Experience and evaluation of colony loss monitoring in Scotland : survey methodology, response rates and degree of success

Gray, Alison and Peterson, Magnus (2012) Experience and evaluation of colony loss monitoring in Scotland : survey methodology, response rates and degree of success. In: Proceedings of COLOSS WG 1 Workshop Monitoring of colony losses 2011-2012 - temporal and spatial patterns. UNSPECIFIED, Poland, p. 9.

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    Abstract

    Surveys of beekeepers in Scotland have been running since 2006, with Scotland joining COLOSS Working Group 1 in 2010. Since 2008 these surveys have been based on stratified random sampling of the membership records of the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association (SBA), and have used a postal questionnaire with a covering letter. The surveys have run in late spring, after a small scale pilot run, and allowing 3 to 4 weeks for response to the main survey. Late returns are accepted and included where possible in the COLOSS return. A small prize draw has been possible in recent surveys as an incentive to participate, and a postal reminder is issued. The SBA has approximately 1100 members. Sample sizes were 100 beekeepers approached directly in the 2006 survey, 119 SBA members in 2008, and 200 hobbyist SBA members in the 2010 survey (plus 26 bee farmers), 200 SBA members in 2011 and 250 in 2012. Response rates were 77% in 2006, 42.0% (50; 44 beekeepers) in 2008, 68.5% (137, of which 116 were beekeepers; plus 9 bee farmers) in 2010, 47.0% (94; 64 beekeepers) in 2011, and 41.6% (104; 91 beekeepers) in 2012. Our main observation regarding the success of the questions is that questions relating to bee management lead to illogical results in a large proportion of cases. Our attempts to allow for all possibilities in the answers to these questions have not reduced the incidence of such unreliable results. We therefore use stated colony numbers at the start of winter and stated losses to calculate overall loss rates. As bee management is rare in Scottish winters, this should have little impact on conclusions. Summer losses are very low. For future surveys, we plan to operate an online questionnaire based on LimeSurvey (http://www.limesurvey.org/), for speed and ease of data collection and lower costs, possibly with a larger scale sample.