COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio beekeepers say they've lost much of their beehive colonies this past year, and that keeping their bees healthy is becoming increasingly difficult.
From April 2014 to April 2015, Ohio beekeepers reported losing nearly 50 percent of their colonies, according to a USDA-backed research effort, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1cL7xgb ).
Barry Conrad, the owner of a Winchester-based hive business, said he has had to replace nearly 50 of his 75 colonies— about 2.5 million bees —for the second year in a row.
Ohio farmers rely on bees to pollinate more than 70 types of crops including apples, strawberries and pumpkins. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, the industry relies on honeybees to pollinate $14 billion in crops every year.
Ohio Department of Agriculture officials said a big part of the problem is a loss of habitat for the bees. If the bees can't stock up on nectar for the fall, they won't have enough food to get them through the winter.
But some beehive owners point to certain insecticides and disease-spreading pests for the decline. Conrad said that neonicotinoids, an insecticide similar to nicotine, is partially to blame for the losses.
Barbara Bloetscher with the state agriculture department's apiary program said introducing Russian honeybees, a species more tolerant of mites, could be a solution to the bee shortage. Another is introducing pollinator gardens.
Since 2010, the number of registered beekeepers in Ohio has increased from around 3,900 to more than 4,400. Bloetscher said the bump in beekeepers should help boost the number of bees.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com