SPRINGFIELD -- The number of beekeepers in Illinois has been increasing for more than a decade.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture's yearly report says there were 700 new registered beekeepers in the state in 2013. The statewide total is more than 2,500 beekeepers operating more than 24,000 colonies. The number of registered beekeepers has increased every year since 2002.
Colony collapse disorder has helped increase awareness of the importance of honey bees and contributed to the increase, agriculture department experts said.
"With all the media exposure on colony collapse disorder, it's really helped increase awareness of the importance of the honey bee to society," said Steve Chard, bureau chief of land and water resources at the Department of Agriculture told The (Springfield) State Journal-Register.
Beekeepers started reporting the disorder about a decade ago. Chard says it's too soon to determine if the increase has made up for losses due to the disorder. The long, cold winter also has meant losses for Illinois beekeepers, according to the Illinois State Beekeepers Association.
There are registered beekeepers and colonies in all Illinois counties. Union County in southern Illinois has more than 2,000 colonies -- the most in the state.
State numbers show most beekeepers in Illinois keep the insects as a hobby and operate 10 or fewer colonies.