International Bee Research Association
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US honey bee colony losses stabilise
In 2006, the world’s headlines reported catastrophic losses of honey bee colonies in the USA, and a new term “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD) was coined to describe what seemed to be a new phenomenon. Initial efforts to determine whether these losses were different to anything seen previously were hampered by a lack of information about the extent of colony losses. Since then detailed surveys have taken place. A paper by fourteen scientists on behalf of the Bee Informed Partnership describing the most recent US survey is published today in the Journal of Apicultural Research.
This paper includes data from 5,500 amateur and commercial beekeepers who operate some 14% of the two and a half million honey bee colonies in the US. They were asked to indicate losses of colonies over the 2011/12 winter. They reported total losses of 22.5%, substantially lower than the 30% or greater losses reported over the previous five winters. Respondents still considered these losses as unacceptable, but some 45.1% of respondents reported no losses. There was considerable regional variation in losses, but no clear picture emerged. The size of
Although the survey was not primarily aimed at explaining these losses, beekeepers were invited to state the reasons that they believed caused their losses. By far the most commonly self-reported reasons for losses were poor condition of colonies going into winter, failure of queen bees and starvation. Much smaller numbers of respondents suggested CCD or pesticides as the cause of colony losses. The authors draw attention to the mild conditions experienced throughout the US during the 2011-12 winter, the fourth warmest since records began. Interestingly, in view of media suggestions that the honey bee could become “extinct”, they also point out that despite recurring heavy losses, there are currently more honey bee colonies in the US than there were five years ago. This illustrates the resilience of the beekeeping industry in splitting colonies to produce more to make up losses.
IBRA Scientific Director and JAR Senior Editor Norman Carreck says: “These are the most up to date results available, and indicate that perhaps there is cause for some relief, but not for complacency. Bee scientists across the world agree that the problem of honey bee colony losses is complex, that there is unlikely to be a single cause, and that many factors are involved. The results support this view, and suggest that factors that have always been with us, such as the weather, remain crucially important to beekeepers”.
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Norman Carreck, Science Director, IBRA +44 (0)791 8670169 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES FOR EDITORS:-
1. The article “A national survey of managed honey bee 2011-12 winter colony losses in the United States: results from the Bee Informed Partnership” is available at:-
2. The Bee Informed Partnership is an extension project that endeavours to decrease the number of managed honey bee colonies that die over the winter. The Project Director is Dennis VanEnglesdorp of the University of Maryland, USA. Website:-
3. The International Bee Research Association (“IBRA”) is the world’s longest established apicultural research publishers and promotes the value of bees by providing information on bee science and beekeeping worldwide.
4. IBRA publishes the
5. IBRA publishes and sells books on bee science, bee conservation and beekeeping and also provides bee information services. IBRA is a Registered Charity, and its Council of trustees boasts some of the world’s leading bee scientists.
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