honey bees

Honeybee Colony Numbers Remain Stable, Despite A Nearly 50 Percent Loss

Brian GermanIndustry, Pollinators

Honeybee Colony

A recent report released by the Bee Informed Partnership shows a significant decline in honeybee colony numbers. The annual Colony Loss and Management Survey indicates a nearly 50 percent loss between April 2022 and April 2023. While the exact causes of the colony losses are multifaceted, the report points to several contributing factors. The yearly survey is organized in collaboration with Auburn University and the University of Maryland.

The report highlights Varroa mites, a common honeybee parasite, continue to pose a significant threat to colony health. Additionally, habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and poor nutrition are all playing a role in the decline. Commercial beekeepers also cited “queen issues” and “adverse weather” as contributing factors to the losses. American beekeepers lost an estimated 48.2 percent of their managed honeybee colonies. Losses were more than 9 percent higher than what was reported the year prior and nearly as high as the highest annual loss on record, which was 50.8 percent.

Over the last nine years, the average rate for winter losses has been approximately 20 percent. More than 60 percent of the beekeepers surveyed reported winter losses above that threshold. Despite the substantial decline in honeybee colony numbers, overall numbers have been relatively stable over the past 20 years. However, the high loss rates mean beekeepers are under substantial pressure to establish new colonies yearly.

The decline in honeybee populations raises concerns about food security and the health of ecosystems that rely on these pollinators. Efforts to address honeybee declines are ongoing, with beekeepers, researchers, and policymakers working together to find solutions. The Bee Informed Partnership emphasizes the importance of sustainable beekeeping practices, increased awareness of pollinator conservation, and the development of innovative strategies to combat the various threats facing honeybees.

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West