Fewer bees dying, study finds

Fewer honeybee colonies died last winter, but mortality rates remain a cause for concern, according to a national survey released earlier this month.

Beekeepers across America reported 23.2 percent of their colonies died between Oct. 1 and March 31 in a survey conducted jointly by the Bee Informed Partnership, the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since the winter of 2007-08, the die-off rate has been below 29 percent only one other year, in 2011-12, when it was 21.9 percent.

Ideally, only 10 percent of colonies would die off during a given winter, said Ramesh Sagili, an apiculturist, or bee expert, with Oregon State University. But the large die-offs of recent years have caused beekeepers to adjust their expectations upwards in terms of mortality, he said. Compared to 30 percent, a die-off rate of 22 percent, which is where Oregon’s colony mortality rate has hovered in recent years, seems reasonable, he said.

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