that allow them to fly miles away from the colony to forage and return home with enough precision to locate the entrance to their colony, even when there are dozens of nearly identical hives within a small apiary site. The current understanding of navigation is that a combination of position relative to the sun and landmarks across the landscape get them close and then a combination of visual cues and pheromones to precisely locate the colony entrance. When a returning forager ends up returning to the wrong colony, she is typically not attacked as a robbing bee but accepted into the colony due to the pollen or nectar she carries. This process, known as drift, can lead to significant variations in colony strength over time and increase the potential for the spread of diseases and parasites within an apiary. Drift is generally not viewed as a huge problem, but there are some steps beekeepers can take to mitigate the amount of drift happening in their apiaries.

When colonies are aggregated in large numbers and placed in rows of pallets, as is common in a commercial setting, there is potential for excessive drift. Many beekeepers elect to paint all of their woodware white, and this decision may be based on tradition, aesthetic, or other considerations. Others use a variety of colors, which creates a more vibrant apiary and may also help returning forages with orientation. While bees do not see the same spectrum of colors as humans, they are able to distinguish between different shades, assisting them in orientation. In general dark colors should be avoided, particularly in excessively warm and sunny locations, so colonies will not become excessively hot. However, a mix of pastel colors and tones can provide some variation to help bees distinguish individual colonies without adding the potential for thermal stress.

In addition to variations in color, placement relative to other colonies and objects in the landscape can offer navigational aids that limit drift. Many beekeepers have observed that when a number of colonies are placed in a long line the colonies at the downwind end of the line accumulate more bees and yield greater honey harvests while those at the upwind end of the line are often short on bees and lighter in honey stores. By placing an array of hives in circles or arcs, with entrances pointed in different directions, the downwind drift effect can be lessened.  Prominent landscape features can also be helpful in providing orientation assistance. In addition to potentially providing a windbreak, a structure, tree line, or hedgerow close to hives can reduce drift. Orientation landmarks can be particularly important when setting up yards for mating nucs. It is essential that queens return to the correct nuc after orientation and mating flights so extra consideration should be given to visual cues in order to minimize drift in mating yards.

Drift is not something that most beekeepers give a lot of thought and it is certainly not among the most critical factors impacting colony health. Nevertheless, there is a growing understanding of the impacts of horizontal transmission of varroa mites between colonies and the ability to control varroa levels within and between apiaries. Phoretic varroa on drifting foragers are one way that ‘clean’ colonies may become reinfested. Given the ever-increasing number of challenges to bee management, reducing drift represents one area where beekeepers can potentially reduce colony stress for a minimal amount of effort.

https://beeinformed.org/2018/06/11/drift/

 

 

Honey Bee Colony Losses 2017-2018: Preliminary Results

Written by The Bee Informed Partnership Team   May 23, 2018

Note: This is a preliminary analysis. Sample sizes and estimates are likely to change. A more detailed final report is being prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal at a later date.

Selina Bruckner1, Nathalie Steinhauer2, Karen Rennich2, S. Dan Aurell3, Dewey M. Caron4, James D. Ellis5, Anne Marie Fauvel2, Kelly Kulhanek2, Kristen  C. Nelson6, 7, Juliana Rangel3, Robyn Rose8,: Ramesh Sagili4, Garett P. Slater9, Robert Snyder10, Christopher A. Thoms6, James T. Wilkes11, Michael E. Wilson12, Dennis vanEngelsdorp2, Geoffrey R. Williams1

1Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA
2Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
3Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
4Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
5Department of Entomology & Nematology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA
6Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
7Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
8Plant Protection & Quarantine, USDA APHIS, Riverdale, MD, USA
9Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
10Northern California Technology Transfer Team, Bee Informed Partnership, Oroville, CA, USA
11Department of Computer Science, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA
12Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA

Corresponding Authors: dvane@umd.edu (DvE) & williams@auburn.edu (GRW)

The Bee Informed Partnership (http://beeinformed.org) recently conducted the twelfth annual survey of managed honey bee colony losses in the United States. This year, 4,794 beekeepers collectively managing 175,923 colonies in October 2017 provided validated survey responses. This represents 6.6% of the estimated 2.67 million managed honey-producing colonies in the nation (USDA, 2018).

During the 2017-2018 winter (1 October 2017 – 1 April 2018), an estimated 30.7% of managed colonies in the United States were lost (Fig. 1). This represents an increase of 9.5 percentage points over that of the previous year, and an increase of 2.8 percentage points over that of the 10-year average total winter colony loss rate of 27.9%.

Similar to previous years, backyard beekeepers lost more colonies in winter (46.3%) compared to those lost by sideline (38.0%) and commercial (26.4%) beekeepers. Backyard, sideline, and commercial beekeepers are defined as those managing 50 or fewer colonies, 51 – 500 colonies, and 501 or more colonies, respectively.

Interestingly, the self-reported ‘level of acceptable winter colony loss’ increased from 18.7% last year to 20.6% this year. Sixty-nine percent of responding beekeepers lost more of their colonies than deemed to be acceptable.

During the summer 2017 season (1 April 2017– 1 October 2017), an estimated 17.1% of managed colonies were lost in the U.S. This level is on par with summer colony loss estimates of 18.2% that were reported the previous year, and lower than the 20.9% average experienced by beekeepers since 2010-2011, when summer losses were first recorded by the Bee Informed Partnership.

For the entire survey period (1 April 2017 – 1 April 2018), beekeepers in the U.S. lost an estimated 40.1% of their managed honey bee colonies. This is 2.7 percentage points greater than the average annual rate of loss experienced by beekeepers since 2010-2011. Fig 1. Total winter colony loss rate in the United States across years of the Bee Informed Partnership’s National Honey Bee Colony Loss Survey (yellow bars; 1 October – 1 April)1. Total annual loss estimates (orange bars) include total winter and summer (1 April – 1 October) losses; the latter has been estimated since 2010-2011 only. The acceptable winter loss rate (grey bars) is the average percentage of acceptable winter colony loss declared by the survey participants in each year of the survey.

1 Previous survey results estimated total winter colony loss values of 21% in the winter of 2016-17, 27% in 2015-16, 22% in 2014-15, 24% in 2013-14, 30% in 2012-13, 22% in 2011-12, 30% in 2010-11, 32% in 2009-10, 29% in 2008-09, 36% in 2007-08, and 32% in 2006-07 (see reference list).

References

Kulhanek, K; Steinhauer, N; Rennich, K; Caron, DM; Sagili, RR; Pettis, JS; Ellis, JD; Wilson, ME; Wilkes, JT; Tarpy, DR; Rose, R; Lee, K; Rangel, J; vanEngelsdorp, D (2017) A national survey of managed honey bee 2015-2016 annual colony losses in the USA. Journal of Apicultural Research 56: 328-340.

Lee, KV; Steinhauer, N; Rennich, K; Wilson, ME; Tarpy, DR; Caron, DM; Rose, R; Delaplane, KS; Baylis, K; Lengerich, EJ; Pettis, J; Skinner, JA; Wilkes, JT; Sagili, R; vanEngelsdorp, D; for the Bee Informed Partnership (2015) A national survey of managed honey bee 2013–2014 annual colony losses in the USA. Apidologie 46: 292-305.

Seitz, N; Traynor, KS; Steinhauer, N; Rennich, K; Wilson, ME; Ellis, JD; Rose, R; Tarpy, DR; Sagili, RR; Caron, DM; Delaplane, KS; Rangel, J; Lee, K; Baylis, K; Wilkes, JT; Skinner, JA; Pettis, JS; vanEngelsdorp, D (2016) A national survey of managed honey bee 2014-2015 annual colony losses in the USA. Journal of Apicultural Research 54: 292-304.

Spleen, AM; Lengerich, EJ; Rennich, K; Caron, D; Rose, R; Pettis, JS; Henson, M; Wilkes, JT; Wilson, M; Stitzinger, J; Lee, K; Andree, M; Snyder, R; vanEngelsdorp, D (2013) A national survey of managed honey bee 2011-12 winter colony losses in the United States: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Journal of Apicultural Research 52: 44-53.

Steinhauer, N; Rennich, K; Caron, DM; Ellis, JD; Koenig, P; Kulhanek, K; Klepps, J; Lee, K; Milbrath, M; Range; J; Rose, R; Sagili, RR; Sallmann, B; Skinner, J; Snyder, R; Topitzhofer, E; Wilkes, JT; Wilson, ME; Williams, GR; Wyns, D; vanEngelsdorp, D (2017) Honey Bee Colony Losses 2016-2017. Preliminary Results. https://beeinformed.org/results/colony-loss-2016-2017-preliminary-results/ (Accessed 20 May 2019).

Steinhauer, NA; Rennich, K; Wilson, ME; Caron, DM; Lengerich, EJ; Pettis, JS; Rose, R; Skinner, JA; Tarpy, DR; Wilkes, JT; vanEngelsdorp, D (2014) A national survey of managed honey bee 2012-2013 annual colony losses in the USA: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Journal of Apicultural Research 53: 1- 18.

USDA (2018) National Agricultural Statistics Service – Honey Report. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/MannUsda/viewDocumentInfo.do?documentID=1191 (Accessed May 16, 2018).

vanEngelsdorp, D; Caron, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, R; Henson, M; Rennich, K; Spleen, A; Andree, M; Snyder, R; Lee, K; Roccasecca, K; Wilson, M; Wilkes, J; Lengerich, E; Pettis, J (2012) A national survey of managed honey bee 2010-11 winter colony losses in the USA: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Journal of Apicultural Research 51: 115-124.

vanEngelsdorp, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, RM; Caron, D; Pettis, J (2011) A survey of managed honey bee colony losses in the USA, fall 2009 to winter 2010. Journal of Apicultural Research 50: 1-10.

vanEngelsdorp, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, RM; Pettis, J (2008) A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2007 to Spring 2008. PLoS ONE 3: e4071.

vanEngelsdorp, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, RM; Pettis, JS (2010) A survey of honey bee colony losses in the United States, fall 2008 to spring 2009. Journal of Apicultural Research 49: 7-14.

vanEngelsdorp, D; Underwood, R; Caron, D; Hayes, J (2007) An estimate of managed colony losses in the winter of 2006-2007: A report commissioned by the apiary inspectors of America. American Bee Journal 147: 599-603.

2017-2018 Colony Loss & Management Survey - NOW LIVE!

The 2017-2018 Colony Loss & Management Survey – NOW LIVE! MARCH 31, 2018

Our survey and a lovely coffee always go hand-in-hand!And no, this isn’t an April Fool’s Day joke! 

Our survey and a lovely coffee always go hand-in-hand!

You’re busy! We know that. You’re out catching swarms, picking up packages, and checking your colonies!

So grab a coffee or tea, sit down, relax, AND…

…take the Survey Today!

The information that you provide will be invaluable to our understanding of honey bee health around the country.

As background, the BIP’s National Loss Survey was launched for the first time in 2006, and thanks to the many thousands of beekeepers who have participated since then, we have been able to document and better understand long-term honey bee colony loss trends. Check out the interactive state loss map as evidence!

Members of the Auburn University Bee Lab hard at work producing paper-versions of the survey.In 2010, BIP’s National Management Survey was added to help us understand how management practices are potentially linked to colony survivorship. Thanks to your answers, we have been able to develop a dynamic management data tool. Feel free to play around with the interface. Want to know how colony losses compared between beekeepers that DID or DID NOT use a varroa treatment? Or what about the average age of comb in colonies? It’s all there!

This year, our colleagues at Auburn University in Sweet Home Alabama have coordinated the survey. We’re really happy to have them on board!

Please help us to develop more helpful tools for you by clicking the link below to take this years’ National Colony Loss and Management Survey.

Take the survey now!

Older comb is usually darker than younger comb, and may contain higher levels of pesticide residues and parasites such as spores of Nosema.If you would like to prepare yourself for our questions, or want to take some notes while you’re looking at your colonies, download this PDF to have a look at the 2017 – 2018 National Colony Loss and Management Survey Preview. Note that this preview should serve as an aid to the questions that are asked on the survey. Please, do not mail this preview version back to us. Please take the online survey!

Many thanks to all previous participants, and to all you new-Bees for taking some time out of your busy schedule to fill out this year’s survey.

Written By: The Bee Informed Team: The Bee Informed Partnership is a collaboration of efforts across the country from some of the leading research labs and universities in agriculture and science to better understand honey bee declines in the United States. Supported by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, we’re working with beekeepers to better understand how we can keep healthier bees. The key to our success is the true partnership we maintain across a wide range of disciplines including traditional honey bee science, economics, statistics, and medical research that makes all these tools available to this important research. And just as important as the tools are the people. We not only have the leading researchers in the honey bee industry, we also have advisory boards from the commercial beekeeping industries, almond and other commercial growers, as well as naturalists and conservationists from across the country.

https://beeinformed.org/2018/03/31/the-2017-2018-colony-loss-management-survey-now-live/

Kim and Jim's Live Episode: Wed, Jan. 24, 9AM Pacific, Noon Eastern

Kim Flottum, Editor-in-Chief, Bee Culture Magazine and Dr. James "Jim" Tew, Emeritus Professor, Entomology, OSU will be bringing you their 13th "Live" show. Click Here to Register

You don't want to miss: Meet The Best Informed Beekeepers On The Planet. The Bee Informed Partnership Crew

How To Annotate Your BIP Hive Scale Data

   By John Engelsma   September 22, 2017

Hopefully by now you all have your mites under control and are well on your way in preparing your hives for winter!  If you are operating a hive scale and forwarding your data to the Bee Informed Partnership, as your beekeeping season begins to wind down and you have more time to spare, we’d strongly encourage you to login to the BIP hive scale portal and annotate your scale data.

While many of the “BIP Ready” scales available to beekeepers today collect data well beyond hive weight, the weight of you colony is perhaps the most informative in understanding what is going on in the colony.  Technically, it is not the weight so much but the change in weight over time that provides us with a better understanding of the condition of the colony.  The weight of the colony is often impacted by factors that are external to the activities of the bees themselves.  For example, you the beekeeper, may add or remove equipment, harvest honey, or feed your bees.  These activities of course impact the weight of the colony.  The weather may also effect the weight of the colony.  For example, in a northern climate a major snow storm might result in a significant amount of snow accumulating on the hive’s cover, and subsequently melting over several days.

To help the Bee Informed Partnership better understand / interpret the scale data you send us, it is very important that you login to the portal and annotate these types of events that may impact the weight of your colony.  While its better to annotate your data regularly over time, even if you haven’t done this at all in the past, you should be able to tag the most important events for the entire beekeeping season within a few minutes or less.  Actually, all of the data (past seasons as well!) is available to you on the portal, so if you tweak the date range on your hive scale graph you can also retrieve and annotate previous seasons as well.

To encourage you to complete this important task soon, we’ve put together a short video tutorial (only 4.5 minutes!) which you’ll find embedded below.  Please watch the video and then help improve the quality of the scale data you send us by making sure you annotate our scale data as soon as possible.

https://beeinformed.org/2017/09/22/how-to-annotate-your-bip-hive-scale-data/

Mite-A-Thon has Begun!

 

By The Bee Informed Team   BLOG  September 9, 2017

Mite-A-Thon, the first ever national event to capture and collect Varroa mite infestations in North America has started! Please dust off your sugar shake jars, grab some powdered sugar and join us in the colonies starting today and lasting until September 16th (we hope you continue to monitor your colonies beyond this drive as MiteCheck.com is always open and your data is always welcome).

Add your data to this map and make it light up! Look at the data and see what management practices are being used around the country. If you have questions about what management or treatment strategy you should use, please see this valuable Varroa guide from the Honey Bee Health Coalition.

MiteCheck National Map (found at MiteCheck.com)

If you don’t have a sugar roll jar, please see our previous BIP blog on how to make one and then how to administer a sugar roll test. Read more about sugar roll tests in general and for ways to interpret your data, please read another BIP blog here.

There are still time to purchase ready-made MiteCheck kits (everything you need in 1 bucket!). Please think about buying one from these bee supply houses, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm and Mann Lake.

Please get out, enjoy the wonderful fall weather and contribute to a HUGE citizen science project. You’ll learn how healthy your bees are heading into winter and you’ll make a difference in this valuable research effort. We thank you. Fight the mites.

https://beeinformed.org/2017/09/09/mite-a-thon-has-begun/

BIP National Loss Survey Comparison with NASS Results

Bee Informed Partnership   By Ariela Haber    August 22, 2017

The National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) recently reported the results of its second honey bee colony loss survey. The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) also recently published preliminary loss results covering the same period. Despite the differences in methodology and sample sizes, these two surveys yielded comparable results. Specifically, we estimate 33.23% losses based on the BIP survey, and we estimate 35.39% losses when we use BIP methods to calculate losses from the NASS survey (Table 1). This is reassuring as it suggests past BIP surveys are representative of national losses despite the non-random nature of the BIP respondent pool.

Both of these surveys were created to track honey bee colony losses in the US, but they differ in survey design (participants’ recruitment and questions asked), delivery, data presentation, and the methodology by which loss rates are calculated. This blog aims to help compare the results of these two surveys while taking into account the limitations of these comparisons.

An explanation of our methodology can be found in previous peer reviewed reports.

To compare NASS and BIP estimates, we combined the quarterly numbers published by NASS to correspond to BIP’s division of the year into “summer” and “winter” (see Table 1). The reasoning for these recalculations is provided in last year’s blog and details of calculations are presented below (Tables 2-5). It is important to note that this comparison was done by BIP personnel using publically available NASS data. 

 NASS does not include in its loss estimates the splits (“added”) made during the respective quarter. In our opinion, when pooling 2 quarters together, the splits made during the first quarter need to be added to the pool of starting colonies, as their loss (if any) would be counted in the second quarter. We therefore include them in the divisor of our recalculations of seasonal loss estimates. For annual estimates, the additions from the first 3 quarters are added to the starting colonies. In each case, as per NASS standards, splits made during the most recent quarter (most recent splits) are not considered in the pool of colonies at risk. We welcome recommendations on an alternative method to pool quarterly results into seasonal (summer/winter) estimates. 

To imitate the BIP methodology of indirectly calculating the number of colonies lost over a season, we used the published numbers of colonies at the start of the season and colonies added. We estimated the number of colonies at the end of the season using the number of colonies at the start of the following season.  

This is an adaptation of an original work by NASS. Views and opinions expressed in the adaptation are the sole responsibility of the author of the adaptation and are not endorsed by NASS.

https://beeinformed.org/2017/08/22/bip-national-loss-survey-comparison-with-nass-results/

Adding Your Hive Scale to the BIP Public Map

Bee Informed Partnership   By Jonathan Engelsma  July 27, 2017

Congratulations!  You’ve purchased a shiny new hive scale from one of Bee Informed Partnerships “BIP Ready” hive scale vendors, and opted to share your scale data with BIP for the good of beekind and your fellow beekeepers on the BIP public map.   Our users often ask how they can get their scale on the map, so consider this the definitive guide in getting your scale on the BIP map!

It is possible that we are being a little presumptive here.  Perhaps you’ve got a BIP Ready scale setup in your apiary, and you’re scratching your head wondering why you would want your scale data on the public BIP map?  There are several reasons why you should consider placing your scale on the public BIP map.

Serve as a real-time sentinel apiary to other local beekeepers.  Your data can help other nearby beekeepers (who may not have a scale) understand the current level of nectar flow or the lack thereof.  Having a good understanding of the timing of local nectar flows is an important component in colony management.   

Provide historical / comparative data to the beekeeping community. Beekeepers can consult the public map to better understand nectar flows historically and also compare more distant scales to those in their own areas.  

Help grow community / awareness around honey bees.  Nowadays, data is cool and people love it. By placing your scale on the public BIP map you are helping us create a fascinating public resource that engages the general public and helps the bees and beekeeping.   Sharing your hive scale data on the public map is the beekeeping equivalent of adding a personal weather station to the wunderground.com website.  A personal weather station by itself is useful to its owner, but the data generated by many weather stations provides a very useful resource to the broader public.  

Assuming at this point you are convinced, sharing your scale on the BIP public map can be accomplished in three simple steps.  (Note that at this point we’ve assumed you’ve followed the instructions provided to you by your scale vendor to install your scale, and successfully opted to forward your scale data to BIP.)  

Step 1: Login into your account on http://hivescales.beeinformed.org and click on the Hives option on the navigation bar on the left.  Click on the hive you would like to publicly share to go to the hive detail screen.

Step 2: In order to place your hive on the public map, you need to first record its location.  To accomplish this, click on the button labeled “Settings” on the hive detail screen.  On the right side of the hive settings screen, you will see an embedded Google map.  You can click to add a marker or if there is already a marker drag it to your desired location.  You can pan the map or enter an address in the map’s search bar to quickly zoom to the desired location.  Once the marker is in the desired location simply click on the button labeled “Update Hive”.  You will be returned to the hive detail screen once the settings are updated.

Step 3: Click on the button labeled “Share” on the upper right hand side of the hive detail screen. There are two share options on this screen.  You want to enable Share Option #2 (public link share option) by simply clicking on the button labeled “Share” under this option.  Note that if this share option is already enabled, instead of a button labeled “Share” you will simply see a public link (URL) displayed.  

At this point you’ve shared your hive’s scale data publicly.  BIP staff will manually review your data and add it to the public map.  Note that this last step is completed by BIP, so it may be 4-5 days before your scale actually appears on the public map.  In the meantime, the web link that is displayed can be copy/pasted into emails to friends / colleagues or embedded on your own web pages as it is publicly accessible.

We’ve prepared a instructional video demonstrating the above procedure as well as some additional data sharing features supported by the BIP Hive Scale portal and posted it on YouTube.  You can click on the embedded video below to view it.


One last potential concern we would like to address – what if your hive scale is in a remote area and you don’t want to draw attention to your apiary’s exact location?  This is an understandable concern especially for larger commercial beekeepers who keep bees in more remote yards.  In this case, instead of marking the exact location in Step 2 above, place it a few miles away, or in the center of the zipcode area.  That is close enough to still provide value as a sentinel area and avoids divulging the exact location of the apiary.

That’s all there is to it!  Happy hive scale data sharing!  If you have comments or questions on any of the above, be sure to follow up below by posting a comment at:
https://beeinformed.org/2017/07/27/adding-your-hive-scale-to-the-bip-public-map/

 

Honey Bee Health Coalition Supports Honey Bee Health During Pollinator Week

Honey Bee Health Coalition Supports Honey Bee Health During Pollinator Week

June 19 - 25, 2017

Supporting honey bee health has never been as important as it is today. The annual Bee Informed Partnership survey has shown that in 2016, surveyed beekeepers lost a third of their bees. With agriculture dependent on honey bees and other native pollinators, the Honey Bee Health Coalition is proud to be developing collaborative, multi-factor solutions to the challenges bees face.
 
Three years since its launch, the Coalition is still going strong.
 
With Pollinator Week just around the corner, the Coalition continues to draw inspiration from its namesake and work together to find collective and collaborative strategies to support honey bee health.

Pollinator Week
Honey bees and pollinators work throughout the year to support the food and products we count on every day. Pollinator Week is an opportunity to highlight everything honey bees make possible — including billions of dollars in North American agriculture.

Coalition members are doing their parts to highlight not only the challenges bees face, but also the opportunities for everyday people to support honey bee health. For example, Coalition members will be holding and participating in a series of events, including:

The St. Louis Zoo will host its 9th Annual Pollinator Dinner on Tuesday, June 20, starting at 6 p.m. CT. The reservation-only event is title "Native Foods, Native Peoples and Native Pollinators" and highlights the culinary and cultural history of Native Americans and the critical supporting role native pollinators play.

The Levin Family Foundation will celebrate Wright-Patterson Air Force Base being designated as a Bee City USA on Wednesday, June 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET. The Pollinator Expo will highlight local organizations' efforts to protect pollinators.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture will host a Pollinator Stakeholder Day to present the Kentucky Pollinator Protection Plan to Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles.

Representatives from the Honey Bee Health Coalition and the Conservation Technology Information Center will discuss the Bee Integrated Demonstration Project in a June 21webinar from noon to 1 p.m. ET.

But that's not all: Coalition members and allies are holding a wide variety of events across the nation. To learn more about additional Pollinator Week activities, including those in your backyard, visit the Pollinator Partnership’s interactive map.

UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Office of the Secretary
Washington, D.C. 20250

NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK

June 19 - 25, 2017

By the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America
 
A PROCLAMATION

WHEREAS pollinator species such as honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies are essential partners of farmers and ranchers in producing food and are vital to keeping items such as fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets; and
 
WHEREAS healthy pollinator populations critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers, of rural America, and of the U.S. economy; and
 
WHEREAS pollinator losses over the past few decades require immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect environmental health; and

WHEREAS it is critically important to encourage the protection of pollinators; increase the quality and amount of pollinator habitat and forage; reverse pollinator losses; and help restore pollinator populations to healthy levels;

NOW, THEREFORE, in recognition of the vital significance of protecting pollinator health, I, Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, do hereby proclaim June 19 - 25, 2017, as National Pollinator Week. I call upon the people of the United States to join me in celebrating the significance of pollinators with appropriate observances and activities
.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 24th day of May 2017, the two-hundred forty-first year of the Independence of the United States of America.

SONNY PERDUE
Secretary

Nation's Beekeepers Lost 33 Percent of Bees in 2016-17

May 26, 2017

Nation's Beekeepers Lost
33 Percent of Bees in 2016-17


Annual losses improved over last year;
winter losses lowest in survey history

Beekeepers across the United States lost 33 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2016 to April 2017, according to the latest preliminary results of an annual nationwide survey. Rates of both winter loss and summer loss--and consequently, total annual losses--improved compared with last year.

Total annual losses were the lowest since 2011-12, when the survey recorded less than 29 percent of colonies lost throughout the year. Winter losses were the lowest recorded since the survey began in 2006-07.

The survey, which asks both commercial and small-scale beekeepers to track the survival rates of their honey bee colonies, is conducted each year by the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America. Survey results for this year and all previous years are publicly available on the Bee Informed website.

"While it is encouraging that losses are lower than in the past, I would stop short of calling this 'good' news," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. "Colony loss of more than 30 percent over the entire year is high. It's hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses."

Beekeepers who responded to the survey lost a total of 33.2 percent of their colonies over the course of the year. This marks a decrease of 7.3 percentage points over the previous study year (2015-16), when loss rates were found to be 40.5 percent. Winter loss rates decreased from 26.9 percent in the previous winter to 21.1 percent this past winter, while summer loss rates decreased from 23.6 percent to 18.1 percent.

The researchers noted that many factors are contributing to colony losses, with parasites and diseases at the top of the list. Poor nutrition and pesticide exposure are also taking a toll, especially among commercial beekeepers. These stressors are likely to synergize with each other to compound the problem, the researchers said.

"This is a complex problem," said Kelly Kulhanek, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Entomology who helped with the survey. "Lower losses are a great start, but it's important to remember that 33 percent is still much higher than beekeepers deem acceptable. There is still much work to do."

The number one culprit remains the varroa mite, a lethal parasite that can easily spread between colonies. Mite levels in colonies are of particular concern in late summer, when bees are rearing longer-lived winter bees.

In the fall months of 2016, mite levels across the country were noticeably lower in most beekeeping operations compared with past years, according to the researchers. This is likely due to increased vigilance on the part of beekeepers, a greater availability of mite control products and environmental conditions that favored the use of timely and effective mite control measures. For example, some mite control products contain essential oils that break down at high temperatures, but many parts of the country experienced relatively mild temperatures in the spring and early summer of 2016.

This is the 11th year of the winter loss survey, and the seventh year to include summer and annual losses. More than 4,900 beekeepers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia responded to this year's survey. All told, these beekeepers manage about 13 percent of the nation's estimated 2.78 million honey bee colonies.

The survey is part of a larger research effort to understand why honey bee colonies are in such poor health, and what can be done to manage the situation. Some crops, such as almonds, depend entirely on honey bees for pollination. Honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of crops in the U.S. annually.

"Bees are good indicators of the health of the landscape as a whole," said Nathalie Steinhauer, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Entomology who leads the data collection efforts for the annual survey. "Honey bees are strongly affected by the quality of their environment, including flower diversity, contaminants and pests. To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honey bee health is a community matter."


This summary chart shows the results of an 11-year annual survey that tracks honey bee
colony losses in the United States, spanning 2006-2017. Credit: University of Maryland/BeeInformed Partnership

Preliminary: 2016-2017 State Total and Average Losses

Bee Informed Partnership   Published May 26, 2017

The Bee Informed Partnership has released preliminary state losses for 2016-2017. If there are fewer than 5 respondents in a state, we will not release those numbers to preserve confidentiality. These tables represent Annual loss, Winter Loss and Summer Loss. We also report Total Loss and Average Loss.

For further details regarding the difference between Total and Average loss, please read on. The Bee Informed Partnership traditionally reports total loss, or a weighted loss rate. Total loss treats each colony the same or more simply stated, “One colony one vote.” This means that the total loss rate is more representative of commercial beekeeper loss as they manage a large majority of the colonies in the survey. The average loss rate, which we no longer report in our preliminary summary, is an unweighted rate where we calculate the loss rate for each responding beekeeper and average these rates. So average loss, more simply stated is, “One beekeeper, one vote.” As there are many more backyard beekeepers than commercial beekeepers, average loss rates are more influenced by these smaller beekeepers.

The Figure provide a heat map of Annual Total losses by state and in the tables below, N represents the number of beekeepers from that state answering those survey questions.

2016-2017 Total Annual Loss by State

2016-2017 Annual Loss by State or Territory:
https://beeinformed.org/2017/05/26/preliminary-2016-2017-state-total-and-average-losses/

2 Bee Informed Surveys - Deadline April 30, 2017

April 24, 2017



Dear Beekeeper:
 
We need your help. Please take 30 minutes out of your busy day to complete these two surveys. Both surveys are only open from 1 April through 30 April 2017.

Please click on the link below or paste it into your browser to participate in the National Loss and Management Survey:

http://26.selectsurvey.net/beeinformed/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=2017
 
The online survey is live now and will close on April 30th. PLEASE do not complete the survey more than once. Information about past Colony Loss and Management Surveys and the annual reports can be found online at http://beeinformed.org/.

We are excited to share our dynamic state map where you can view state losses from all years of the survey.  Please view this at: https://bip2.beeinformed.org/geo/. At that site, you will see annual, winter and summer losses as well as the number of participants and colony numbers for your state. Dynamic management reports that have resulted from previous years’ surveys can now be found at https://bip2.beeinformed.org/survey. This exciting data management explorer lets you and your beekeepers see what actionable practices are correlated with improving survivorship!

2015-2016 was the first winter in which Backyard beekeepers reported Varroa as a top cause of loss and 2015-2016 summer losses rivaled winter loss rates for the 2nd year in a row. These findings and trends are vitally important for the industry and we need your participation!

Some of you may be contacted independently by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the USDA to participate in their first quarterly colony loss survey. We encourage all beekeepers contacted by NASS to answer both BIP and NASS surveys. But we need your responses!

The Colony Loss Survey has evolved from our winter loss survey conducted 11 years ago. Now we monitor summer losses as well. The two surveys (Loss and Management) are aimed at looking for relationships between colony losses and colony management (including disease treatment strategies, supplemental feeding, etc.) and/or other factors that may influence colony health (such as colony location, honey production, and forage type). Your participation in this research is voluntary and your responses will be kept confidential. In any publication or presentation resulting from this research, no personally identifiable information will be disclosed.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact us at support@beeinformed.org.  Once again thank you for your participation.


Dennis vanEngelsdorp, President
Bee Informed Partnership, Inc.
University of Maryland


Karen Rennich, Executive Director
Bee Informed Partnership, Inc.
University of Maryland

One Week Left to Take the 2016-2017 Colony Loss and Management Survey!

Written By: The Bee Informed Team    Posted: April 24, 2017

ONLY 7 DAYS LEFT to take the 2016-2017 Colony Loss and Management Survey!

Take the Survey Today!

April 30th (this Sunday) is your last chance to participate in the 2016 – 2017 National Colony Loss and National Management Survey.

Taxes are finished so there is no excuse! Please pull up a chair, pour your favorite beverage and join us in sharing your data, your management strategy, your losses and accomplishments. There is NO TIME to wait. We need your help and YOU can make a difference.

The results that are received from this survey provide valuable information that help us obtain a clear picture of honey bee health throughout the country.

Have we said that we are grateful? We are! If you don’t want to do it for us, please do it for this lovely queen shown here. She needs your help too.

To help us continue this effort, click the link below to take the National Colony Loss and Management Survey for the 2016-2017 season:

Take the Survey Now!

If you would like to take a look at the 2016 – 2017 survey questions before beginning, or to download the survey so that you can take some notes before taking the survey online, click on the link below:

2016 – 2017 National Colony Loss and Management Survey Preview

This copy of the survey is meant to serve as an aid to the questions that will are being asked on the survey.  It is not meant to be mailed in as a hard copy submission.

We would like to thank everyone who has participated in this survey in the past and hope that you will be able to take some time out of your busy days to fill out the survey this year. You are what makes the survey successful and by taking the time to complete it, you are doing your part in contributing to the national research efforts to increase honey bee survivorship!

(The Bee Informed Partnership is a collaboration of efforts across the country from some of the leading research labs and universities in agriculture and science to better understand honey bee declines in the United States. Supported by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, we’re working with beekeepers to better understand how we can keep healthier bees. The key to our success is the true partnership we maintain across a wide range of disciplines including traditional honey bee science, economics, statistics, and medical research that makes all these tools available to this important research. And just as important as the tools are the people. We not only have the leading researchers in the honey bee industry, we also have advisory boards from the commercial beekeeping industries, almond and other commercial growers, as well as naturalists and conservationists from across the country.)

Take the Survey, more info, view comments: https://beeinformed.org/2017/04/24/one-week-left-to-take-the-2016-2017-colony-loss-and-management-survey/

2016-2017 Colony Loss and Management Survey is Live: Take the Survey Today!

 

2016-2017 Colony Loss and Management Survey is Live!

Take the Survey Today!

April 1st is just around the corner and for beekeepers, that means spring and the opening of the 2016 – 2017 National Colony Loss and National Management Survey. The results that are received from this survey provide valuable information that help us obtain a clear picture of honey bee health throughout the country.

The Loss survey began in 2006 and we added the National Management survey in 2010 and from both of those, we have been able to gain actionable information on which management practices work and which ones do not. By correlating management practices with colony losses between the two surveys we have been able to refine a model to develop the best management practices in beekeeping. Click Here to view our new data management explorer tool and read our our blog on how to use the app to view the loss/management correlations.

Without the aid of the many thousands of beekeepers who participate in this survey we would never be able to obtain the results that we have received in the past and hope to continue to receive in the future.

To help us continue this effort, click the link below to take the National Colony Loss and Management Survey for the 2016-2017 season:

Take the Survey Now!

If you would like to take a look at the 2016 – 2017 survey questions before beginning, or to download the survey so that you can take some notes before taking the survey online, click on the link below:

2016 – 2017 National Colony Loss and Management Survey Preview

This copy of the survey is meant to serve as an aid to the questions that will are being asked on the survey.  It is not meant to be mailed in as a hard copy submission.

We would like to thank everyone who has participated in this survey in the past and hope that you will be able to take some time out of your busy days to fill out the survey this year. You are what makes the survey successful and by taking the time to complete it, you are doing your part in contributing to the national research efforts to increase honey bee survivorship!

Written By: The Bee Informed Team has written 42 post in this blog.

The Bee Informed Partnership is a collaboration of efforts across the country from some of the leading research labs and universities in agriculture and science to better understand honey bee declines in the United States. Supported by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, we’re working with beekeepers to better understand how we can keep healthier bees. The key to our success is the true partnership we maintain across a wide range of disciplines including traditional honey bee science, economics, statistics, and medical research that makes all these tools available to this important research. And just as important as the tools are the people. We not only have the leading researchers in the honey bee industry, we also have advisory boards from the commercial beekeeping industries, almond and other commercial growers, as well as naturalists and conservationists from across the country.

https://beeinformed.org/2017/03/30/2016-2017-colony-loss-and-management-survey-is-live-take-the-survey-today/

2016 Sentinel Apiary Program Results

Bee Informed Partnership    By Kelly Kulhanek    March 13 2017

With the help of beekeepers all over the country, we have successfully completed our second year of the Sentinel Apiary Program! In 2016, 28 beekeepers from 16 states worked with us. Together we:


Sampled and monitored the health of 289 colonies

Processed 1,229 samples for Varroa and Nosema

Shared data from 32 hive scales

Collaborated with our beekeeping neighbors to improve colony health in our regions

After compiling over six months of Varroa, Nosema, and colony inspection data, we are excited to share our results (see the complete 2016 Summary Report Here). Below you can compare our Sentinel Apiary Participant’s average monthly Varroa levels to the APHIS National Honey Bee Survey’s national monthly average. We were thrilled to see that Sentinel Participants had significantly lower mites/100 bees in the key winter prep months of September and October; however, more work needs to be done as those samples were still over threshold.

 

Last year we also developed a new public Sentinel Apiary Varroaheat map. This is the first consolidation of Varroanumbers at the county level! Thanks to Sentinel Apiary Participants, we are now able to keep careful watch over our region, state, and some counties to be prepared for any spikes in Varroa infestations. The more counties we have participate, the more useful this map will be for beekeepers across the nation!

Sentinel Apiaries also include hive scale data collection, and last year we grew to have more scales on the BIP scale map than ever before. Hive scale data can help alert beekeepers when to add or remove supers, when to feed, or if a colony has potentially swarmed. Data collected by Sentinel Apiaries and shared on our public map can thus help not only Sentinel Participants, but all beekeepers in the surrounding region.

Our live Hive Scale Map can be viewed HERE.

Overview of the Sentinel Apiary Program

Sentinel Apiaries monitor honey bee health in real-time using hive scales to track colony weight gain or loss, and monthly disease assessments of Varroa and Nosema loads. The scale data is automatically transmitted to our servers and the patterns of nectar flow mapped.

The goal is to collect enough information so that Sentinel Apiaries become an early warning system to alert beekeepers of potential problems due to increases in Varroa/Nosema or changes in colony weight. One Sentinel Apiary in a county can thus empower all beekeepers in that area to take early action to protect their colonies.

This is a great opportunity for individual beekeepers and beekeeping organizations alike! As an individual you will gather in-depth knowledge about the health or your colonies and apiary. As an organization, sampling Sentinel Hives offers a unique opportunity to train new beekeepers and to have interactive field days. You will be able to make more informed management decisions, as well as share information with beekeepers in your region to encourage collaborative colony monitoring and management.

This year, we are pleased to offer two new cooperating hive scale vendors, making the Program more affordable than ever! Plus, on a limited first-come first-serve basis, we are able to offer $300 subsidy towards the purchase of a scale for the Program.

Participate in the Sentinel Apiary Project

We are now accepting applications for the 2017 Sentinel Apiary Program. With data collected from Disease Load Monitoring and a Hive Scale, you will gain information you need to take your beekeeping to the next level.

If you are a beekeeping association or an individual beekeeper who is interested in joining our Sentinel Apiary Program, please click the “Sign Up” button below and we will contact you to provide more details about the Sentinel Hives.

https://beeinformed.org/2017/03/13/2016-sentinel-apiary-program-results/