IBRA on Honey Bee Colony Losses reports from COLOSS and BIP
Since 2006 there has been concern worldwide about losses of honey bee colonies, especially the phenomenon of “Colony Collapse Disorder” in the USA. Information about the extent of these losses has,to date, been patchy, unsystematic and difficult to compare year on year and from country to country. Today, for the first time, the results of systematic surveys in Europe, north America, China, Israel and Turkey are published together in the Journal of Apicultural Research.
The research has been carried out by a team of 35 scientists forming part of the international COLOSS (prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes) network, and 15 US scientists forming the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP). Survey data presented in the COLOSS study were collected for the 2008-9 winter from 12 countries and from the 2009-10 winter from 24 countries. Data were collected for the winter of 2010-11 for the BIP study, following on from earlier published US studies.
The COLOSS results show that mean honey bee losses in Europe varied widely, between 7-22 % over the 2008-9 winter and between 7-30 % over the 2009-10 winter. An important finding is that for all countries which participated in 2008-9, winter losses in 2009-10 were found to be substantially higher. In 2009-10, winter losses in south east Europe and in five provinces of China were very low, but in six Canadian provinces, losses varied between 16-25 % with those in Nova Scotia (40 % losses) being exceptionally high. The BIP study recorded the fifth consecutive year that winter losses in the USA were around 30 %. Survey respondents reported that over the winter of 2010-11 they lost an average of 38.4 % of their colonies, for a total US colony loss of 29.9 %; but one-third of respondents reported no winter loss.
In most countries and in all three monitoring years, amateur beekeepers (1-50 colonies) experienced higher losses than beekeepers with intermediate (51-500) and commercial (500+) beekeeping operations. Where beekeepers were asked to suggest the causes of losses, the leading self-identified causes of mortality were management failures such as starvation and a weak condition in the autumn.
Only a minority of respondents listed the symptoms of “Colony Collapse Disorder” namely: 1. no dead bees in or surrounding the hive while; 2. capped brood was present. Notably, respondents who indicated that varroa mites (Varroa destructor), small hive beetles (Aethina tumida), poor wintering conditions, and/or Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) symptoms were a leading cause of mortality in their operations suffered a higher average loss than beekeepers who did not list any of these as potential causes of honey bee losses.
IBRA Scientific Director and JAR Senior Editor Norman Carreck says: “These results show that honey bee colony losses are continuing, although the extent varies considerably from country to country. Although we cannot be certain of the causes, it is clear that no single cause dominates, and many factors are involved.
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NOTES FOR EDITORS:-
1. The article “Managed honey bee colony losses in Canada, China, Europe, Israel and Turkey, for the winters of 2008-2009 and 2009–2010” is available at:-
2. The article “A national survey of managed honey bee colony 2010-2011 winter losses in the U.S.: results from the Bee Informed Partnership” is available at:-
3. The International Bee Research Association (“IBRA”) is the world's longest established apicultural research publishers and promotes the value of bees by providing information on bee science, bee conservation and beekeeping worldwide.
4. IBRA publishes the peer reviewed scientific journal the Journal of Apicultural Research founded by IBRA in 1962. It includes original research articles, theoretical papers; scientific notes and comments; together with authoritative reviews on scientific aspects of the biology, ecology, natural history, conservation and culture of all types of bee.
5. IBRA publishes and sells books on bee science and beekeeping and also provides bee information services. IBRA is a Registered Charity, and its Council of trustees boasts some of the world’s leading bee scientists.
6. Membership of IBRA costs just £33.00 annually. Membership benefits include receipt of four quarterly issues of Bee World, our accessible and topical journal on latest bee research, news, reviews and other relevant information for the bee scientist, beekeeper, and anyone with an interest in bees.
7. COLOSS is a network funded by the European Union COST Programme (Action FA0803) which aims to explain and prevent massive honey bee colony losses. The network does not directly support science but aims to coordinate national research activities across Europe and worldwide, promulgating consistent approaches and a broad transnational research programme with a strong focus on the transfer of science into beekeeping practice. COLOSS has 217 members drawn from 55 countries worldwide. It is chaired by Dr Peter Neumann of the Swiss Bee Research Centre, Liebefeld. Website
8. The Bee Informed Partnership is an extension project that endeavours to decrease the number of managed honey bee colonies that die over the winter. The Project Director is Dennis vanEnglesdorp of Penn State University, USA.Website
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