Survey-derived best management practices for backyard beekeepers improve colony health and reduce mortality

Kelly Kulhanek, Nathalie Steinhauer, James Wilkes, Michaela Wilson, Marla Spivak, Ramesh R. Sagili, David R. Tarpy, Erin McDermott, Andrew Garavito, Karen Rennich, Dennis vanEngelsdorp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Honey bee colony losses in the US have exceeded acceptable levels for at least a decade, leaving beekeepers in need of management practices to improve colony health and survival. Here, an empirical Best Management Practice (BMP) regimen was tested, comprised of the top four management practices associated with reduced colony mortality in backyard beekeeping operations according to Bee Informed Partnership Loss and Management survey results. Seven study locations were established across the US, and each location consisted of ten colonies treated according to empirical BMPs and ten according to average beekeeping practice. After 3 years, colonies treated according to empirical BMPs experienced reduced Varroa infestation, viral infection, and mortality compared to colonies managed with Average practices. In addition, BMP colonies produced more new colonies via splits. The colonies under Average practices were given chemical Varroa treatments only once per year, and thus spent more months above economic threshold of 3.0 mites/100 bees. Increased time spent above the economic threshold was significantly correlated to both increased viral infection and colony mortality. This study demonstrates the cumulative effects of management and colony health stressors over months and years, especially the dire importance of regular Varroa monitoring and management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0245490
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Kulhanek et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Animals
  • Beekeeping/methods
  • Bees/parasitology
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Mortality
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article


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