Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual honeybee survey and the results reveal that bees may be in even more trouble than previously thought. For the first time since USDA and its partners, the Bee Informed Partnership and the Apiary Inspectors of America, began tracking bee die-offs five years ago, “the summer loss rates exceeded the winter loss rates, suggesting bees are becoming vulnerable during a time of the year they were thought to be healthy and robust.” Tennille Tracy, The Wall Street Journal.
While 2014-2015 winter losses showed a slight decrease, summer losses increased nearly 40% over 2013-2014 levels, “resulting in higher overall annual losses of managed bee colonies.” Kim Kaplan, USDA. Total annual losses across the U.S. averaged 42.1%, up from 34.2% the previous year. Losses can stem from a variety of causes, including varroa mites, stress, and exposure to systemic pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Growing concern over the impact of neonicotinoids on bees has prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop approving outdoor use of neonicotinoids until further studies on bee health and pollinator risk are conducted.
Despite the growing number of beehives in Florida, our honeybee population is at risk. According to the honeybee survey, beekeepers in Florida suffered an annual loss of 54.8%. This is among the highest loss rates in the U.S. for the time period. However, the number of beehives in the state has increased steadily in recent years, with over 3,500 registered beekeepers now maintaining 440,000 hives across the state.
Fortunately, many resources exist to aid beekeepers in managing healthy hives. Information on these resources can be found at Florida Department of Agriculture’s Apiary Inspection, IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab, and Florida Beekeepers Association. Read more about beekeeping in Florida in the Spring 2015 issue of Florida Food & Farm.