The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently published preliminary results on the overwintering of honey bee colonies in 2014/15. These first statistics are based on data from 6,128 US apiarists who manage 398,247 bee colonies in total, which is 14.5 per cent of US hives. According to the preliminary report, this year’s colony losses over winter are 23.1 per cent – 0.6 per cent less than in the previous year.
“That is good news. For the second year in a row, winter losses of US honey bee colonies were below the historic average seen since these annual surveys began. More importantly, the long-term trend of overwintering losses continues to show improvement”, summarizes Dick Rogers, Principal Scientist and Entomologist for Bayer CropScience. “The reasons for this are increased beekeeper awareness of the problems honey bees face, and improved management of bee pests and diseases.”
The winter losses of honey bees decreased, but in recent years some beekeepers have also reported a higher mortality rate in summer. Nonetheless, it is still too early to evaluate statistical data and experts must first determine the normal mortality rate of bees during the summer months.
An important issue for researchers, apiarists and farmers is to understand the factors that might have a negative impact on honey bee health so they can look for solutions. During the course of a year it is essential to ensure honey bees have adequate food supply and variety, and to protect colonies from the Varroa mite. Bayer experts also constantly work to further improve the safety of agricultural practices to beneficial insects, including pollinators. Moreover, Bayer is partnering with external bee experts in the research initiative “Healthy Hives 2020”. Together they aim to collaborate on key initiatives that will improve honey bee health, or the understanding of honey bee health by 2020.
“Although there is still much work to be done, this report validates the efforts of many stakeholders who are working to protect bees and promote sustainable agriculture”, says Rogers about the preliminary report of the USDA.
Read here the preliminary overwintering results of the USDA
Here you find the statements of Dick Rogers
Read a New York Times article on the topic of overwintering
More about the initiative “Healthy Hives”