A national survey of managed honey bee 2012-2013 annual colony losses in the USA: results from the Bee Informed Partnership

publication date: Feb 26, 2014
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Journal of Apicultural Research
Vol. 53 (1) pp. 1-18
DOI
10.3896/IBRA.1.53.1.01
Date
February 2014
Article Title

A national survey of managed honey bee 2012-2013 annual colony losses in the USA: results from the Bee Informed Partnership

Author(s)

Nathalie A Steinhauer, Karen Rennich, Michael E Wilson, Dewey M Caron, Eugene J Lengerich, Jeff S Pettis, Robyn Rose, John A Skinner, David R Tarpy, James T Wilkes and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, for the Bee Informed Partnership

Abstract

For the past six years in which overwintering mortality of honey bee colonies has been surveyed in the USA, estimates of colony loss have fluctuated around one-third of the national population. Here we report on the losses for the 2012-2013 seasons. We collected data from 6,482 US beekeepers (6,114 backyard, 233 sideline, and 135 commercial beekeepers) to document overwintering mortality rates of honey bee colonies for the USA. Responding beekeepers reported a total 30.6% (95% CI: 30.16-31.13%) loss of US colonies over the winter, with each beekeeper losing on average 44.8% (95% CI: 43.88-45.66%) of their colonies. Total winter losses varied across states (range: 11.0% to 54.7%). The self-reported level of acceptable winter loss was 14.6%, and 73.2% of the respondents had mortality rates greater than this level. The leading self-identified causes of overwintering mortality were different according to the operation type; backyard beekeepers generally self-identified “manageable” factors (e.g., starvation, weak colony in the fall), while commercial beekeepers generally identified non-manageable factors (e.g., queen failure, pesticides) as the main cause of losses. For the first time in this series of surveys, we estimated mortality during the summer (total loss = 25.3% (95% CI: 24.80-25.74%), average loss = 12.5% (95% CI: 11.92-13.06%)). The entire 12-months period between April 2012 and April 2013 yielded a total loss of 45.2% (95% CI: 44.58-45.75%), and an average loss of 49.4% (95% CI: 48.46-50.43%). While we found that commercial beekeepers lost fewer colonies than backyard beekeepers in the winter (30.2% (95% CI: 26.54-33.93% vs 45.4% (44.46-46.32%) respectively), the situation was reversed in the summer where commercial beekeepers reported higher average losses than backyard beekeepers (21.6% (95% CI: 18.4-24.79%) vs 12.1% (11.46-12.65%)). These findings demonstrate the ongoing difficulties of US beekeepers in maintaining overall colony heath and survival.

Keywords

Honey bee, overwinter, mortality, colony losses, USA, 2012-13

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