Fact Sheet: Survey of Bee Losses During Winter of 2012/2013
By Kim Kaplan
Total losses of managed honey bee colonies nationwide were 31.1 percent from all causes for the 2012/2013 winter, according to preliminary results of the annual survey (published May 2013) conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership and the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). When the full paper was published in February 2014, total winter losses of U.S. managed colonies were refined to 30.6 percent for the 2012/2013.
- Bee losses for the 2011/2012 winter were 22 percent. This past winter’s losses are slightly higher than the previous 6-year average loss of 30.5 percent.
- The survey, which covered from October 2012 through April 2013, was conducted by University of Maryland research scientist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who is also director of the Bee Informed Partnership, in collaboration with Jeff Pettis, research leader of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and others. More information about the Bee Informed Partnership is available online at http://beeinformed.org.
- One difference noted this winter was that there were more colonies that dwindled away, rather than suffering from the onset of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), where colony populations are lost suddenly.
- One major difference in this survey is that beekeepers who later took honey bees to California to pollinate almonds reported higher losses than beekeepers who did not take their bees to pollinate almonds. Nearly 20 percent of the beekeepers who pollinated almonds lost 50 percent or more of their colonies, according to vanEngelsdorp.
- More than two-thirds of responding beekeepers (70 percent) reported losses greater than 14 percent, the level of loss that beekeepers stated as allowing them to remain economically viable as a business.
- Beekeepers did not report CCD as a major cause of colony loss this past winter, which follows the previous year’s trend.
- More than 6,000 U.S. beekeepers responded to the survey. Those beekeepers manage about 600,000 colonies, which represent nearly 22 percent of the country’s estimated 2.62 million colonies.
- The abstract for the preliminary result of the survey can be found at http://beeinformed.org/2013/05/winter-loss-survey-2012-2013. The complete analysis of the survey data can be found at http://www.ibra.org.uk/articles/US-honey-bee-colony-mortality-2012-13.
- Funding for the survey came from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
- More information about honey bee health and CCD can be found at www.ars.usda.gov/ccd.