WASHINGTON, May 11, 2016 - The Bee Informed Partnership reported in its annual survey Tuesday that beekeepers lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year ending March 31, up from 40.6 percent in the previous year.
More worrisome than the overall number was the news that summer losses equaled winter losses. Winter loss rates increased from 22.3 percent in the previous winter to 28.1 percent this past winter, while summer loss rates jumped from 25.3 percent to 28.1 percent.
“We’re now in the second year of high rates of summer loss, which is cause for serious concern,” said Dennis VanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. “Some winter losses are normal and expected. But the fact that beekeepers are losing bees in the summer, when bees should be at their healthiest, is quite alarming.”
One “clear culprit” blamed for the declines is the varroa mite, “a lethal parasite that can easily spread between colonies,” the partnership said. “Pesticides and malnutrition caused by changing land use patterns are also likely taking a toll, especially among commercial beekeepers.”
The survey results lend urgency to efforts to find common ground in agriculture on the issue of bee health and habitat. Bees and other pollinators are critical to the nation’s food supply. Some crops, such as corn, cotton and soybeans, are self-pollinating, but others derive some benefit from outside pollination, and still others are dependent on commercial bees for pollination. Almonds are the best-known example, requiring some 60 percent of the nation’s approximately 2.6 million hives each year.
“Pollinators, most often honey bees, are responsible for one in every three bites of food we take, and increase our nation’s crop values each year by more than $15 billion,” said a national pollinator health strategy released with great fanfare by the White House a year ago.
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