USDA Conducts Nationwide Honeybee Survey

 Turlock Journal   By Alysson Aredas    December 31, 2015

The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service will embark on its second month gathering information on honey bee colonies across the nation in hopes of promoting honey bee health and reducing colony losses during winter to no more than 15 percent within 10 years.

For these surveys, NASS will reach out to beekeepers and farmers to determine the number and health of honey bee colonies, honey production and stocks, and the cost to farmers of pollination services. Survey results will be used to develop baseline data and additional goal metrics for winter, summer and total annual colony loss.

“These new data will be crucial to measuring and understanding the current state of the pollinator industry in the United States,” said NASS Administrator Joseph Reilly. “Honey beekeepers are encouraged to participate in the surveys so that policy makers have a robust data source to make informed decisions and protect our struggling pollinators.”

Pollinators such as honey bees are critical to the nation’s economy, food security and environmental health. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year, and helps to provide ample fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

Despite their importance, honey bees are struggling. Last year, the ninth annual national survey of honey bee losses revealed that approximately 40 percent of honey bee colonies died over a 12-month period from April 2014 to April 2015. For beekeepers, this decline threatened the viability of their livelihoods and the essential pollination services their bees provide to agriculture.

A significant factor in this drastic reduction is Colony Collapse Disorder, which the USDA Agricultural Research Services defined as a “dead colony with no adult bees or dead bee bodies, but with a live queen and usually honey and immature bees still present.” As of yet, no scientific cause for CCD has been proven.

Beekeepers will receive two surveys from NASS, one of which is the existing Bee and Honey Inquiry, which surveys beekeepers about honey production, price, and stocks, but not colony health. The second survey will be used by NASS to publish state-level estimates on key topics, including number of colonies, colonies lost, colonies added, and colonies affected by certain stressors. The results of the surveys are slated for release in March and May, respectively.

Additionally, NASS will survey farmers about crops pollinated, number of colonies needed for pollination, and the cost for those colonies. NASS plans to publish those survey results in December 2016.

These surveys and corresponding data are part of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, which is prepared by the Pollinator Health Task Force and co-chaired by USDA. The strategy is a comprehensive plan to work across the Federal government and with partners to address the research, education and management challenges that must be overcome to sustain healthy pollinator populations. One of the three overarching goals of the National Strategy is to reduce honey bee colony loss and to develop additional baseline data using the NASS data.


Providing Help for Hurting Pollinators By Rhonda Brooks, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor July 26, 2014

Complex problems are rarely, if ever, solved by simple answers. The alarming loss of honey- bees in North America during the past few years is no exception.

One encouraging sign, however, is that stakeholders, including farmers, beekeepers and the crop protection industry, are addressing the problem and looking for ways to solve it. 

"We want everyone to have some skin in the game," says Laurie Adams, executive director of the Pollinator Partnership, an organization intent on finding ways to address the loss of pollinators and encouraging all stakeholders to participate in the process.  

In early 2013, the USDA–Natural Resources Conservation Service stated it will provide close to $3 million in technical and financial assistance for interested farmers and ranchers to improve the health of bees. The focused investment to improve pollinator health will be targeted in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan and Wisconsin. 

Honeybee pollination supports an estimated $15 billion worth of agricultural production or as much as one-third of all food production, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables such as almonds, blueberries and cantaloupe. 

What’s at stake. Bee die-offs in North America have occurred at an alarming rate in recent years. Preliminary results from the 2013-14 survey by the Bee Informed Partnership, funded by USDA, show losses of managed honeybee colonies have averaged 30.5% for the past eight years.  

A report issued by USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this spring cited a complex list of contributing factors: habitat loss, poor diet, declining genetic diversity, diseases, parasites and pesticide exposure.  

"The neonicotinoids are the main target for beekeepers and environmental groups," says Don Parker, integrated pest management manager for the National Cotton Council. "They’re going after these materials hard."  

bee 1Some scientists contend that contaminated dust from corn seed and other crops treated with neonicotinoid-based insecticides, talc or graphite is a contributing factor in die-offs. The theory claims bees are exposed to the dust when they land on dandelions and other flowering plants, and then they carry the dust back to the colony. 

Parker says EPA has found no evidence of "imminent hazard" to honeybees or other pollinators. 

Canadian farmers were mandated to use Bayer CropScience’s new Fluency Agent this past spring when planting neonicotinoid-treated seed. Use of the product was not required in the U.S.

For the past eight years, overwinter colony loss has averaged 30% from Oct. 1 to April 1. 

The product reduces the amount of insecticide active ingredient released in seed dust during planting therefore reducing risk of exposure to non-target insects, such as bees and other pollinators says Kerry Grossweiler, manager of equipment and coatings, SeedGrowth, Bayer CropScience.

honeybees with comb

Using best management practices, such as cleaning treatment residues off equipment away from fields, using the recommended rate of lubricants and growing strips of native perennial plants around fields to improve habitat, can help preserve pollinators.  
FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Seed Guide 2014

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...


Beekeepers and Disaster Assistance

(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.)

 Alan Harman        4/8/14

Beekeepers and other agricultural producers can begin signing up for federal disaster assistance programs – some backdated to 2011 – beginning Tuesday, April 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the quick implementation of the programs, re-established and strengthened by the 2014 Farm Bill, has been a top priority for USDA.

“These programs will provide long-awaited disaster relief for many livestock producers who have endured significant financial hardship from weather-related disasters while the programs were expired and awaiting Congressional action,” Vilsack says.

Enrollment begins April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP).

ELAP assistance is provided for losses not covered by the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). It was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill as a permanent program and provides retroactive authority to cover losses that occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011.

TAP gives financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

A total $125,000 annual limitation applies for payments under the LIP, LFP and the ELAP programs.

ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish for losses due to disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, not covered by LFP and LIP.

For beekeepers, it covers assistance for honeybee feed, colony and hive losses.

Total payments are capped at $20 million in a fiscal year.

The Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program and the Average Crop Revenue Election program are repealed and replaced by two new programs – Price Loss Coverage and Agricultural Risk Coverage.

The Marketing Assistance Loan program and sugar loans continue mostly unchanged.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), USDA’s largest conservation program, continues through 2018 with an annually decreasing enrolled acreage cap. The contract portion of the Grassland Reserve Program enrollment has been merged with CRP. The Biomass Crop Assistance Program is extended and funded at $25 million a year.

The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program has been expanded to include protection at higher coverage levels, similar to buy-up provisions offered under the federal crop insurance program.

The Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), which covered losses through Sept. 30, 2011, is not reauthorized.

The USDA says the changes in the act give the Farm Service Agency (FSA) greater flexibility in determining eligibility including expanded definitions of eligible entities, years of experience for farm ownership loans, and allowing youth loan applicants from urban areas to access loans.

FSA’s popular microloan and down payment loan programs, important to furthering the administration’s objective of assisting beginning farmers, have been improved by raising loan limits and emphasizing beginning and socially disadvantaged producers.

The act also provides greater enhancements for lenders to participate in the guaranteed conservation loan program and eliminates term limits for the guaranteed operating program, allowing farmers and ranchers the opportunity for continued credit in cases where financial setbacks may have prevented them from obtain­ing commercial credit.

Adjusted gross income (AGI) provisions have been simplified and modified. Producers whose average AGI exceeds $900,000 are not eligible to receive payments or benefits from most programs administered by FSA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Previous AGI provisions distinguished between farm and non-farm AGI.

The total amount of payments received, directly and indirectly, by a person or legal entity (except joint ventures or general partnerships) for Price Loss Coverage, Agricultural Risk Coverage, marketing loan gains, and loan deficiency payments, may not exceed $125,000 a crop year.

Enrollment will begin April 15 at all local FSA offices and additional details on the types of information required for an ELAP application will be provided as part of the sign-up.

The USDA says to expedite applications, all producers who experienced losses are encouraged to collect records documenting these losses in preparation for the enrollment in these disaster assistance programs. Information on the types of records necessary can be provided by local FSA county offices. Producers also are encouraged to contact their county office ahead of time to schedule an appointment.