Nation's Beekeepers Lost 44 Percent of Bees in 2015-16

Bee Informed Partnershop Blog   May 10, 2016

Summer losses rival winter losses for the second year running

Beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2015 to April 2016, according to the latest preliminary results of an annual nationwide survey. Rates of both winter loss and summer loss—and consequently, total annual losses—worsened compared with last year. This marks the second consecutive survey year that summer loss rates rivaled winter loss rates.

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

“We’re now in the second year of high rates of summer loss, which is cause for serious concern,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. “Some winter losses are normal and expected. But the fact that beekeepers are losing bees in the summer, when bees should be at their healthiest, is quite alarming.”

Beekeepers who responded to the survey lost a total of 44.1 percent of their colonies over the course of the year. This marks an increase of 3.5 percent over the previous study year (2014-15), when loss rates were found to be 40.6 percent. Winter loss rates increased from 22.3 percent in the previous winter to 28.1 percent this past winter, while summer loss rates increased from 25.3 percent to 28.1 percent.

Figure 1: Summary of the total overwinter colony losses (October 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States across nine annual national surveys. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each year of the survey.

Figure 1: Summary of the total overwinter colony losses (October 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States across nine annual national surveys. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each year of the survey.

The researchers note that many factors are contributing to colony losses. A clear culprit is the varroa mite, a lethal parasite that can easily spread between colonies. Pesticides and malnutrition caused by changing land use patterns are also likely taking a toll, especially among commercial beekeepers.

A recent study, published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016, provided the first multi-year assessment of honey bee parasites and disease in both commercial and backyard beekeeping operations. Among other findings (summarized in a recent University of Maryland press release), that study found that the varroa mite is far more abundant than previous estimates indicate and is closely linked to several damaging viruses. Varroa is a particularly challenging problem among backyard beekeepers (defined as those who manage fewer than 50 colonies).

“Many backyard beekeepers don’t have any varroa control strategies in place. We think this results in colonies collapsing and spreading mites to neighboring colonies that are otherwise well-managed for mites,” said Nathalie Steinhauer, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Entomology who leads the data collection efforts for the annual survey. “We are seeing more evidence to suggest that good beekeepers who take the right steps to control mites are losing colonies in this way, through no fault of their own.”

This is the tenth year of the winter loss survey, and the sixth year to include summer and annual losses in addition to winter loss data. More than 5,700 beekeepers from 48 states responded to this year’s survey. All told, these beekeepers are responsible for about 15 percent of the nation’s estimated 2.66 million managed 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. Estimates of the total economic value of honey bee pollination services range between $10 billion and $15 billion annually.

“The high rate of loss over the entire year means that beekeepers are working overtime to constantly replace their losses,” said Jeffery Pettis, a senior entomologist at the USDA and a co-coordinator of the survey. “These losses cost the beekeeper time and money. More importantly, the industry needs these bees to meet the growing demand for pollination services. We urgently need solutions to slow the rate of both winter and summer colony losses.”

###

This survey was conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, which receives a majority of its funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (Award No. 2011-67007-20017). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA.

A summary of the 2015-2016 survey results is available upon request prior to May 10, 2016; thereafter the results will be added to previous years’ results publicly available on the Bee Informed Partnership’s website.

Media Relations Contact: Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267, mewright@umd.edu
University of Maryland
College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
2300 Symons Hall
College Park, MD 20742
www.cmns.umd.edu
@UMDscience

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college’s 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.

Saving the Mighty Honey Bee

University of Maryland    November 15, 2015

Massive honey bee die-offs threaten our food production, but entomology Assistant Professor Dennis vanEngelsdorp is leading a group of UMD and national researchers to find a way to save these important pollinators.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTBO2d-vmM4

Report Says Fewer Bees Perished Over the Winter, but the Reason is a Mystery

The New York Times   By John Schwartz   May 15, 2014

Honeybees could be on their way back, according to a new federal report.

The collapse of bee populations around the country in recent years has led to warnings of a crisis in foods grown with the help of pollination. Over the past eight years, beekeepers have reported winter losses of nearly 30 percent of their bees on average.

The new survey, published on Thursday, found that the loss of managed honeybee colonies from all causes dropped to 23.2 percent nationwide over the winter that just ended, down from 30.5 percent the year before. Losses reported by some individual beekeepers were even higher. Colony losses reached a peak of 36 percent in 2007 to 2008.

The survey of thousands of beekeepers was conducted by the Department of Agriculture and the Bee Informed Partnership, an organization that studies apian health and management.

“It’s better than some of the years we’ve suffered,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a director of the partnership and an entomologist at the University of Maryland. Still, he noted, a 23 percent loss “is not a good number.” He continued, “We’ve gone from horrible to bad.”

He said there was no way to say at this point why the bees did better this year...

Read more...  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/16/us/honeybees-report.html

Winter Losses Still Too High

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Kim Flottum   May 15, 2014

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014—A yearly survey of beekeepers, released today, shows fewer colony losses occurred in the United States over the winter of 2013-2014 than in recent years, but beekeepers say losses remain higher than the level that they consider to be sustainable. According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide. That number is above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability, but is a marked improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012-2013, and over the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent.

“Pollinators, such as bees, birds and other insects are essential partners for farmers and ranchers and help produce much of our food supply. Healthy pollinator populations are critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “While we’re glad to see improvement this year, losses are still too high and there is still much more work to be done to stabilize bee populations.”

“Yearly fluctuations in the rate of losses like these only demonstrate how complicated the whole issue of honey bee heath has become, with factors such as viruses and other pathogens, parasites like varroa mites, problems of nutrition from lack of diversity in pollen sources, and even sublethal effects of pesticides combining to weaken and kill bee colonies,” said Jeff Pettis, co-author of the survey and research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

There is no way to tell why the bees did better this year, according to both Pettis and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland assistant professor who is the leader of the survey and director of the Bee Informed Partnership. Although the survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Bee Informed Partnership shows improvement, losses remain above the level that beekeepers consider to be economically sustainable. This year, almost two-thirds of the beekeepers responding reported losses greater than the 18.9 percent threshold.

More than three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators, such as bees, to reproduce, meaning pollinators help produce one out of every three bites of food Americans eat. The winter losses survey covers the period from October 2013 through April 2014. About 7,200 beekeepers responded to the voluntary survey.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also announced today that it will hold a summit this Fall aimed at addressing the nutrition and forage needs of pollinators. The summit will take place in Washington D.C. on October 20-21 and will be attended by a consortium of public, private, and non-governmental organizations. Attendees will discuss the most recent research related to pollinator loss and work to identify solutions.

Also today, USDA launched the People’s Garden Apiary bee cam at the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. as an additional effort to increase public awareness about the reduction of bee populations and to inform Americans about actions they can take to support the recovery of pollinator populations. The USDA “Bee Watch” website (www.USDA.gov/Beewatch) will broadcast honey bee hive activity live over the Internet 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Created in 2010, the People’s Garden Apiary is home to two beehives. The bees are Italian queens, the most common bee stock and the same used in many honey bee colonies throughout the United States.

In March of 2014, Secretary Vilsack created a Pollinator Working Group, under the leadership of Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, to better coordinate efforts, leverage resources, and increase focus on pollinator issues across USDA agencies. USDA personnel from ten Department agencies (ARS), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Farm Services Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Economic Research Service (ERS), Forest Service (FS), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Risk Management Agency (RMA) and Rural Development (RD) meet regularly to coordinate and evaluate efforts as USDA strives toward improving pollinator health and ensuring our pollinators continuing contributions to our nation’s environment and food security.

Earlier this year, USDA made $3 million available to help agriculture producers in five states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) provide floral forage habitats to benefit pollinating species on working lands. The Honey Bee Pollinator Effort is intended to encourage farmers and ranchers to grow alfalfa, clover and other flowering habitat for bees and other pollinators.

Recognizing the importance of pollinators on the health of the rural economy and the Nation’s food supply, the President’s FY2015 Budget proposes the creation of 3 new Innovation Institutes including one on Pollination and Pollinator Health (PPH). The budget requests up to $5 million a year over five years to be allocated for research to combat pollinator decline and colony collapse disorder. If established, the PPH will support the activities already identified in the joint USDA-Environmental Protection Agency action plan and build on current pollinator research and extension projects.

A complete analysis of the bee survey data will be published later this year. The summary of the analysis is at http://beeinformed.org/results-categories/winter-loss-2013-2014/.

Read at:  http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2014.05.15.12.52.archive.html

This message brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ: Kim Flottom,  Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Twitter.FacebookBee Culture’s Blog.

Low Doses of Controversial Insecticide May Harm Friendly Insects

Chemical & Engineering News    By Puneet Kollipara   3/14/14 

A neonicotinoid compound affects fruit flies’ ability to have offspring even at low doses.

For at least one member of a controversial class of insecticides, low doses may cause as much harm to nontarget insects as high doses do, according to a new study. The number of offspring that fruit flies produce drops significantly when the insects are chronically exposed to nanomolar concentrations of imidacloprid, a member of the neonicotinoid insecticide group (Environ. Sci. Technol.2014, DOI: 10.1021/es405331c).

In Europe, policymakers have moved to temporarily ban some of the neonicotinoids based in part on previous studies that showed that honeybees exposed to low doses of the compounds developed significant behavioral changes. The new study builds on these low-dose findings and suggests regulators need to rethink how they assess the safety of chemicals applied in the environment, says Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, who wasn’t involved in the work.

The main way scientists determine a chemical’s toxicity is to...

Read more...

http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/web/2014/03/Low-Doses-Controversial-Insecticide-Harm.html

Genetic Diversity Key to Survival of Honey Bee Colonies

ScienceDaily  6/19/13

June 17, 2013 — When it comes to honey bees, more mates is better. A new study from North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that genetic diversity is key to survival in honey bee colonies -- a colony is less likely to survive if its queen has had a limited number of mates.

"We wanted to determine whether a colony's genetic diversity has an impact on its survival, and what that impact may be," says Dr. David Tarpy, an associate professor of entomology at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper describing the study. "We knew genetic diversity affected survival under controlled conditions, but wanted to see if it held true in the real world. And, if so, how much diversity is needed to significantly improve a colony's odds of surviving."

Tarpy took genetic samples from 80 commercial colonies of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in the eastern United States to assess each colony's genetic diversity, which reflects the number of males a colony's queen has mated with. The more mates a queen has had, the higher the genetic diversity in the colony. The researchers then tracked the health of the colonies on an almost monthly basis over the course of 10 months -- which is a full working "season" for commercial bee colonies.

The researchers found that colonies where the queen had mated at least seven times were 2.86 times more likely to survive the 10-month working season. Specifically, 48 percent of colonies with queens who had mated at least seven times were still alive at the end of the season. Only 17 percent of the less genetically diverse colonies survived. "48 percent survival is still an alarmingly low survival rate, but it's far better than 17 percent," Tarpy says.

"This study confirms that genetic diversity is enormously important in honey bee populations," Tarpy says. "And it also offers some guidance to beekeepers about breeding strategies that will help their colonies survive."

The paper, "Genetic diversity affects colony survivorship in commercial honey bee colonies," was published online this month in the journal Naturwissenschaften. Co-authors of the study are Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp of the University of Maryland and Dr. Jeffery Pettis of USDA. The work was supported by the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the National Honey Board.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130617111341.htm

Journal Reference:David R. Tarpy, Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Jeffrey S. Pettis.Genetic diversity affects colony survivorship in commercial honey bee coloniesNaturwissenschaften, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s00114-013-1065-y