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How many hives survive each year in the US?

This is a rhetorical question, not something that I am trying to answer myself. However, the US Bee Informed Partnership runs an annual survey of US beekeepers, and I have just completed my 2020/2021 answers. I have been doing this for about 5 years now, and the responses are always fascinating and sobering.

For example, did you know that 46% of colonies in California died in 2019/2020? Ohio had the same 46%, Pennsylvania 51%.

If you are US based and willing to answer the survey, it leads to very useful advice and information for all beekeepers:

https://beeinformed.org/take-survey/

Meanwhile, here are the results from last year on an interactive map:
https://beeinformed.org/thankyou/

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Thanks @Dawn_SD
I didn’t know about that.
I will check it out and share it !
Thanks,
Sam

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I’m sure I read Florida losses were crazy big as well. Colony collapse disorder was a serious problem some time back.

Approx 600,000 hives in the state. Can you imagine 300,000 disappearing every year :cry:.

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There always seems to be packages of bees & nucs available in the early spring in the U.S. What are the suppliers doing right, to be able to supply those packages & nucs. I wonder what losses, if any they incur, coming out of winter.

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BIP does collect those numbers, and you used to be able to see them separately. Last I remember, where the hobbyists were losing about 35-40% per year, the commercial guys were losing around 25-30%. I think a lot of the difference comes from the fact that the commercial guys take varroa seriously, while many hobbyists do not. :thinking:

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The commercial operators around here make up nucs during the summer so that they go into winter with many more colonies than what they depend on during the summer…sometimes twice as many. The saving grace in the whole equation…especially for cooler climate commercial operations in Canada and USA is the tremendous output of commercial queen rearers in the warm regions of the USA. To give you an example, the queen rearer in northern California that used to supply me with queens 30 years ago now produces around 75,000 queens per year…and he isn’t the largest queen rearer in the USA. So as long as replacement nucs can be made up with those queens each year, winter losses become a non-issue…or at least significantly muted.

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My head is spinning that these high rates of deaths occur.
Is this what the future looks like in Australia when varroa mite takes hold?
Maybe it will weed out the badly managed hives.

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I disagree Doug.

Thats purely based on offsetting numbers.

Cause of loses in the US and Canada will in time become unsustainable.

Fixing or improving the root causes is needed not just make 2 on the assumption 1 or 2 dies each year.

But isn’t this a big part of the problem? Queens come from suppliers in warm regions from colonies that are adapted to warm climates and people expect them to thrive in worse winter conditions?
I would hazard a bet that locally adapted bees would have much lower winter loss rates.

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Beekeepers do what they have to do…and after exposure here with varroa for 30 years and in parts of Europe for 50 years… this is one strategy to deal with varroa that has evolved…for better or worse.

How sustainable these methods of adaption to varroa is debatable…time tells…and there is always the next “apocalypse ju jour” around the corner…it never ends…and unfortunately is the way of beekeeping these days in many areas that are infested with varroa.

Some folk such as JeffH look at it this way:

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Good point JimM.

When it’s possible, we can import package bees from New Zealand and the genetics and mating are just excellent. To initially supply the Canadian package market, New Zealand imported honeybee semen from a number of bee research facilties in Germany and Austria…to produce a hardier strain that could survive our winters…they call them Carniolans…I love them. Here’s how they are shipped…Arataki tube packages.

Later in the year I bring in Olivarez queens that are produced in Hawaii and California. One of the several strains that this USA supplier (Olivarez) is named the Saskatraz line and breeder queens are produced in Canada…next province over from me…Saskatchewan…and shipped to the USA for propagation. When I can’t get this strain, I am satisfied to get Olivarez’s “run of the mill” Italians/Carniolans. Genetic selection for many USA commercial queen rearers has often been done by dedicated and respected scientists such as Sue Colby. Her breeder queens several years ago were selling for over $10,000.00 each.

https://www.farmprogress.com/uc-davis-bee-breeder-geneticist-susan-cobey-building-better-bee

The point I’m coming to is that after decades of importing diverse bee genetics into my area, there is a very interesting base to work from. Larger beekeepers in my area often do their own selections from this stock and produce their own queen cells that are “open bred” resulting in supposedly more suitable wintering candidates. On my scale of 20 hives, I simply bring in mated queens…and am generally happy how they perform over winter. I don’t have the expertise to run my own genetic selection of bee stock.

Also, just because queen suppliers are physically located in warm regions doesn’t mean they can’t produce queens suitable for cold climates.

One other comment applicable to my area: If losses of near 50% were the norm here, beekeepers would be soon out of business…so they pad their operations by selling extra hives wintered successfully to other beekeepers who have need of them each spring.

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