Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rebuilding Winter's Losses

All of America’s bee colonies have been lost twice in the last six years. That is the effect of the 30 to 35 percent annual honey bee colony losses since 2006, the year Colony Collapse Disorder was identified. The Bee Informed Partnership’s “Winter Loss Survey 2012—2013: Preliminary Results,”, reveals, “On average, US beekeepers lost 45.1 % of the colonies in their operation during the winter of 2012/2013.” Beekeepers do not feel that annual colony losses of one third are sustainable. Surveys point to losses above 15 percent as being unacceptable. Beekeepers consider the labor costs and expenses involved in cleaning the hives of dead colonies and the resources consumed in rearing replacement queens and colonies. Anecdotal evidence indicates that individuals may experience losses well exceeding the average. One commercial pollinator states that he actually loses and replaces all of his colonies in a year’s time.

The USDA presents the report,, compiled from the October 2012 conference in Alexandria, Virginia of numerous stakeholders in honey bee health. These include honey producers, commercial pollinators, chemical producers, extension agents, researchers, and agents of the USDA and Environmental Protection Agency. The report provides an in-depth listing of current knowledge of honey bee health matters; and it offers a number of serious questions asking for further research. I hope that many of these will be addressed. The conference stakeholders address honey bee nutrition, pests and pathogens, pesticides, genetics, breeding, and biology. Best management practices are being explored. Teams of concerned stakeholders in honey bee health are gathering information, and beekeepers are working to rebuild colony numbers. Queen bees developing in queen mating nucleus hives will start new colonies to replace winter losses. A check of queen cells in today’s photo shows two queens emerged successfully from their peanut-shaped cells. The cell on the right remained closed; its queen did not emerge. The newly emerged queens will make mating flights and then begin laying eggs in two to three weeks.