Things aren't looking quite as bad for America's honeybees as they were a few years ago, but it is far too early to declare the crisis over, according to the annual survey carried out by the Bee Informed Partnership. The survey found that beekeepers lost 21% of their hives over the winter, which is the lowest percentage recorded in the survey's 11-year history. That's down from 27% the previous year, but it's still a long way short of the 15% or less that the US government has set as a goal, the AP reports. "It's good news in that the numbers are down, but it's certainly not a good picture," says survey director Dennis vanEngelsdorp. "It's gone from horrible to bad."
The summer bee colony loss rate is generally lower than the winter rate, and last summer it was about 18% according to the survey. That makes the total annual loss between April 2016 and March 2017 33.2% of colonies, the second-lowest rate recorded in the last seven years, Southwest Farm Press reports. Honey Bee Health Coalition spokeswoman Julie Shapiro says things appear to be moving in the right direction but there is a lot more work to be done in areas including reducing pesticide exposure. VanEngelsdorp says the biggest factor in the improved bee figures appears to be a reduction in varroa mites, a deadly parasite. (A Montana beekeeper got his 488 hives back after a sting operation.)