The Benefits of a Registration Program in New York State
Many beekeepers in New York have been struggling with colony loss for the past several years and want to know why their bees are doing so poorly. The Bee Informed Partnership survey estimates 54% of colonies died in New York between April 2013 and April 20141, which emphasizes that our bees are facing major problems that need to be addressed.
To help reverse these (and other pollinator) declines, Governor Cuomo announced the development of a state Pollinator Protection Plan. However, when we try to analyze the scope of the current situation for beekeepers, we have almost nowhere to start. We do not know how many beekeepers are in New York, how many colonies they manage, how many colonies they are losing each year, and whether some counties are being hit harder than others. These are questions for which we urgently need answers.
The easiest and most comprehensive way to understand colony health (and then work to improve it) is through beekeeper registration. Registration allows us to have exact statistics and monitor changes over time. Currently, our understandings of colony health and management practices are pieced together from three sources:
1. Apiary inspections document colony numbers and disease trends in the 35 known migratory beekeeping operations in New York.
2. The Bee Informed Partnership conducts a national survey to track colony losses throughout the summer and winter. Last year’s survey included responses from 212 New York beekeepers2.
3. New York Bee Wellness surveys non-migratory beekeepers throughout New York to uncover seasonal trends. Their most recent survey from summer 2015 received responses from 308 beekeepers3.
Inspection data, coupled with these surveys, give us the best insight on current beekeeping in New York, but it still only represents a small fraction (~10-15%) of the estimated 3000-4000 beekeepers in the state. Only a registration program can provide us with exact numbers. These data can give us a clear picture of beekeeping in New York with regards to which counties are popular for bees and how the industry is growing or shrinking each year. Such information could be useful for improving honey bee health in NY. For example, should an American foulbrood outbreak occur, we could quickly contact surrounding beekeepers to investigate its extent and prevent further spread.
With even more information – beyond basic registration – we can begin to conduct research to uncover the casual factors in colony decline and begin to figure out how to reverse these trends. Individuals who wish to help further research on bee health can choose on their registration application whether they want to be contacted by Cornell University or other accredited institutions for additional information. This information could include colony loss numbers, disease incidence, queen information, management practices, and apiary location. Having this information forms the basis for research that can uncover the real world factors driving declines in honey bee health in NYS. The bottom line is this: in order to improve the beekeeping situation in New York, we need to know the beekeeping situation in New York.
With this information, we could begin to find answers for the
following kinds of questions:
(Questions in blue can be answered with basic registration, questions in black can be answered with more detailed information)
1. How many beekeepers are joining/leaving New York each year? What proportion are commercial vs. sideliner vs. hobbyists?
2. How many colonies is each county supporting?
Colony loss trends
3. What are the trends in colony loss? Do annual losses fluctuate, or are they continuing to decline every year?
1. What are the hotspots of disease in New York? Are there some counties that experience more pest and disease issues than others?
2. If American foulbrood is identified in an apiary, what other apiaries are at risk? How fast can the infection spread from one colony to another?
3. What is the virus incidence and prevalence in New York? How do these correlate with other colony health parameters?
4. Are bacteria or mites developing resistance to treatments in New York?
4. How do surrounding landscapes (e.g., urban areas, different crop types) influence colony loss, disease incidence, and honey production?
5. If a wildflower garden is planted to help bees, how many beekeepers will benefit from it? Where are the best areas to provide additional bee habitat?
1. Are there correlations between pesticide use in an area and colony health?
Management Practice Trends
1. How are beekeepers managing their colonies for disease? Are these management practices effective?
2. Where are beekeepers getting their queens? Are there any relationships between queen origin and colony health?
3. Are there any differences between operation size (commercial vs. sideliner vs. hobby) and colony health parameters?
4. What kind of education programs should we develop to best serve beekeepers in NY?
1. How do changes in climate (e.g., temperature, precipitation, winter severity) affect colony productivity and health?
Beekeepers can benefit from registration beyond knowing they’ve done a good deed in providing data for monitoring and research. All beekeepers will be provided with annual summary reports to stay informed on industry trends. These reports will be available free of charge from the state and will be also be posted on the Cornell Pollinator Network website (www.cornellpollinatornetwork.com
). An example of one such report (from Ontario, Canada) can be found by going to the following URL: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/...bees/14rep.htm
. Furthermore, beekeepers will be informed on local notices in real-time throughout the spring/summer/fall, such as disease outbreaks in their areas.
It’s time we start taking the health of beekeeping into our own hands. Register your colonies. Contribute data. Improve New York bee health.
1 Steinhauer, N., Rennich, K., Lee, K. et al. 2015. Colony loss 2014-2015: Preliminary results, https://beeinformed.org/results/colo...inary-results/
(Accessed on November 23, 2015).
2 Lee, K. V., Steinhauer, N., Rennich, K. et al. 2015. A national survey of managed honey bee 2013–2014 annual colony losses in the USA. Apidologie 46: 292-305.
3 New York Bee Wellness. 2015. Spring survey 2015 NY Bee Wellness results, http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=...&id=6782521e39
(Accessed on November 23, 2015).