USDA: Summer Honey Bee Losses Pass Winter Losses for First Time

Losses of managed honey bee colonies were 23.1% for the 2014-2015 winter but summer losses exceeded winter numbers for the first time, making annual losses for the year 42.1%, according to results of the annual survey released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday.

The winter loss improvement was about 0.6 percentage points less than the losses reported for the 2013-2014 winter. This is the second year in a row that winter losses have been noticeably lower than the nine-year average winter loss of 28.7%, USDA said.


Total annual losses were 42.1% for April 2014 through April 2015.  The new figure is up from 34.2% for 2013-2014.

“The winter loss numbers are more hopeful especially combined with the fact that we have not seen much sign of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) for several years, but such high colony losses in the summer and year-round remain very troubling,” said Jeff Pettis, a survey co-author and a senior entomologist at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, USDA said. “If beekeepers are going to meet the growing demand for pollination services, researchers need to find better answers to the host of stresses that lead to both winter and summer colony losses.”

According to USDA, about two-thirds of the beekeepers responding to the survey reported losses greater than the 18.7% level that beekeepers reported is economically acceptable. This underlines the seriousness of the health problems stressing honey bees in this country, Pettis said.

Bayer Responds

In response to the report, Richard (Dick) Rogers, Principal Scientist/Entomologist, Bayer Bee Care Center for Bayer CropScience, the primary maker of imidacloprid, said, “The latest report from USDA is good news for all who care about bee health. For the second year in a row, winter losses of U.S. honey bee colonies were below the historic average seen since these annual surveys began. More importantly, the long-term trend of overwintering losses continues to show improvement.”

Rogers added, “This is only the third year that the USDA has reported on summer losses, so it is difficult to identify any potential trend. Summer losses are expected and common, however, because of Varroa, other disorders, queen issues, and pesticide residues in hives, especially high residues of bee protecting Varroacides. Experts have yet to agree on what’s considered a normal range for summer losses.”

For these preliminary survey results, USDA said that more than 6,100 beekeepers across the country who managed almost 400,000 colonies in October 2014, representing nearly 15.5% of the country’s 2.74 million colonies, responded to the survey.

According to USDA, a loss of 23.7% of managed honey bee colonies was reported for the 2013-2014 winter and 30.5% loss for the winter of 2012-2013. Previous surveys found winter losses of 21.9% in 2011-2012, 30 percent in 2010-2011, 33.8 percent in 2009-2010, about 29% in 2008-2009, about 36% in 2007-2008, and about 32% in 2006-2007. Annual colonies losses were 34.2% for 2013-14, 45% for 2012-2013, 28.9% for 2011-2012, and 36.4% for 2010-2011.