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USA Winter Bee Losses – is all as it seems?

apiary in winterYou’d be forgiven for being encouraged by recent winter bee loss figures in the United States for the 2013/14 season. Preliminary results of a survey conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership state that losses were down by nearly a quarter on the previous winter (at 23.2% against 30.5%).

The recently released figures are based on responses from over 7,000 beekeepers across the United States, collectively managing some 564,522 colonies.

America has just experienced one of the worst winters in living memory (remember Snowmageddon?). Anecdotal evidence suggests that many beekeepers have experienced unusually high losses because of the conditions. So why doesn’t the survey bear this out?

It appears that another factor may be skewing the statistics. A respondent reports that previous questionnaires simply used reported colony numbers at the beginning compared with the end of the season to calculate loss rates. As he comments, however, this did not account for beekeepers that build up their colony numbers in the spring and sell or otherwise pass on some of these new colonies to another operation.

The latest survey does factor in colony additions and this alone could account for the discrepancy. It’s possible that losses have remained constant or worsened even while the figures tell another story.

The full report is due to be published soon and it will be interesting to see if the authors make any comment on this potential source of inaccuracy and whether they were able to account for it in their results. Let’s hope that this little piece of good news is not an illusion.

I should point out that I am not a US beekeeper and, as such, have not seen first-hand surveys from this or previous years.

Sebastian Owen, Commercial Development Manager

Follow me on Twitter: @SDWOwen 


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