Preliminary Honey Bee Colony Losses Released

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Preliminary results for honey bee colony losses for 2018-2019 estimate losses of 37.7% from October 2018 thru April 2019, the highest level of winter loss since the survey began in 2006-2007. Average reported survey winter loss rate is about 28.8%.

The Bee Informed Partnership manages this annual survey and did not yet offer speculation for the slightly higher than normal loss. A full report will be released soon, including more details and confirmed data. However, researchers from the Bee Informed Partnership have previously identified Varroa mites as being the number one concern around winter losses. Bee decline is due to a number of factors, including Varroa mites, decreasing crop diversity, loss of habitat, poor beekeeping practices, and exposure to pesticides which weaken bees’ immune systems.

About 2.69 million honey-producing colonies are managed in the U.S. Less than 12% were represented by survey respondents. When the entire year (April 2018 through April 2019) is considered, colony loss is closer to average. Losses over the entire year are estimated at 40.7%, which is slightly above the 2017-2018 period (40.1%) and the survey average (37.8% since 2010-2011).

In 2015, the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) recognized the need for sound research to develop best production and management practices, and to educate and empower the green industry to take proactive steps to support bee health. While the green industry is diverse, some common threads exist among greenhouse and nursery production and landscape management where pollinator safety is concerned. Several research projects were funded with the overall goal of developing stewardship practices to better protect bees. HRI dedicated over $160,000 to this effort, and the results include a BMP document for bee health dedicated to our industry, a list of pollinator attractive woody plants (Plants Bees Like Best), and participation in the Million Pollinator Garden efforts. We continue to leverage our initial funds to grow this knowledge base.

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