Loss & Management Survey

One of the Bee Informed Partnership’s major focuses is to bring together several disciplines to study ways to keep honey bee colonies healthy. One way we try to help all beekeepers is by conducting annual surveys and sharing the results with the beekeeping community. Our flagship service, The Bee Informed National Loss and Management Survey, reflects this goal.

We release our National Survey annually to study beekeeping management practices using epidemiology. Epidemiology looks for patterns across groups of people who are infected with specific diseases and their common traits. We then compare this data with people who are free of disease to pinpoint the most influential factors in contracting the illness.

We poll thousands of beekeepers every year to find out as much as we can about their beekeeping management practices. We then compare the rates of loss among beekeepers who did or did not use a specific management practice. Now that we have years of data, we are beginning to identify patterns across the best performing beekeepers in each region to start to understand what combinations of management practices work best at keeping colonies alive.

What’s just as interesting is looking at the patterns across beekeepers who aren’t doing well so we can better understand what we should stop doing. We hypothesize that over time, certain practices or products lose their potency and we need to adapt.

 

About the survey

The survey is the longest national effort to monitor honey bee mortality rates in the US. In addition to estimating the level of colony mortality in the country, the survey allows us to identify the most prevalent practices employed by US beekeepers and relate those with risk of colony loss.

BIP’s annual Loss and Management Survey is sent to more than 22,000 beekeepers and serves as a barometer of honey bee health in the US. Each year the results of the survey are published online on our interactive research portal, and shared widely via print media, scientific publications, online media, radio, podcast, and blog interviews.

Estimating the level of colony mortality is important to understand to address the challenges that honey bee colonies face. Through the Loss and Management Survey, we now have a decade of systematically documented loss rates covering the entire US and including all sides of the industry from backyard beekeepers to commercial operations. We estimate that our respondents represent one in every 10 US managed honey bee colonies.

Visualize past state estimates of honey bee colony loss.
Explore more past results of the loss and management survey.

A beekeeper tending their hives

Some History

In the bee world, most beekeepers and bee researchers are familiar with the above graph. The annual survey, conducted every year during the month of April is a continued effort to document the level of colony mortality experienced by beekeepers in the US.
The survey began via the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) in 2006 and became the foundation of a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant put together by a consortium of bee scientists under the umbrella of the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP). When the NIFA grant ended, BIP had become a non-profit organization, dedicated to fulfilling its mission to monitor and better our understanding of honey bee health.

Survey’s Reach

The survey quickly became a barometer of honey bee health in the US. Each year, the results of the survey are published online, and shared in a press release, to make them available to the public as soon as possible. In peer-reviewed scientific publications, the results of the survey have been cited over 1,400 times (source: Mendeley, as of 09.2020), The survey results are also cited widely in the press in print and online media and through radio and podcast interviews. More than 20,000 survey requests go out directly from our distribution lists, and other beekeepers and bee clubs help spread the word through social media.

1 in 10 Colonies Represented in Survey

The survey grew over the years, with the help of many supporting organizations (Project Apis m, AIA, American Beekeeping Federation, Eastern Apiculture Society, Honey Bee Health Coalition, American Bee Journal, Bee Culture, multiple research institutions and many bee clubs) that help by spreading the word and encouraging participation. Though the survey is voluntary, we estimate that on average one in every 10 US honey bee colonies is represented in our respondents.

Survey Says…

Estimating the level of colony mortality each year is an important exercise, designed to fill in the picture of the challenges that burden honey bee colonies. The plight of honey bees gained the public’s attention around 2006 when beekeepers started to report frequent unusual cases of colonies dying out. What was ultimately termed “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD) was an alarm bell that galvanized the interest of the public as well as researchers. However, as with many well-named phenomena, a high degree of misinformation has surrounded CCD ever since. What became apparent in the time of CCD was the lack of baseline information on the normal level of colony mortality.
This is the gap in knowledge that the Loss Survey aimed to fill, by documenting loss rates year after year. We now have over a decade of systematically documented colony mortality rates throughout the whole US and from all sides of the industry.
The survey brought important insights. First it dispelled the notion that honey bee colonies are only dying in the winter. Though winter still remains the principal period in which colonies die, summer losses are not trivial, and in some rare cases, can exceed winter losses.
It also confirmed that professional beekeepers are experiencing lower mortality rates than small scale beekeepers, despite often being criticized for putting their colonies under stress by frequent moves and intense management. Finally it became clear that loss rates are not steadily increasing over time, but follow a cycle of higher and (somewhat) lower losses, though remaining consistently higher than what beekeepers identify as acceptable levels.

Peer reviewed scientific publications associated with the survey:

(1) vanEngelsdorp, D.; Underwood, R.; Caron, D.; Hayes, J. An Estimate of Managed Colony Losses in the Winter of 2006-2007: A Report Commissioned by the Apiary Inspectors of America. Am. Bee J. 2007, 147 (7), 599–603. https://bee-health.extension.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/AnEstimateofManagedColonyLossesintheWinterof2006-2007.pdf
(2) vanEngelsdorp, D.; Hayes, J.; Underwood, R. M.; Pettis, J. A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2007 to Spring 2008. PLoS ONE 2008, 3 (12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004071.
(3) vanEngelsdorp, D.; Hayes, J.; Underwood, R. M.; Pettis, J. S. A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the United States, Fall 2008 to Spring 2009. J. Apic. Res. 2010, 49 (1), 7–14. https://doi.org/10.3896/IBRA.1.49.1.03.
(4) vanEngelsdorp, D.; Hayes, J.; Underwood, R. M.; Caron, D.; Pettis, J. A Survey of Managed Honey Bee Colony Losses in the USA, Fall 2009 to Winter 2010. J. Apic. Res. 2011, 50 (1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.3896/IBRA.1.50.1.01.
(5) vanEngelsdorp, D.; Caron, D.; Hayes, J.; Underwood, R.; Henson, M.; Rennich, K.; Spleen, A.; Andree, M.; Snyder, R.; Lee, K.; Roccasecca, K.; Wilson, M.; Wilkes, J.; Lengerich, E.; Pettis, J. A National Survey of Managed Honey Bee 2010-11 Winter Colony Losses in the USA: Results from the Bee Informed Partnership. J. Apic. Res. 2012, 51 (1), 115–124. https://doi.org/10.3896/IBRA.1.51.1.14.
(6) Spleen, A. M.; Lengerich, E. J.; Rennich, K.; Caron, D.; Rose, R.; Pettis, J. S.; Henson, M.; Wilkes, J. T.; Wilson, M.; Stitzinger, J.; Lee, K.; Andree, M.; Snyder, R.; vanEngelsdorp, D. A National Survey of Managed Honey Bee 2011-12 Winter Colony Losses in the United States: Results from the Bee Informed Partnership. J. Apic. Res. 2013, 52 (2), 44–53. https://doi.org/10.3896/IBRA.1.52.2.07.
(7) Steinhauer, N. A.; Rennich, K.; Wilson, M. E.; Caron, D. M.; Lengerich, E. J.; Pettis, J. S.; Rose, R.; Skinner, J. A.; Tarpy, D. R.; Wilkes, J. T.; vanEngelsdorp, D. A National Survey of Managed Honey Bee 2012-2013 Annual Colony Losses in the USA: Results from the Bee Informed Partnership. J. Apic. Res. 2014, 53 (1), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.3896/IBRA.1.53.1.01.
(8) Lee, K. V.; Steinhauer, N.; Rennich, K.; Wilson, M. E.; Tarpy, D. R.; Caron, D. M.; Rose, R.; Delaplane, K. S.; Baylis, K.; Lengerich, E. J.; Pettis, J.; Skinner, J. A.; Wilkes, J. T.; Sagili, R.; vanEngelsdorp, D.; Partnership, for the B. I. A National Survey of Managed Honey Bee 2013–2014 Annual Colony Losses in the USA. Apidologie 2015, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-015-0356-z.
(9) Seitz, N.; Traynor, K. S.; Steinhauer, N.; Rennich, K.; Wilson, M. E.; Ellis, J. D.; Rose, R.; Tarpy, D. R.; Sagili, R. R.; Caron, D. M.; Delaplane, K. S.; Rangel, J.; Lee, K.; Baylis, K.; Wilkes, J. T.; Skinner, J. A.; Pettis, J. S.; vanEngelsdorp, D. A National Survey of Managed Honey Bee 2014–2015 Annual Colony Losses in the USA. J. Apic. Res. 2015, 54 (4), 292–304. https://doi.org/10.1080/00218839.2016.1153294.
(10) Kulhanek, K.; Steinhauer, N.; Rennich, K.; Caron, D. M.; Sagili, R. R.; Pettis, J. S.; Ellis, J. D.; Wilson, M. E.; Wilkes, J. T.; Tarpy, D. R.; Rose, R.; Lee, K.; Rangel, J.; vanEngelsdorp, D. A National Survey of Managed Honey Bee 2015–2016 Annual Colony Losses in the USA. J. Apic. Res. 2017, 56 (4), 328–340. https://doi.org/10.1080/00218839.2017.1344496.
(11) Thoms, C. A.; Nelson, K. C.; Kubas, A.; Steinhauer, N.; Wilson, M. E.; vanEngelsdorp, D. Beekeeper Stewardship, Colony Loss, and Varroa Destructor Management. Ambio 2018. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1130-z.
(12) Haber, A. I.; Steinhauer, N. A.; vanEngelsdorp, D. Use of Chemical and Nonchemical Methods for the Control of Varroa Destructor (Acari: Varroidae) and Associated Winter Colony Losses in U.S. Beekeeping Operations. J. Econ. Entomol. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toz088.
(13) Steinhauer, N.; vanEngelsdorp, D.; Saegerman, C. Prioritizing Changes in Management Practices Associated with Reduced Winter Honey Bee Colony Losses for US Beekeepers. Sci. Total Environ. 2021, 753, 141629. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141629.
(14) Kulhanek, K.; Steinhauer, N.; Wilkes, J.; Wilson, M.; Spivak, M.; Sagili, R. R.; Tarpy, D. R.; McDermott, E.; Garavito, A.; Rennich, K.; vanEngelsdorp, D. Survey-Derived Best Management Practices for Backyard Beekeepers Improve Colony Health and Reduce Mortality. PLOS ONE 2021, 16 (1), e0245490. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245490.

 

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