Despite Progress, Honey Bee Population Continues To Decline

May 15, 2015

The total annual loss of honey bees in Indiana neared 50 percent this past year.
Credit Psycho Delia / https://www.flickr.com/photos/24557420@N05/

Indiana beekeepers lost about half of the bees in their colonies this past year, according to a new study from the USDA’s Bee Informed Partnership.

In 2013, Indiana bee colonies were hit hard. Only about 35 percent of the bees survived — making Indiana’s losses some of the worst in the country. But this past year wasn’t as bad. Beekeepers lost about 51 percent of their bees, slightly higher than the national average.

The honey bee population started declining during the 1980s. Some attribute it to a particular breed of Asian mites. Before the mites were found in the U.S., the average winter honey bee loss was between 5 to 10 percent. Since then, numbers have fluctuated between 30 and 50 percent losses over a single winter.

Dave Shenefield, president of the Indiana Beekeepers’ Association, says besides the mites, other risks to the honey bees include pesticides and lack of pollinating plants.

“It’s not good because a third of everything that we eat comes directly or indirectly from honey bees so we’ve got to have them to pollinate a lot of our fruits and vegetables,” Shenefield says.

Shenefield says proper beekeeper training and genetic developments to help bees fight off the mites have the potential to slow down the decline.