A new tool from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) can predict the odds that honey bee colonies overwintered in cold storage will be large enough to rent for almond pollination in February. Identifying which colonies will not be worth spending dollars to overwinter can improve beekeepers' bottom line.
Beekeepers have been losing an average of 30 percent of overwintered colonies for nearly 15 years. It is expensive to overwinter colonies in areas where winter temperatures stay above freezing. So a less expensive practice of overwintering bee colonies in cold storage is becoming popular.
This new tool calculates the probability of a managed honey bee colony surviving the winter based on two measurements: the size of colony and the percent varroa mite infestation in September, according to ARS entomologistGloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, who headed the team. DeGrandi-Hoffman is research leader of the ARSCarl Hayden Bee Research Centerin Tucson, Arizona.