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Yearly survey shows better results for honeybees

A yearly survey of beekeepers recently released shows fewer colony losses occurred in the U.S. over the winter of 2013-14 than in recent years, but beekeepers say losses remain higher than the level that they consider to be sustainable.

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The survey was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Bee Informed Partnership.

According to survey results, total losses of managed honeybee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide.

That number is above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for economic sustainability but is an improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012-13.

More than three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators to reproduce.

“Pollinators, such as bees, birds and other insects are essential partners for farmers and ranchers and help produce much of our food supply. Healthy pollinator populations are critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers,” said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack.

Although the survey shows improvement, losses remain above the level that beekeepers consider to be economically sustainable. This year, almost two-thirds of the beekeepers responding reported losses greater than the 18.9 percent threshold.

“Yearly fluctuations in the rate of losses like these only demonstrate how complicated the whole issue of honeybee health has become…,” said Jeff Pettis, co-author of the survey and research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.

The winter losses survey covers the period from October 2013 through April 2014. About 7,200 beekeepers responded to the voluntary survey.

A complete analysis of the bee survey data will be published later this year. The summary of the analysis is at