The U.S. Department of Agriculture surveyed 7,183 beekeepers from around the country and found that the loss of managed honeybee colonies dropped 23,9% over last year’s winter losses to reach some of the lowest levels since the surveys have been recorded.
The survey is not sure about the reasons for the improvement, but the New York Times quotes Dr. Dennis van Engelsdorp, Entomologist at the University of Maryland, on a possible connection to the level of Varroa mite infestations: “The beekeepers that are treating against Varroa mites lose significantly fewer colonies than those that are not treating colonies against Varroa mites”, he said and added that those who treat them four or five times a year do better than those who treat them only once or twice.
This coincides with Bayer’s own observation that the high winter losses of 2012/13 were predictable based on reports of high Varroa mite infestations across the United States, says Dr. Dave Fischer, Head of the Bayer Bee Care Center in the US: “In preparing for 2014, many commercial beekeepers were able to manage their colonies to avoid a similar buildup of mites. This is likely to have contributed to the lower colony losses observed this spring.”
While the recent study is an encouraging piece of news, the losses are still a cause for concern adds Fischer: “Losses are still well above the 15% winter losses that most experts would consider normal for overwintering honey bee colonies.” The report also presented information on increased summer colony losses, which indicate that managed honey bee colonies are still under serious stress and the situation remains critical to agriculture.
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