The Apiary Inspectors of America says the United States has seen a dramatic decline in the number of managed honey bee colonies since 1980.

Dennis vanEngelsdorp of Pennsylvania State University, president of the AIA, said nationwide colony numbers have dropped from 4.5 million managed colonies in 1980 to 2.4 million in 2005.

To quantify the degree and extent of losses in U.S. beekeeping operations between September 2006 and March 2007, the AIA surveyed beekeeping hobbyists, sideliners and commercial operations.

Of 384 beekeeping operations surveyed, total loss and average loss of bees in all operations was 31.8 percent and 37.6 percent, in that order, with 51.9 percent reporting abnormally heavy losses.

Of beekeepers reporting the number of hives containing few or no bees in the spring, 23.8 percent met the specified definition of colony collapse disorder -- meaning 50 percent of dead colonies were found without bees or with very few dead bees.

In all, New Mexico reported the lowest average loss of 14.4 percent and Ohio the highest average loss of 61.4 percent.

Overall, the organization said U.S. beekeepers suffered an average loss of 38 percent of their colonies during the winter of 2006-07.