Notes from Dewey – July 2023

by Dewey M. Caron, Communications and Content Specialist for the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program

National and regional bee loss reports

How did your bees fare this past winter? The national BeeInformed honey bee losses survey  reported heavy bee losses this past season. Survey respondents form all 50 state lost an estimated 37.4% of managed colonies in the United States, 13.2 percentage points in excess of the previous winter loss rate. Losses were 9.1 percentage points higher than the average 15 year winter loss average of 28.2%. Losses were the second highest year of winter loss (2018-2019).

Over the entire 2022 year (April 2022 to April 2023), U.S. beekeepers lost an estimated 48.2% of their managed honey bee colonies. This loss level was only 2.6 percentage points lower than the highest annual loss on record (2020-2021) and 8.5 percentage points higher than the 12 year average loss rate of 39.6%.

Commercial beekeeper colony losses represented just under 90% of colonies in the report. The loss rates of backyard (less than 50 colonies) and commercial (more than 500 colonies) were comparable for the winter season (37.8% for backyard beekeepers, 37.6% for commercial beekeepers). Average winter losses for backyard beekeepers =38.0% (15-year average) and =27% (12-year average) for commercial beekeepers. The survey received responses from an estimated 12% of the estimated 2.70 million managed honey-producing colonies in the US.

The most prominent cause of colony death reported by beekeepers over the winter 2022-23 was “varroa” (Varroa destructor, and its associated viruses). Backyard beekeepers also cited “adverse weather” and “starvation” as the second and third most prominent causes of winter colony. Commercial beekeepers cited equally “queen issues” and “adverse weather”.  For full preliminary report see:

Closer to home, I have been doing a PNWhoneybeesurvey, which only surveys overwinter losses.  Oregon and Washington backyard  beekeepers (1 to 48 colonies) fared better this past winter, compared to the national BeeInformed losses. Last year, overwintered Oregon losses of 233 backyard respondents was 30% and for 120 Washington backyard beekeepers it was 36%. Losses of Oregon commercial (50+ colonies) were 29%. This OSU survey had responses from  29% of the estimated total number of colonies in the state. Over the last 14 years commercials have consistently had about one-half lower overwinter losses; this year average loss levels were nearly identical.

Fourteen-year average backyard losses of Oregon backyarders =37.5% loss and for Washington (9 year) average loss has been 46.1%. The Oregon14-year commercial/semi-commercial loss = 21%. The PNW survey, started to g


round truth the National beeInformed survey, has been very similar to the BeeInformed survey – state losses will not be computed until later this year from BeeInformed. As was the case nationally, varroa mites were the number one reason cited for losses with starvation and poor wintering also frequently cited by backyarders. The reason(s) for the heavier overwinter losses of commercial beekeepers nationally and is not known.

See for the local Oregon and Washington state reports. Results for many of the individual clubs with 16 or more respondents are also posted or will be shortly.

New honey mason jar

Ball® has created a one pint (one pound) wide mouth jar embossed with a honey bee and honeycomb design to honor the honeybee’s importance to pollination. This size container is popular with home honey sales. The bee motif might help with sales of honey and/or serve as a keepsake. For those who like to preserve the seasonal bounty, the website has some appealing recipes including honey orange slides, honey spiced peaches, blackberry freezer jam and blueberry honey vanilla jam.  See