Winter losses estimated at 37.4%
Note: This is a preliminary analysis. Sample sizes and estimates are likely to change. A more detailed final report is being prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal at a later date. Previous years’ peer-reviewed publication can be accessed on the survey information page: https://beeinformed.org/citizen-science/loss-and-management-survey/.
The Bee Informed Partnership (http://beeinformed.org) is a non-profit organization that strives to improve honey bee colony health in the United States by performing data-driven research in collaboration with beekeepers. Its vision is to create an environment where new and established beekeepers can be successful in maintaining healthy honey bee colonies. One of the organization’s longest running programs, the national Colony Loss and Management Survey, was initiated with the support of the Apiary Inspectors of America in 2007. Since then, it has monitored colony loss rates of managed honey bees in the United States (Bruckner et al., 2023), as well as identified risk factors and protective measures associated with health, particularly as they relate to beekeeping management (Steinhauer, vanEngelsdorp and Saegerman, 2021). The survey is organized in collaboration with the Bee Lab at Auburn University (https://aub.ie/bees) and the Bee Lab at University of Maryland (https://www.umdbeelab.com/).
The survey is a retrospective online questionnaire, which relies on voluntary participation of beekeepers across the country during the month of April. The 2023 survey covered the one year-period between April 2022 and April 2023. Small scale beekeepers (1-50 colonies) and large-scale beekeepers (>50 colonies) took slightly different versions of the survey (survey question previews can be found at https://beeinformed.org/citizen-science/loss-and-management-survey/).
This year, 3,006 beekeepers from across the United States provided valid survey responses. These beekeepers collectively managed 314,360 colonies on 1 October 2022, representing 12% of the estimated 2.70 million managed honey-producing colonies in the country in 2022 (USDA NASS, 2023).
Colony loss rates were calculated as the ratio of the number of colonies lost to the number of colonies managed over a defined period. Loss rates should not be interpreted as a change in population size, but are best interpreted as a mortality rate. High levels of losses do not necessarily result in a decrease in the total number of colonies managed in the United States because beekeepers can replace lost colonies throughout the year.
During summer 2022 (1 April 2022 – 1 October 2022), an estimated 24.9% [18.0 – 31.7, 95% bootstrapped confidence interval (CI)] of managed colonies were lost in the United States (Figure 1). This was on par with recent years. The summer loss rate was just 1.1 percentage point (pp) higher than last year’s estimated summer colony loss (23.8% [16.7 – 31.5 CI]), and 2.2 pp higher than the average summer loss reported by beekeepers since the summer of 2010 (22.6%, 12-year average), when summer losses were first monitored.
During winter 2022-2023 (1 October 2022 – 1 April 2023), an estimated 37.4% [28.6 – 48.1 CI] of managed colonies in the United States were lost (Figure 1). This winter loss rate was 13.2 pp in excess of the previous winter loss rate (24.2% [20.3 – 29.9 CI]), and 9.1 pp higher than the average winter loss (28.2%, 15-year average) reported by beekeepers since the start of the survey in 2008, making 2022-2023 the second highest year of winter loss after 2018-2019 (37.7% [26.5 – 50.6 CI]). The percentage of colony loss over the winter deemed