Daily Court Reporter - News Ohio beekeepers feel the sting of fewer colonies
Ohio beekeepers feel the sting of fewer colonies
BRANDON KLEIN, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
Local beekeepers continue the struggle of losing colonies each year.
Ohio is among nearly half of the states that are affected by honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder, where more 30 percent of colonies die out after winter.
Beekeepers have been dealing with the issue for about 10 to 15 years, said Barry Conrad, the owner of Conrad Hive and Honey in Canal Winchester.
Conrad has been beekeeping for nearly 40 years and keeps about 75 colonies each year.
"We've been losing 30 to 50 percent every year," he said. "This past year we lost 40 percent of ours."
But that was better than the state average of 60 percent, he added.
"It's tough with all the toxins in the air," Conrad said. But the main problem appears to be the varroa mite, which feeds off the bee larvae and pass on many viruses to the colony.
From nuts to berries to flowering vegetables, bees help pollinate more than a third of crop production in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Managed honey bee colonies are the primary pollinators that add at least $15 billion a year to industry.
"Our main goal is do a better job of controlling the varroa mite," he said.
Beekeeper organizations at the local, state and national level are promoting more monitoring of the mites this year. Beekeepers need to treat their colonies if they find two mites per 100 bees every 30 days, Conrad said.
"In the past, we've been torn between with what we can do," he said.
Conrad said he's heard of some success with the monitoring and treating of mite populations compared with those who do not.
"I feel better this year than I have in the past," he said.
In April, Conrad normally drives down to Georgia about five times to buy new bees. He buys a total 1,270 packages that each contain about 10,000 bees and a queen.
The packages costs about $115 a piece. Conrad keeps some of the bees to replenish the colonies he lost and sells the rest to other beekeepers.
Georgia gets an earlier jump on the season because the warmer weather arrives sooner. The industry produces new bees by dividing colonies, but Conrad said it's not a sustainable solution.
A Pennsylvania beekeeper was the first to alert authorities of the Colony Collapse Disorder in November 2006. He had lost about 1,900 colonies, according to an Ohio Department of Agriculture report.
Awareness of the issue has lead to an increase in new beekeepers including in the Columbus region, said Rod Pritchard, president of the Central Ohio Beekeepers Association, which has about 350 to 500 members.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture had 6,046 active, registered beekeepers with about 40,594 colonies compared with 3,128 registered beekeepers and about 20,523 colonies.
"They're concerned about the environment they're concerned about what if we lose the honey bee," he said.
Date Published: June 28, 2018