Beekeepers only lost 22.2 percent of their colonies this winter compared to the average of 28.6 percent, a recent survey found

By Georgia Slater
June 23, 2020 12:34 PM
honeybee hive
Credit: Getty

Beekeepers have something to hive-five about this year.

According to the annual beekeeping survey, American honeybee colonies experienced a much smaller loss this winter than the average winter season, the Associated Press reported. The study looked at 3,337 commercial beekeepers and backyard enthusiasts in the United States.

The Bee Informed Partnership's annual survey found that beekeepers only lost 22.2 percent of their colonies from Oct. 1 to March 31, compared to the average loss of 28.6 percent.

Beekeepers experienced a high loss of 37.7 percent of colonies in the winter of 2018- 2019, dropping slightly to 32 percent through the summer of 2019.

This year's winter marks the second-smallest winter loss in the 14 years of surveying across the country, the survey found.

"It turned out to be a very good year," Bee Informed Partnership scientific coordinator Nathalie Steinhauer told the AP.

Despite the higher numbers of summer deaths, the winter losses are "really the test of colony health," Steinhauer explained.

However, these high death rates are now seen as "part of the new normal," she added.

Some beekeepers may have moved their colonies indoors to survive, as research has found that keeping the insects in "cold storage" helps to keep them alive in the winter, University of Georgia entomologist Keith Delaplane explained.

News that the honeybee colonies had a better winter is not all that surprising as scientists have found populations to be cyclical, with the good following bad.

Bee keeper
Credit: Gary Yeowell/Getty

However, with such a low winter death rate, scientists hope this could mean a successful summer.

“One would hope that a lower winter loss means a better 2020 assuming that the weather cooperates and beekeepers don’t end up skimping on colony management,” University of Montana bee expert Jerry Bromenshenk told the outlet.

Earlier in 2020, scientists expressed fears that honeybees could go extinct given the ongoing climate crisis.