Commercial and sideline beekeepers − the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) Survey Team has worked hard to make our annual survey more relevant for you! We met with a group of commercial beekeepers to get input, and were given two major requests:
First, to move away from an arbitrary April 1st survey start date.
Second, to reduce the length of the survey.
We then went to work! We addressed both of these requests, and also changed the focus of some questions to better reflect the concerns of the industry.
Since its beginning in 2006-07, the BIP survey has used April 1st as the cutoff between winter and summer – early enough for people in the south, but late enough for people in the north to have already assessed their winter survival. But we know that a lot of you start to make splits much earlier than April 1st.
Take the case of someone wintering their bees on the Gulf Coast. March might be your major splitting month – in which case you might have made 60% of your splits by April 1st. We now consider the start of the beekeeping year to be the start of splitting for any large-scale beekeeper who makes splits before April 1st. You will probably find it more sensible to report the number of colonies you had right before splitting, since this action marks the end of one beekeeping season and the beginning of the next. We think this change will give us numbers that are more relevant to the annual cycle of management.
To make the survey more targeted (and quicker to fill out), we now focus on a single area of beekeeping management each year. The area of focus this year is “Queens and New Colonies”. After “Varroa and associated viruses”, the second most common reason beekeepers cite for winter loss is “Queen issues”; in summer it is number one! Focusing on “Queens and New Colonies” lets us dig into the patterns of queen issues a little more – and ask for details like the timing of splits. We intend to rotate through other important areas of management in future years. We think this will improve your experience as a survey respondent since you are able to focus on one particular aspect of your beekeeping while answering the survey, while focusing our analysis on a key issue.
In the past few years, we’ve gotten about 50 completed surveys each year from commercial beekeepers (those who keep over 500 colonies), but we’re hoping to get over 100 this year! We would also really like to hit 200 sideline beekeepers (those who keep 51-500 colonies)! Please share, because with your help we can make that happen!
More data from commercial and sideline beekeepers will allow us to better inform researchers about your beekeeping practices, and in turn researchers can test management options that are more compatible with your operations.