About one mouthful in three in our diets directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. That makes bees critically valuable to humans’ existence. For this reason the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) documents issues affecting honey bee health through the annual National Honey Bee Survey (NHBS). The survey collects data on bee health to understand long term trends, factors that drive bee health, ways to safeguard bee populations in the United States. Bee pollination is responsible for $15+ billion in added crop value -- particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. We need the economic benefits, as well as the nourishment, that bees provide to us through their role in pollination.
APHIS funds and jointly collaborates with the University of Maryland (UMD), USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) to conduct the national survey. Since the survey began in 2009 it has documented the diseases, parasites and pests impacting honey bees that are both present and thought to be absent in the United States.
This nation-wide survey is the most comprehensive honey bee health survey conducted to date. Surveys in more than 40 states and territories have allowed USDA and our partners to create a large and comprehensive honey bee disease and pathogen database. Specifically, this survey has verified the absence of the parasitic mite Tropilaelaps and other exotic threats to honey bee populations (e.g., Apis cerana and slow bee paralysis virus).
“Now that we have nine years of survey data, we are using the information to begin determining appropriate times to sample for specific pests and will, down the road, use the data to determine the appropriate timing of the best management practices bee keepers can use to protect their hives from pests,” said Robyn Rose, APHIS National Program Manager.
APHIS also sponsored the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) to help disseminate information to individual beekeepers and states. The partnership is a nationwide effort involving leading research labs and universities and their studies to understand the decline of honey bees in the United States. BIP includes a comprehensive examination of colony health throughout apiaries. NHBS Pesticide Reports and NHBS Honey Bee Survey Reports are viewable at the beeinformed.org portal.
Beekeepers participating in the survey can receive a summary report on information about diseases and pests discovered in their apiary samples from a survey partner, the University of Maryland. Participation is voluntary and there is no charge for the collection and analysis of samples. State apiary specialists determine what hives in their state will be a part of the survey. Each state participating in the survey samples 24 apiaries. Contact your state Apiary Specialist if interested in being a part of the National Honey Bee Survey.