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New USDA research shows honey bee numbers stable—and probably growing

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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

In 2006, large and mysterious losses of honey bee colonies led entomologists to classify a set of diagnostic symptoms as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and spurred major efforts to measure, quantify, and understand pollinator loss. New data show that between 2007 and 2013, winter colony loss rates in the U.S. averaged 30 percent, which is approximately double the loss rate of 15 percent previously thought to be normal. Although average loss rates fell to 24 percent between 2014 and 2017 and CCD symptoms are less frequently associated with colony losses, colony health remains a concern.

Elevated winter colony losses, however, have not resulted in enduring declines in colony numbers. Instead, the number of honey bee colonies in the U.S. is either stable or growing depending on the dataset being considered.

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Although beekeepers sometimes purchase colonies, their primary means of replacing losses is by regularly splitting their colonies in the spring. In this process, the beekeeper divides a parent colony into two or three colonies that each becomes functional for pollination services within 6 weeks.

The stability of colony numbers and pollination services fees, however, suggests that beekeepers have, in aggregate, adjusted to elevated rates of colony loss.

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Read full, original article: Despite Elevated Loss Rate Since 2006, U.S. Honey Bee Colony Numbers Are Stable

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