Colony Loss and Management Survey 2017-2018 Frequently Asked Questions

Here we go! As of this morning (4/13/2018), over 2,200 of you have completed the Colony Loss and Management Survey. Thank you for your time and continued support!

So far your response rate is tracking previous years, but we of course want to beat last year’s numbers! This year marks the 12th anniversary of the Colony Loss Survey! So please, spread word about our survey far and wide so that we can beat 6,000 responses!

Each year we receive excellent questions from beekeepers filling out the survey. We take this as a sign that you are really, really keen on helping us better understand your bees. Thanks for your interest!

We think these questions are helpful to all the new-Bee first time respondents, as well as our loyal participants who come back year after year. Therefore, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions that may prove helpful to you when you are filling it out.

If you have any additional questions or (hopefully not) problems, please address them to We are here for you!

We wish you a good bee season and healthy colonies this year,

Your Bee Informed Survey Team


Q: Why should I bother?  What difference will it make?
A: A survey is only as good as its response rate. The more respondents, the more representative our results are. Thanks to your answers, we reach two objectives:

One, we estimate the level of colony loss experienced in the US. We have done this every year since 2007. This is an important legacy. We wished we had started it 20 years ago. Comparing the present to the past allows us to see how the situation progresses (or fails to progress).

Two, we can analyze correlations between management practices and colony loss. The same way human epidemiologists study our best and worst habits, and how it can impact our health. Correlative data has its limits, but it’s a great way of identifying hypotheses that can then be tested experimentally (which we also do in our lab and in the field).

We’re living in a stressful world. We know bees are also facing many threats, and sometimes those threats are outside of a beekeeper’s hands. We’re not ignoring them and we actually hope the data gathered at county level will help us develop models to inform us about those other environmental variables.

Q: I already took a survey 2 months ago. Is this survey different?
A: The Bee Informed Partnership Loss and Management Survey is an annual survey which opens every year between April 1st and April 30th. We know there are more and more groups starting questionnaire-type surveys: we all want to know how the bees are doing! Our survey has been around for the past 11 years and we owe it to the dedicated beekeepers supporting us every year.

Also, BIP is a very active organization with several programs running in parallel, such as the Sentinel Apiary program, and our lab manages the APHIS National survey, each has a short questionnaire that we ask beekeepers to fill out after the sample their colonies. This survey is different, as are the data gathered, target audience, reports and analyses.

Q: The link required a login. I could not access the survey.
A: The survey should open without any login needed, but several people seemed to face the same issue when following the link provided in personalized emails. According to our IT, this might be resulting from some various ad block settings. In any case, if you encounter a problem trying to access the survey, please close your browser and re-try the original link on the main page of our website, or copy the URL below directly into your browser. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Q: I stepped away from my computer and the survey timed out. Can I take it again?
A: Please do! We are filtering the survey to eliminate duplicates so we will only consider your most complete set of answers. If that happened near the end of the survey, please contact us, we might be able to help you.

Q: You’re partial to the data and don’t take all respondents into account.
A: All data points are precious. But indeed, we have to exclude some survey responses, mainly when the numbers don’t add up. However, we have a very strict protocol before invalidating answers (all of which are explained in the peer-reviewed publications every year). If the numbers provided give us more than 100% loss or less than 0%, we have to assume there was a typo somewhere and consider that response invalid. We are trying to be as conservative as possible. Nathalie and Selina, will be hand sifting through the data whispering “Myyy precious” while validating data entries…

Q: I haven’t been able to assess the survivorship of my colonies yet as we are way up North.
A: We acknowledge this is a recurring limitation to surveying in April. Please give us your best estimate as to the number of colonies alive on April 1st. Any colony death that occurred after would theoretically be captured in next year’s survey. The survey will be open until April 30th so even if you cannot assess your colonies until later in April, that is fine and we would be grateful for the data.

Q: I think you are not covering all management issues in your survey / I think your survey is too long.
A: Please tell us what you think of our survey. There is a specific comments box and we are more than happy to get your input. Based on the participants’ recommendations, we try to improve the survey every year (not only for 10 year anniversaries).We don’t want to keep you on the computer for hours. Therefore, we are trying to reach an optimum between getting enough details and making the survey too fatiguing. Most questions also have open entries that should allow beekeepers to cover aspects they feel are missing from the main proposed answers. Nathalie, a post doc in Dennis vanEngelsdorps’ lab (Maryland), and Selina, a PhD student in Geoffrey Williams’ lab (Auburn) will look at every single survey, so leave us a nice message, it really makes our day.

Q: What do I get out of this?
A: Well, thank you for asking. Nathalie recently got her PhD’s thesis (and a pretty cool one too!) and Selina is learning a lot about beekeepers in the USA. She is from Switzerland!

Here are some things YOU get out of participating (apart of proudly representing beekeepers in our country):

I’m mostly interested in…
Helping! Thank you. You are priceless.
Bees If you are a beekeeper, you have been stung for life. The honey bees are a special kind of bees, but they’re not the only bees (or even the only pollinators) out there who are in trouble. We are all trying to do our part in understanding and helping out our pollinators. This survey is part of this effort. It’s probably not the only thing you can do, but it’s probably one of the best things you can do in less than 2 hours.
My bees Beekeepers love to experiment with their own bees to test what works and what doesn’t. With this survey, it is as if you experimented with everyone’s bees. Go to our Data Explorer page to compare treatments and practices. Also look through our other programs to see how we can help you the rest of the year.
Learning You’re our kind of people! Take advantage of our reports to tease out the information that interests you. We will publish our Best Management Practices soon. Also don’t hesitate to print a copy of the Survey Preview PDF and use it to take notes all through the year.
Ranting Go ahead. You’ll feel better. Just remember we’re all on the same team and when we work together, we can accomplish great things.
Money Our Data Explorer might interest you: you can look up and pick the practices and products associated with the best results. It is correlative data, not cause and effect, but at least it would allow you to rethink using products that are seemingly not showing any effect.
Science Your data is contributing to the better understanding of the health of the bees. We also consider honey bees as sentinels of the environment. The question of honey bee health is complex and integrates many factors, some of which are not in the hand of beekeepers. By focusing on management practices, we are choosing to determine what beekeepers can do, given our current circumstances.

Be Involved. Be Included.Bee Informed.