Honeybee Population Is Doing Much Better After Bad Year

by : Lucy Connolly on : 23 Jun 2020 14:13
Honeybee Population Is Doing Much Better After Bad YearHoneybee Population Is Doing Much Better After Bad YearPA Images

American honeybee colonies are doing much better after a bad year the 12 months prior, the annual beekeeping survey has found.

An estimated 22.2% of all managed bee colonies in the US were lost this past winter – from October 1 2019 to April 1 2020 – and while this may seem like a significant percentage, it was actually the second-lowest level of winter loss reported since the survey began 14 years ago.


It’s also considerably less than the previous winter of 2018-2019 when a record 37.7% of colonies died off, after which the losses continued through the summer of 2019, when beekeepers reported a 32% loss rate – a number that is significantly higher than the average of 21.6% for summer months.


According to the Bee Informed Partnership‘s annual survey of thousands of beekeepers, this winter’s loss is also lower than the 28.6% historic average winter colony loss rate documented by previous surveys.

Scientists surveyed 3,377 commercial beekeepers and backyard enthusiasts that were collectively managing 276,832 colonies in the US. The team estimated this represents nearly 10% of all US colonies, giving them ‘a good representation of the losses experienced’.


Bee Partnership Scientific Coordinator Nathalie Steinhauer said that while the summer losses seen last year are bad, winter deaths are ‘really the test of colony health’ – so this year’s results overall are good news. ‘It turned out to be a very good year,’ she said, as per Associated Press News.

Steinhauer added that the summer losses seen in 2019 were driven more by the hives of commercial beekeepers rather than backyard hobbyists. The scientific coordinator also said that populations tend to be cyclical, with good years following the bad ones, and so such a pattern should be expected.


University of Montana bee expert Jerry Bromenshenk, who wasn’t part of the study, said they would hope this lower winter loss means a better 2020 is on the cards, ‘assuming that the weather cooperates and beekeepers don’t end up skimping on colony management’.


A way to ensure this trend of lower winter losses continues over the years is by putting bees in ‘cold storage’ to help them survive the winter, which new research from the US Department of Agriculture suggests could work.

Beekeepers across the US may subsequently take more of their colonies indoors in the winter to help them survive, University of Georgia entomologist Keith Delaplane said.


It may be impossible to keep this trend going forever though, with Steinhauer saying the loss rates that are being seen each year are simply ‘part of the new normal’.


For decades, the population of honeybees has been rapidly shrinking, with the insect threatened by mites, diseases, pesticides and loss of food.

Let’s hope this could be the start of a better future.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: News, America, Animals, Bees, Environment, Nature, Now, Research, Science, US


Bee Informed Partnership and 1 other
  1. Bee Informed Partnership


  2. Associated Press News

    US honeybees are doing better after bad year, survey shows