Average loss by operation represents the percentage of loss in each operation added together and divided by the number of beekeeping operations that responded to the survey.

This number is affected more by small beekeeping operations, which may only have 10 or fewer colonies, so a loss of just five colonies in a 10-colony operation would represent a 50 percent loss.

Total losses were calculated as all colonies reported lost in the survey divided by the total number of bee colonies reported in the survey.

This number is affected more by larger operations, which might have 10,000 or more colonies, so a loss of five colonies in a 10,000-colony operation would equal only a 0.05 percent loss.

Among surveyed beekeepers who lost any colonies, 31 percent reported losing at least some of their colonies without finding dead bee bodies — one of the symptoms that defines Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

As this was an interview-based survey, it was not possible to differentiate between verifiable cases of CCD and colonies lost as the result of other causes that share the "absence of dead bees" as a symptom. The cause of CCD is still unknown.

The beekeepers who reported colony losses with no dead bee bodies present also reported higher average colony losses (61 percent), compared to beekeepers who lost colonies but did not report the absence of dead bees (34 percent in losses).

A total of 5,572 beekeepers, who manage more than 15 percent of the country's estimated 2.68 million colonies, responded to the survey.

A complete analysis of the survey data will be published later this year.

The abstract can be found at http://www.extension.org/pages/58013/honey-bee-winter-loss-survey.

More information about CCD can be found at www.ars.usda.gov/ccd.