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updated: 6/11/2014 7:02 AM

Honeybee losses have Illinois farmers scrambling

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  • Honey Hill Orchard employee Jacob Swanson adds another level onto a hive last week at the Waterman orchard. The harsh winter has led to heavy losses among hives of honeybees in northern Illinois and left beekeepers scrambling to replenish their hives.

      Honey Hill Orchard employee Jacob Swanson adds another level onto a hive last week at the Waterman orchard. The harsh winter has led to heavy losses among hives of honeybees in northern Illinois and left beekeepers scrambling to replenish their hives.
    Associated Press

  • Honeybees populate a comb at Honey Hill Orchard in Waterman.

      Honeybees populate a comb at Honey Hill Orchard in Waterman.
    Associated Press/Daily Chronicle/Danielle Guerra

 
Associated Press

WATERMAN -- The harsh winter led to heavy honeybee losses in northern Illinois, leaving farmers scrambling to replenish hives in time to produce enough pollinators for crops such as apples, pumpkins and raspberries.

Keepers of honeybees in DeKalb County lost more than 70 percent of their bees, The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle reported Tuesday. Producers in the area say they typically lose 40 percent.

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While some beekeepers say it's business as usual except for the extra costs of buying new bees, others are worried their hives are going to be late getting up to pollinating and honey-producing strength.

"Normally this time of year you would be able to hear the buzz from the driveway and it would be a solid sheet of brown from the bees," said Steve Bock, owner of Honey Hill Orchard in the village of Waterman. Instead, the lines of bees moving about his farm are light.

He keeps bees to pollinate the 3,000 apple trees on his orchard and produce honey. He spent $800 to buy 100,000 new bees, but they've yet to mature.

Besides the bad winter, a mite infestation also contributed to the higher-than-normal losses.

Carolyn Huden lost more than 2 million honeybees on her farm in Genoa. She bought new ones from California, but they won't be up to strength until midsummer. She estimates the farm's honey production will drop from 500 gallons to 250 gallons.

"Right now I should be making honey by the gallon, but I'm not," she said. "I'll be lucky if I have any honey to harvest by July 1."

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