We have been keeping a steady eye on reports about how the honey bee was going to come out on the other side of this pandemic and it now appears as though it is going to be a big thumbs up. There was significant concern that due to the timing of the pandemic, many of the managed hives around the globe would be decimated, but it appears the total opposite has happened.
Bees Can Take Care of Themselves
One of the biggest concerns was nutrition for honey bees during the pandemic. Well, as it just so happens, honey bees seem to remember they used to do this all on their own and when their beekeepers are not around to feed them sugar water, they can go out and get their own food. The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) recently announced this past winter is one of the smallest losses in recent history.
There are a LOT of contributing factors as to how this all played out. First and foremost, there was less pollution, less human traffic, and fewer pesticides in the environment from the lockdown. Dr. Nathalie Steinhauer of the University of Maryland stated, “The reason why colonies can die are very multiple and that’s unfortunately, the complex reality of honeybee health is that there are multiple drivers that are affecting honeybee health. We usually categorize them in categories of what we call the four Ps, which is pests, pathogens, poor nutrition and pesticides.”
The results from the most recent BIP survey were rather remarkable in terms of how much less beekeepers lost over this past winter. Of the 3,377 beekeepers that replied, a loss of about 22 percent was reported in the more than 276,000 hives they manage. This is almost a 25 percent drop from the average wintertime loss of 28 percent. This is also a massive improvement from last winter, where the average loss was almost 38 percent.
Now, this survey only represents about 10 percent of the overall honey bee population in the country but from the reports I am seeing from around the country and globe, these numbers seem to jibe with what we have been reading so for this spring and summer. University of Montana bee expert Jerry Bromenshenk, who did not partake in the BIP study is very optimistic about the upcoming honey season, stating, “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.”