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Bee shortage from harsh winter impacts agriculture

CINCINNATI (Josh Knight) -- State agriculture officials say Ohio beekeepers lost 50 to 80 percent of their honeybees over the harsh winter.
Bee hives are building up and growing, but a few weeks ago it didn't look like that.  As a matter of fact, some beekeepers lost all of their hives.  The harsh winter is being partially blamed, but experts say that's not the only issue.

Flowers are in bloom and the sounds of spring are literally buzzing around.  But across the state these hard working bees have taken a major hit over the winter.
Dr. Gene Kritzky, who studies insects and has some hives of his own, said, "Normally in the winter the bees would gather around the queen and they would shiver.  That shivering raises the temperature to 94 degrees."
During the winter like the tri-state had, sometimes that can be a challenge.

"The bees just can't maintain that temperature adequately, they might stop in the hive, they could actually eat all the food where they're at and starved to death," Dr. Kritsky said.
But he says the cold really cant be to blame completely.  Honeybees were actually brought to North America with pilgrims.

"It evolved primarily in the Alps and parts of northern Italy so it has adapted to and evolved to build up honey stores to over winter," he said.
Kritsky explained that the honeybee is already under a lot of stress, from different mites, viruses, bacteria, beetles and man-made problems.

He said, "There's increased use of pesticides, especially the neo-nicatines, these in some ways seem to interfere with an insects ability to find they're way back to a home."
The harsh winter was piled on top.  Kritsky says bees are responsible for pollinating three fourths of the food that we eat, even almonds.  Closer to home, he says the impact is primarily on the small beekeeper.  They will have to work harder and maybe shell out some cash to buy new bees.

The good news is with a little extra effort from keepers, and the spring warm up, most of these bee colonies will bounce back.  The last several years, there has been a big push for "urban beekeepers."  Kritsky said since they started their hive next to their vegetable garden the yield has improved dramatically.  He said Bees will fly 3 to 5 miles to pollinate.

Last year, Ohio had almost 4,400 registered beekeepers who tended about 37,000 colonies.  Since 2008, the number of beekeepers increased by 27 percent.

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Video HERE



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