(Chapters 2 and 5). Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) tracks managed honey bee colonies, the surveys focus on honey production rather than on pollination. The result is the double-counting of some honey-producing colonies and the omission of others that do not produce honey for commercial sale in the United States (Chapter 2). Moreover, NASS data do not consider colony strength or quality. Because data are collected in the United States, Canada, and Mexico by different methods, making direct comparisons is difficult.


Recommendation: Improved information gathering for the beekeeping industry is critical, and the NASS should modify its data collection methodologies. The committee specifically recommends that NASS:


  • Refine its assessment of honey bee abundance. The information would be more useful if all commercial honey bee colonies were counted annually and in one location only (as is currently done every 5 years for the census of agriculture). Greater accuracy also would be gained by determining whether colonies are leased for pollination, used to produce commercial honey, or both, and which use is primary. NASS should adjust its data collection to include the number of colonies lost during the previous year for any reason and the number lost over the previous winter. These data should be available by state to provide a broad picture of the overall health of the bee industry.

  • Collect commercial honey bee pollination data from beekeepers and from crop growers. The availability of commercial honey bees as pollinators would be better understood if data were collected on the specific crops pollinated and on the leasing fees per colony by crop.

  • Coordinate and reconcile data collection on honey bee colonies throughout North America. NASS should make its annual survey definitions compatible with its 5-year census of agriculture. The United States should work with Canada and Mexico through the North American Free Trade Agreement’s Commission for Environmental Cooperation and the Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management to adopt common methodologies.

Causes of Decline

Introduced parasites and diseases have contributed to declines in managed bees. Varroa mite has had a dramatic negative impact on the abundance of honey bees in North America. Bumble bees also have suffered from a number of parasites, notably the protozoan parasites Nosema bombi and Crithidia bombi, and the tracheal mite Locustacris buchneri. Chalkbrood,



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