Colony Loss 2015-2016: Preliminary Results

Note: This is a preliminary analysis. Sample sizes and estimates are likely to change. A more detailed final report is being prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal at a later date.

Nathalie Steinhauer1 , Karen Rennich1,  Dewey M. Caron2,  Keith Delaplane3, Juliana Rangel4, Robyn Rose5, Ramesh Sagili2, John Skinner6, James T. Wilkes7, Michael E. Wilson6, Jeff Pettis8, Dennis vanEngelsdorp*1

1Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
2Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331
3Department of Entomology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602
4Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843
5USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Riverdale, MD 20737
6 Department of Entomology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996
7 Department of Computer Science, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608
8 USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705

*Corresponding Author: dvane@umd.edu

The Bee Informed Partnership (http://beeinformed.org), in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),  conducted the tenth annual national survey of honey bee colony losses, funded by the USDA NIFA.

For the 2015-2016 winter season, a preliminary 5,756 beekeepers in the United States provided validated survey responses. Collectively, these beekeepers managed 389,083 colonies in October 2015, representing about 15% of the country’s estimated 2.66 million managed honey producing colonies1. An estimated 28.1% of the colonies managed in the United States were lost over the 2015-2016 winter. This represents an increase in losses of 5.8percentage points compared to the previous 2014-2015 winter, but is close to the 10-year average total winter loss of 28.6% (see figure 1).

Just over half of the survey respondents (59%) experienced winter colony loss rates greater than the average self-reported acceptable winter mortality rate of 16.9%.

Beekeepers not only lose colonies in the winter but also throughout the summer.  In 2015, summer losses, at 28.1%, were the same as winter losses. When all results were combined, beekeepers lost 44.1% of their colonies between April 2015 and March 2016.  This high rate of loss is close to the highest annual loss rate over the 6 years we have collected annual colony loss numbers.

Figure 1: Summary of the total overwinter colony losses (October 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States across nine annual national surveys. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each year of the survey.

Figure 1: Summary of the total overwinter colony losses (October 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States across nine annual national surveys. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each year of the survey.

This survey was conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, which receives a majority of its funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA (award number: 2011-67007-20017).

1 Based on NASS 2015 figures
2 Previous survey results found a total colony loss in the winters of 22% in the winter of 2014/15, 24% in 2013/2014, 30% in 2012/2013, 22% in 2011/2012, 30% in 2010/2011, 32% in 2009/2010, 29% in 2008/2009, 36% in 2007/2008, and 32% in 2006/2007 (see reference list).

References Cited

  • Lee, KV; Steinhauer, N; Rennich, K; Wilson, ME; Tarpy, DR; Caron, DM; Rose, R; Delaplane, KS; Baylis, K; Lengerich, EJ; Pettis, J; Skinner, JA; Wilkes, JT; Sagili, R; vanEngelsdorp, D; Partnership, for the Bee Informed Partnership (2015) A national survey of managed honey bee 2013–2014 annual colony losses in the USA. Apidologie, 1–14. DOI:10.1007/s13592-015-0356-z
  • Steinhauer, NA; Rennich, K; Wilson, ME; Caron, DM; Lengerich, EJ; Pettis, JS; Rose, R; Skinner, JA; Tarpy, DR; Wilkes, JT; vanEngelsdorp, D (2014) A national survey of managed honey bee 2012-2013 annual colony losses in the USA: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Journal of Apicultural Research, 53(1): 1–18. DOI:10.3896/IBRA.1.53.1.01
  • Spleen, AM; Lengerich, EJ; Rennich, K; Caron, D; Rose, R; Pettis, JS; Henson, M; Wilkes, JT; Wilson, M; Stitzinger, J; Lee, K; Andree, M; Snyder, R; vanEngelsdorp, D (2013) A national survey of managed honey bee 2011-12 winter colony losses in the United States: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Journal of Apicultural Research, 52(2): 44–53. DOI:10.3896/IBRA.1.52.2.07
  • 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 (2012) A national survey of managed honey bee 2010-11 winter colony losses in  the USA: results from the Bee Informed Partnership. Journal of Apicultural Research, 51(1): 115–124. DOI:10.3896/IBRA.1.51.1.14
  • vanEngelsdorp, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, RM; Caron, D; Pettis, J (2011) A survey of managed honey bee colony losses in the USA, fall 2009 to  winter 2010. Journal of Apicultural Research, 50(1): 1–10. DOI:10.3896/IBRA.1.50.1.01
  • vanEngelsdorp, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, RM; Pettis, JS (2010) A survey of honey bee colony losses in the United States, fall 2008 to spring 2009. Journal of Apicultural Research, 49(1): 7–14. DOI:10.3896/IBRA.1.49.1.03
  • vanEngelsdorp, D; Hayes, J; Underwood, RM; Pettis, J (2008) A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2007 to Spring 2008. PLoS ONE, 3(12). DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0004071
  • vanEngelsdorp, D; Underwood, R; Caron, D; Hayes, J (2007) An estimate of managed colony losses in the winter of 2006-2007: A report commissioned by the apiary inspectors of America. American Bee Journal, 147(7): 599–603.

Written By: The Bee Informed Team

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The Bee Informed Partnership is a collaboration of efforts across the country from some of the leading research labs and universities in agriculture and science to better understand honey bee declines in the United States. Supported by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, we’re working with beekeepers to better understand how we can keep healthier bees. The key to our success is the true partnership we maintain across a wide range of disciplines including traditional honey bee science, economics, statistics, and medical research that makes all these tools available to this important research. And just as important as the tools are the people. We not only have the leading researchers in the honey bee industry, we also have advisory boards from the commercial beekeeping industries, almond and other commercial growers, as well as naturalists and conservationists from across the country.