Monday, June 6, 2016

Member in the News: Walter Thurman

U.S.D.A. sees 8% drop in bee colonies

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its Honey Bee Colonies report said operations with five or more colonies, which account for about 98% of U.S. honey production, had 2,594,590 colonies on Jan. 1, 2016, down 8% from a year earlier.

Bee losses in 2015 were “pretty standard” for the past decade, said Walter Thurman, Ph.D., professor of agricultural economics at North Carolina State University, who has studied bee patterns and pollination for more than a decade. Annual changes in colony numbers have averaged 4.5% over the past 10 years, ranging from up 7% to down 8%, he said.

Walter Thurman, North Carolina State University
Walter Thurman, Ph.D., professor of agricultural economics at North Carolina State University
“Eight per cent is a pretty big number, but it’s not out of the realm of what we have seen,” Mr. Thurman said.

 “There is no trend over the last decade,” Mr. Thurman said, despite the increased attention paid to bee losses during that time, adding that bee numbers are in fact up from a decade ago based on U.S.D.A. data.
Honey bee colonies lost in the first quarter of 2016 totaled 428,800, or 17%, compared with 500,020, or 18% in the same quarter a year earlier. The smallest quarterly loss was in April-June 2015 when 352,860 colonies, or 12%, were lost, the U.S.D.A. report said.

Honey bee colonies added during the January-March period of 2016 totaled 378,160, compared with 546,980 added in the same quarter of 2015. The highest number of colonies added was in April-June 2015 at 661,860 colonies, and the lowest number added was in October-December 2015 at 117,150 colonies.

There were 158,050 colonies renovated during the January-March period of 2016, the lowest number during the five quarters surveyed, the U.S.D.A. said.

Mr. Thurman said that worker bees typically live only six to eight weeks during the summer, while queen bees live two to three years, adding that worker bees don’t live as long when they are active compared with survival over the winter.

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