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Honey bee colonies
Overwintering losses of managed honey bees were up 10 percent last year to over 30 percent.

Annual honey bee colony losses remain above 40 percent

Honey Bee Health Coalition reports annual colony losses were up 7 percent from previous year. Overwinter losses climb 10 percent.

National honey bee losses continue to track higher than the self-reported comfort level of beekeepers, according to a report from the Honey Bee Health Coalition.

Total annual losses of 40 percent of managed honey bee colonies were reported when tracking colonies between April 1, 2017 and March 31 of this year, nearly double the industry-accepted losses as indicated in beekeeper surveys. “Acceptable” losses by beekeepers grew from 18.7 percent last year to 20.6 percent this year.

Over wintering losses – those that happened between October and April – were estimated at just under 31 percent of the managed colonies, based on preliminary results of a report to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Looking back over the past decade, total annual losses were highest in 2012/13 at about 45 percent. Winter losses that year were nearly identical to last winter’s figures.

Back yard beekeepers lost more colonies during the winter months (46.3 percent) than did commercial beekeepers (26.4 percent).

Chris Hiatt, vice president of the American Honey Producers Association, said beekeepers last year were challenged by Gulf Coast hurricanes, drought in the Midwest and wildfire in the West.

“The Honey Bee Health Coalition and its partners have made important progress improving honey bee health, but these colony-loss numbers and environmental challenges.,” said Hiatt.

Since its inception in 2014, the Honey Bee Health Coalition has worked to implement solutions to achieve healthy bee populations while supporting native and managed pollinators in agricultural systems. To do this the coalition is coordinating a $1.1 million effort to explore potential new compounds to help control Varroa mites.

Other efforts of the coalition include:

  • Developing best management practices for soybean growers;
  • Educating certified crop advisors on how to help farmers support pollinators and reduce pesticide exposure; and,
  • Support an array of teams to develop innovative strategies to enhance bee nutrition.

The Honey Bee Health Coalition brings together beekeepers, growers, researchers, government agencies, agribusiness, conservation groups, manufacturers and brands, and other key partners to improve the health of honey bees and other pollinators.

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