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In Scientific reports ; h5-index 158.0

Honey bees are crucial pollinators for agricultural and natural ecosystems, but are experiencing heavy mortality in North America and Europe due to a complex suite of factors. Understanding the relative importance of each factor would enable beekeepers to make more informed decisions and improve assessment of local and regional habitat suitability. We used 3 years of Pennsylvania beekeepers' survey data to assess the importance of weather, topography, land use, and management factors on overwintering mortality at both apiary and colony levels, and to predict survival given current weather conditions and projected climate changes. Random Forest, a tree-based machine learning approach suited to describing complex nonlinear relationships among factors, was used. A Random Forest model predicted overwintering survival with 73.3% accuracy for colonies and 65.7% for apiaries where Varroa mite populations were managed. Growing degree days and precipitation of the warmest quarter of the preceding year were the most important predictors at both levels. A weather-only model was used to predict colony survival probability, and to create a composite map of survival for 1981-2019. Although 3 years data were likely not enough to adequately capture the range of possible climatic conditions, the model performed well within its constraints.

Calovi Martina, Grozinger Christina M, Miller Douglas A, Goslee Sarah C