Webinar: Are Honey Bees Really Dying?
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Webinar: Are Honey Bees Really Dying?

When: Wednesday, November 6, 2019
1:00 PM
Where: Webinar
United States

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Abstract: Since 2006, the yearly gross loss rate of managed western honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) colonies has averaged around 30% in the U.S. During the same time, the net number of honey bee colonies in the U.S. has averaged more than a 1% increase yearly. This leads one to ask, “are honey bees really dying?”. The answer is complicated. The research suggests that economics drives the net number of colonies managed in the U.S. When the economic climate is favorable (i.e. high honey and pollination prices), beekeepers find it profitable to split colonies and recover their losses. When the economic climate is not favorable, beekeepers manage fewer colonies. The gross loss rate, however, is driven by various biotic and abiotic stressors that beekeepers work to manage actively. Honey bees and their colonies are under constant attack from several biotic (living) stressors. These include bacteria, fungi, viruses, mites, other insects, etc. Furthermore, many abiotic stressors threaten bee health. The most notable of these are nutrition, queen quality, management, weather, and pesticides. Beekeepers spend considerable time inspecting colonies for and remedying problems related to these stressors. Many scientists believe the high gross loss rates are caused by interacting stressors that together reduce colony fecundity and productivity, ultimately leading to their demise. When surveyed, beekeepers list Varroa destructor(a parasitic, disease-spreading mite), nutrition, queen quality, and weather as the most significant stressors impacting honey bees, thus allowing scientists to focus their research efforts on those stressors. In conclusion, it is true that the beekeeping industry is experiencing high gross loss rates of managed colonies yearly due to biotic and abiotic stressors, but these losses have been mitigated by beekeeping practices that result in an actual increase in the number of managed colonies.

Biosketch: Jamie Ellis is the Gahan Endowed Professor of Entomology in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of Florida. He has a BS degree in Biology from the University of Georgia (Georgia, USA) and a PhD in Entomology from Rhodes University in South Africa. At the University of Florida, Jamie has responsibilities in extension, instruction and research. Regarding his extension work, Jamie created the UF, South Florida, and Caribbean Bee Colleges, and the UF Master Beekeeper Program. As an instructor, Jamie supervises PhD and masters students in addition to offering an online beekeeping course. Currently, Jamie and his team have over 30 active research projects in the fields of honey bee husbandry, conservation and ecology, and integrated crop pollination.

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