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Northern NY Bee Health Survey Results Reveal Insights Into Colony Loss.

Posted: June 27 2017

Bee colony loss is an increasingly serious issue for the entire beekeeping industry causing in some cases an unsustainable loss of 1/3 of beekeepers operations. In response to increasing levels of colony loss, the first ever survey of parasites and pathogens in regional bee colonies has just been carried out and released by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Programme. The survey participants included 31 beekeepers of all stripes, from hobbyists to commercial beekeepers. Project leader Emma Mullen, a Honey Bee Extension Associate with Cornell University, Ithaca, NY explains that "this project documents for the first time the levels of key parasites and viruses in commercial and hobby bee colonies in Northern New York". The aim of the project was to contribute to regional knowledge of pathogens affecting bees, and to educate regional beekeepers about ways to protect against relevant pathogens relevant to protect against economic and colony loss. The replacement of a colony can cost between $100 and $200.

The survey found that Northern New York bee colonies sustained winter losses of 21.3% and summer losses of 6.17% between October 2015 and September 2016. The figures for NNY are slightly below state averages for the same time period which were 28% winter loss and 7% summer colony loss. The findings also offer a comparative breakdown of the specific types of pathogens affecting bee colonies in NNY. For instance, Varroa mites widely considered to be the most detrimental and widespread bee parasites contributing to colony loss were recorded in higher levels in Northern NY in 2016  than in other regions of the state. The mites not only suck the blood of the bees, but are also known to transmit several viruses. On the other hand the levels of Noseam, a parasitic fungal pathogen found in the digestive system of bees were between 65% and 82% when compared to other regions in the state. The collected data will be added to a statewide database on the health of bees and the various factors that contribute to declining bee health and research will continue in 2017.
Education and monitoring are the keys to prevention and control of colony loss. Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators are encouraging and educating beekeepers on how to keep detailed records of colony observations and management.  While 73% of beekeepers in NNY reporting to already keep records on growth, health, and productivity, the majority of beekeepers  who participated in the project do not specifically monitor for Varroa mites. Only 36% of beekeepers overall surveyed reported that they do. Further to this commercial beekeepers were more likely to monitor than hobbyists.
Event Notice: The leader of the NNY bee health survey project Emma Mullen will be presenting a bee health workshop on parasites, pathogens and pesticides in NYS on the 1st of August, from 6-8 pm in CCE Lewis County Rowville. Cost: $5 per person, pre-register by July 27 before 4 pm with 315-376-5270.
To read the full report or to read more about the work done by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program click here