USDA: Winter bee colony losses well below average

U.S. winter bee colony losses are well below average, the USDA said.
U.S. winter bee colony losses are well below average, the USDA said. | Courtesy of Shutterstock
The latest report on bee-colony health over the winter season by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicates that honeybee losses are below historic averages, Bayer CropScience said on Wednesday.

Between 2006 and the present, reported winter losses in colonies by beekeepers have averaged 30 percent in Northern states. Decreasing colony numbers have been reported since the introduction of hive disorders and Varroa, a parasitic family of mites that heavily affects bee colonies. Bayer said average honeybee declines in Northern state were reported at between zero and 15 percent prior to 1985.

The USDA report said increased awareness of colony health and improved management practices have improved the numbers. The report said the winter loss rate fell to 23.1 percent during the winter of 2014-15, compared with 23.7 percent the previous winter.

Summertime losses remain a concern for beekeepers as Varroa parasites are more common alongside other disorders and issues relating to queens of the respective colonies. For the first time since this data has been collected, summer losses in 2014-15 exceeded winter losses, pushing the total U.S. colony losses over the past year to 42 percent.

Beekeepers said that for colonies to remain economically viable, losses should not exceed 18.7 percent.

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