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Honeybees took a big hit this winter, losing 28 percent of colonies, up from 22 percent the year before, Seth Borenstein reports for The Associated Press.

The losses are about average over the past decade, but are higher than the 17 percent beekeepers consider acceptable. It’s still down from a peak of 36 percent nine years ago.

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University of Montana bee scientist Jerry Bromenshenk said he believes last year’s losses are greater than reported, because the statistics come from a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that relies on self-reporting.

Deaths are blamed on varroa mites, pesticides, disease and poor nutrition and food supply. Bees are responsible for more than $15 billion in increased U.S. crop value each year. (Bee Informed graphic)

“For 2015-2016, the overall colony loss rate was 44 percent, which is also up from the previous two years, but scientists only started surveying summer deaths in 2010,” Borenstein writes.

Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, said “one problem is backyard beekeeper hobbyists who don’t treat their bees for mites with pesticides, even organic ones. Their hives die and survivors full of mites head to new hives, spreading the problem.”

From Rural Blog

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