A huge finding about honeybees came as a total surprise to researchers, and it could be major news for the United States.
It’s being hailed as a major discovery that could represent a turnaround for the honeybee, although scientists are quick to caution people against reading too much into it. Honeybee populations have been dwindling for years, raising major concerns among scientists, but a new report suggests that the bee losses are slowing down significantly and maybe reversing course.
A U.S. survey of beekeepers found that they lost 21 percent of their colonies over the winter, which sounds like a lot, but that is a significant decline from the 27 percent that were lost in the winter before that. It’s also the lowest winter loss level the survey has recorded since being started in 2006, although it still falls short of the government’s goal to get losses down to 15 percent in the winter.
“It’s good news in that the numbers are down, but it’s certainly not a good picture,” survey director Dennis vanEngelsdorp said in a Press Herald report. “It’s gone from horrible to bad.”
“We would of course all love it if the trend continues, but there are so many factors playing a role in colony health,” said bee expert Elina Lastro Nino at the University of California Davis, also according to the Press Herald. “I am glad to see this, but wouldn’t celebrate too much yet.”
“For the 2016-2017 winter season, 4,963 beekeepers in the United States provided validated survey responses,” the executive summary of the paper states. “Collectively, these beekeepers managed 363,987 colonies in October 2016, representing about 13% of the country’s estimated 2.78 million managed honey producing colonies1. An estimated 21.1% of colonies managed in the United States were lost over the 2016-2017 winter. This represents an improvement of 5.8 percentage points compared to the previous 2015-2016 winter, and is below the 10-year average total winter loss rate of 28.4% (Figure 1).
“Beekeepers not only lose colonies in winter (October – March) but also throughout summer (April – September). The 2016 summer colony loss rate was 18.1%. When all the survey results were combined, beekeepers lost 33.2% of their colonies between April 2016 and March 2017. This is the second lowest rate of annual colony loss recorded over the last seven years.”