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).


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.

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.


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/